Advent reflections from
Archbishop Joseph Raya

I’m reading a wonderful book by Archbishop Raya called Christmas: Birth of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ and His Private Life. Archbishop Raya was a prominent Melkite bishop (Melkite being one of the Eastern Catholic churches). Here is a quick bio from Wikipedia:

“Joseph Raya (August 15, 1916 – June 10, 2005), born in Zahlé, Lebanon, was a prominent Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop, theologian, civil rights advocate and author. He served as metropolitan of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee from 1968 until 1974 and was particularly known for his commitment to seeking reconciliation between Christians, Jews and Muslims. He was also a leading advocate of celebrating the Divine Liturgy in vernacular languages.”

Books written about Eastern spirituality are often very dense and hard to read because the treatment of the faith is done in such a deep way. What I love about this book (besides the fact that the type is larger and easy to read :-)) is that it’s easier to read than most, though still pretty deep. I want to share with you passages which struck me which I hope will bless you in your Advent journey.

from pages 9-11:

. . . St. Paul calls this generous attutide of God kenosis, or “emptiness”. He said that Jesus Christ possessed a state that was divine, yet He “did not cling to this quality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of slave, and he became as men are.” (Phil 2:6, 7)

Kenosis of God Our Lord

Kenosis was for our Lord Jesus Christ such a sublime and sincere attitude that He forbade His apostles to talk about what everybody called “miracles,” since for Him these were simple acts of love in favour of the poor and the needy. He called Himself, in the Gospel of Mark, “Son of Man.” He corrected the young man who called Him “good Master” by telling him, “There is no good but God Himself.” (Mk 10:18). The story of His passion is in every single detail a stunning story of one who is above and beyond human humiliations and blows and even killing. Through the unfolding of this whole amazing event He did not complain, or hurt by any word those who scourged Him, insulted Him and made a mockery of Him. Even after His triumph and resurrection He did not stoop down from His majesty to show them how wrong they were. This attitude of kenosis was one of the most glorious characteristics of the love of our Lord for our humanity and of His identification with us, His respect of our freedom.

Thus God the Son emptied Himself at His very incarnation and birth from all the appearances of glory and the majesty of His divinity in order to appear in the human form which we know and are familiar with. This kenosis Saint Paul calls also “condescension.” Saint John Chrysostom says, “The condescension of God is when God does not appear as He really is, but according to the capacity of the one who seeks to contemplate Him.”

After having contemplated this kenosis and condescension of the Lord, Saint Gregory of Nyssa (330-400) exclaimed:

If You had not hidden your divinity . . . who would have been able to sustain Your glory? You came down, O beautiful One in a form we can look at, and we can comprehend. You came down, but You covered Your divinity with the mantle of our flesh.

And Saint John Chrysostom (354-407) writes again:

God empties Himself in order to draw us closer to Him and allow us to follow Him to the mountain where He showed Himself to the apostles as He really was: Divine and the very essence of divinity.

Saint Irenaeus (c.200), Bishop of Lyons in France, explains further that the “Word of God manifested God first in creation. But He kept His Trinity and indivisibility a secret from humanity who were not yet ready for such an intimacy. Otherwise,” he continued, “man would have despised God.”

You can purchase a copy of Christmas: Birth of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ in His Private Life through Madonna House Publications.

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