Mary’s Christmas Offering

nativity-iconIn the Orthodox Church Christmas is also known the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Rightly, we focus on our Lord’s birth. Rightly, we celebrate the birth of God in human flesh. The other person of note is Christ’s mother, Mary. In the Church’s theology she is called Theotokos, meaning Bearer of God. She gave birth to God because God took flesh from her.
St. Luke gives us the birth narrative:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled…And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem…And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she bore her firstborn son, and she clothed him and laid him to bed in a feeding trough (Luke 2: 1, 3, 4, 6 – 7).

Bethlehem is a Hebrew name. It means “House of Bread.” Quite interesting! It is interesting because the One born in Bethlehem claims this: “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6: 48). Then Jesus gives us more information about himself, “For the Bread of God is the one coming down from heaven and is giving life to the world” (John 6: 33).

Bread is to be consumed to give life. Mary’s action in the above verse shows this to be true: “…and she clothed him and laid him to bed in a feeding trough.” But, take note of this — her action is also an offering! While residing in the House of Bread she offers the Bread of Life to be consumed. Her action of offering is fulfilled by her Son whose words are recorded by St. John:

I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and died. This is the Bread which is coming down from heaven, in order that if whoever might eat of it might not die. I am the Bread of Life which came down from heaven: if anyone might eat of this Bread he shall live forever, and the Bread which I shall give in behalf of the life of the world is my flesh (John 6: 48 – 51).

fa3aaba5f949d98b4b9087ed2d7a0efbOur Lord continues his teaching on the Eucharist as he corrects those who question his words:

Therefore, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. The one who is eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him in the last day. My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who is eating my flesh and drinking my blood abides in me and I in him (John 6: 53 – 56).

By consuming the Body and Blood of Christ on Christmas Day (and with every Eucharist), the eternal, resurrected life of our Lord is imparted to us. Further, we bear him within our being, for salvation is truly a relational union with him. Christ is in us, but in a different manner than which he abided in Mary for nine months. Yet, we too are to bear Christ before the world.  We bear him by our works done in his name! We bear him to the world in order that others, too, may come to him in faith and receive his eternal life by consuming his all holy, pure, and life-giving Body and Blood.

Christ is born! Glorify him!

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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