“In Truth, all the elements bore witness that their Creator has come…
The Heavens knew that He was God, because they immediately sent forth a Star.
The Sea knew Him, because it allowed Him to walk upon it.
The Earth knew Him, because it trembled when He died.
The stones and walls of houses knew Him, because they were broken at the time of His death.
The lower world recognized Him, because it gave up the dead it was holding…
And yet, the hearts of His people remained full of unbelief, and did not know that He was God…even though all of the dumb elements perceived Him as Lord.”
St. Gregory Dialogos in his Nativity Homily points out to us a reality that each of us has faced more often than not. When even the very earth we walk on, which has no brain, no organs, no image of God inside of it…is able to recognize God incarnate, how is it that we, who are the pinnacle of creation, so often dismiss His presence in our own lives?
God is with us. This is a phrase repeated over and over during this period of Epiphany. God is with us…yet we only spend a fraction of our days, if that, acknowledging His presence in the world. God is with us…yet we would rather spend our free time on Facebook, or watching Netflix, or prioritizing sports and hobbies, instead of deepening our relationship with the Eternal One. God is with us…yet we spend so much time wrapping our arms around the material world, our possessions, our wealth, our comfort…instead of opening our arms to embrace Him. The dumb elements see things more clearly than we do, and that is a humbling reality when we begin to examine our lives.
We have entered into the secular new year. 2020 was a year full of darkness, and in many ways, very similar to what life was like before Christ came into the world to begin His public ministry. Death and disease were rampant and feared. Governments, Empires, and policies shifted often causing panic. Depression and lack of hope reigned over so many. Then, in the midst of the darkness, we are treated with a voice that had been foretold throughout the centuries.
“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before you. The voice of the one crying from the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Gospel Reading on the Sunday before Theophany)
From the wilderness itself…from the very elements of the earth that knew that God is with us when mankind refused to…comes the voice of the greatest of the prophets, St. John the Baptist. He came with one message, and one message only: There is one coming after me, who I am not even worthy to loosen His sandal strap. How do we embrace this light and life? Change your life…Change your priorities…Change Your Heart…Change Your Focus In Life…Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
One of the reasons that New Year’s Day is considered an International Holiday, is the hope for a new beginning and a fresh start. This was the hope that St. John pointed the way to in his earthly ministry, and it is a hope that all of us can partake in, but only if decide to make the necessary changes in our lives to fully embrace it. In circling back to the words of St. Gregory, I offer to us this one change that we can make together as a parish family going into this new beginning: Let us all take a hint from what Creation itself tells us, and begin to perceive God is constantly in our lives.
Making this resolution a reality starts out every time we are in the Divine Liturgy. Block out the distractions of life when you find yourself in prayer within the Church. Keep your eyes and your hearts focused on what is about to happen to you when you partake of the Body and Blood of God. After you receive the Eucharist and leave the confines of the Church, let God still be on your mind. The Choir sings “we have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly spirit…”…don’t dirty it by dismissing Grace as soon as you get back into your cars to go home.
God being with us is not a reality that ends on Sunday morning. We take that holiness with us and allow it to permeate and carry us throughout the rest of the week, lighting up our lives and the lives of those around us. This is the reality that we have to reflect…the reality that is given to us during this festive season, that God is with us. Imagine what that can do for a world that is so desperately searching for a new beginning.