1970 (6) Metr. Anthony on Nativity
Thoughts of the Blessed
Recorded by P.S. Lopoukhin
The Nativity of Christ
This day let us reflect and inquire: who were the first to be granted to see and believe in Christ? Those, we shall reply, who took no thought of themselves. Pastoral duties in those days were not easy either. This labor of shepherds can even be characterized as being semi-militant. Always on guard, always ready to run to the defence of the sheep from the wolves, always vigilant – this is an environment in which there is on time to think of oneself and in which the virtues of courage, self-renunciation and patience develop. And how difficult for the common person is this great of vigilance – relinquishment of sleep for him is harder than the achievement of many other, not insignificant feats. Self-renunciation means caring for others, if only of animals, but not of oneself.
Such was the moral state of the people who were the first to see Christ – they appear as examples of asceticism.
Christianity is a joyful tiding, but it is tied with abstinence, asceticism and suffering.
Christianity is something which cannot be connected with sentimentality even to the smallest degree. No, Christianity is a continual spiritual labor. Some say that the first centuries of Christianity were joyous and rosy. No, the situation was sorrowful, but the attitude was joyous and cheerful. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich;.... (IICor. 6:10). Such is the characteristic of the external position and the inner attitude of the first ages of Christianity.
Orthodox Life 1970 #6