The Nativity Feast is the epitome of the fruit of patience. Repeatedly, from one generation to the next, the human race was given many promises, prophecies, signs, symbols, and hope for the coming of the Messiah—year after year, and century after century. Thus, the Nativity Feast has been the most anticipated occurrence from the fall of man to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. With the fulfillment of this great promise, is the deliverance of redemption, salvation, and everlasting life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel. (Genesis 3:15)
Distinctions were made so that no mistake could lead us to follow a false Christ. Nonetheless, many people did turn the other way. They seemed to lack patience. No comfort could be found in the humble King who was to be born in a manger. Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).
Just as the virtue of patience seemed null and void with the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, who rather preferred to construct a golden calf to worship rather than patiently await the prophet Moses when he delayed his return to them (Exodus 32), so have subsequent generations be likened to children living in the wild of modern times, fashioning new idols—the contemporary golden calf. Were it not for the faithful few, who by the grace of God believed in His promises and exercised the true virtue of patience, the world would have disintegrated long ago.
Today, we continue to be among the few. The greatest miracles performed by Christ our Lord were not just in physical healings or exorcisms of evil spirits or even the raising of the dead, but also in the spread of the faith throughout the world despite limited resources. The manger had limited resources, as so did the life of the Holy Family. Christ only had a dozen disciples and many others long before abandoned Him. Even some high-ranking angels transformed into demons and separated from Him. Despite the limits of resources, He blessed His people and His Church, just as He blessed the loaves and fish (Matthew 14; Mark 6). This wonder is an avowal about the spread of Christianity. The few will supply the many. Have patience, give thanks, organize, distribute, and collect the fragments. Yes, this is the Church that builds up and satiates hungry souls with patience, in everything giving thanks to God, organizing devotion and worship, distributing the Holy Sacraments through the hands of the priests, and preserving the doctrine of Christ so that not a morsel of His teachings is vanquished.
Thus, the question then is do people today really lack patience? The answer is surprisingly, no. We don’t lack any more patience today than did the children of Israel in the wilderness. People are willing to work long hours—constructing modern golden calves. Many are driven to acquire wealth and social status, but neglect connecting with their own family members. Many are willing to wait in long lines to make purchases or experience a form of entertainment, but neglect Church teachings and complain about the length of the service. It is then not just about patience, but the objective of patience is misconstrued and requires a thorough evaluation, honest self-examination, and diligent assessment of priorities. Let us begin to make these basic transformations in our lives now so we can truly appreciate the Nativity Feast from year to year until the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
From St. Ignatius of Antioch (The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1; Eerdmans pg. 53):
… you… are stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for the Father’s building, and drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross (cf. Jn. 12:32), making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God. You, therefore, as well as all your fellow-travelers, are God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holiness, adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ.”
This great season of the blessed Nativity Feast is a time to rejoice in the fulfillment of all of God’s promises upon which we have placed and will continue to place all our hopes and happiness. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). May the blessings of the joyous Nativity Feast remain in each home throughout the year. We thank the Lord for His endless mercies and grace, which we do not deserve. We continue to beseech Him to protect His faithful Church and the life of our beloved and honored Patriarch, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, for many years and peaceful times.
Glory to God forever, Amen.
His Grace Bishop Youssef is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States (www.suscopts.org)
7 January 2015