Whom have we, Lord, like you –
The Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept,
The Pure One who was baptized, the Living One who died,
The King who abased himself to ensure honor for all.
Blessed is your honor!
St. Ephrem the Syrian
We draw near to the Feast of our Lord’s Nativity, and I cannot fathom the smallness of God. Things in my life loom so large and every instinct says to overcome the size of a threat by meeting it with a larger threat. But the weakness of God, stronger than death, meets our human life/death by becoming a child – the smallest of us all – man at his weakest – utterly dependent.
And His teaching will never turn away from that reality for a moment. Our greeting of His mission among us is marked by misunderstanding, betrayal, denial and murder. But He greets us with forgiveness, love, and the sacrifice of self.
This way of His is more than a rescue mission mounted to straighten out what we had made crooked. His coming among us is not only action but also revelation. He does not become unlike Himself in order to make us like Him. The weakness, the smallness, the forgiveness – all that we see in His incarnation – is a revelation of the Truth of God. He became the image of Himself, that we might become the image we were created to be.
My heart has continually turned this week to thoughts of the Anglicans – many of them friends from an earlier time in my life. The news tells me that a number of congregations in Virginia have said they will no longer remain in communion with the Episcopal Church. It will be a painful Christmas for many. My prayer for them is not merely success in one more of the ongoing skirmishes that mark life in our post-Christian era, but that God give them the gift of smallness – to be meek, to be weak, to lose if need be. No one can defeat you if you are willing to be small enough, meek enough, weak enough, if you are willing to lose. Christ traded a throne for a cave. Some may have to trade buildings and beloved properties for the Kingdom of God. It’s a swap that’s been made before.
Orthodox Christians in America and England should never forget the kindness shown to us by Anglicans. Many of our Churches were allowed to grow in their parishes, in a kind sharing of facilities. St. Vladimir’s Seminary first met at the General Seminary in N.Y. St. Tikhon himself, I am told, once lived on that campus.
There was a great generosity from Anglicans that helped make St. Sergius Theological School in Paris a reality. More than that was the simple friendship and warmth given to refugees when huge parts of the Orthodox world seemed to be collapsing. Organizations such as the Fellowship of St. Sergius and St. Albans helped to foster understanding that certainly enriched parts of the theological world.
Today the Orthodox Church has, in its turn, provided a home for many Anglican refugees, fleeing a different collapse – but the hospitality is the same. Many of us had to become “small” in order enter the narrow door of Orthodoxy. But again, this is the way of the Kingdom.
May God give His grace to all – even to those whom I have counted as enemies. It is for their sake that God became small in the first place. How can we do less?