::

ONE IN CHRIST: THE ICON OF THE NATIVITY AS THE
CHARTER OF THE CHURCH
Stavvos S. Fotiou¯
Tbe moJe of existence conveyeJ to bumon beinqs tbrouqb tbe Cburcb is
tbe bormonious communion of GoJ, bumon beinqs, onJ creotion,
witbout confusion onJ witbout Jivision. Ecclesiosticol ort illustrotes tbis
communion in its own woy. ln porticulor, tbe icon of tbe Notivity of
Cbrist reveols oll tbe moin tbemes of Cbristion tbeoloqy, so it coulJ be
cborocterizeJ os tbe cborter of tbe Cburcb.
Onc in Chvist: thc vision oI Catho!ic Communion
Tle laimonious communion of luman beings wiil God and ileiefoie,
by exiension, wiil ilemselves, ileii fellow luman beings, and wiil
naiuie, is ile way of life ilai ile Cluicl pioposes. In Cliisi and wiilin
ile cailolic communion eveiy being is unique and unpiecedenied and
ai ile same iime exisis in compleie uniiy wiil ile oileis. Heie all ile
diffeieni elemenis of ile ktisis of God coexisi laimoniously. Noiling
lives in isolaiion; noiling is in opposiiion io anyiling else. In Cliisi all
beings live iogeilei in compleie affiimaiion of uniiy (indivisibly) and
compleie affiimaiion of oileiness (unconfusedly).
Tle cluicl encouiages ilis vision of cailolic communion in muliiple
ways÷one of ilem is iconogiaply.
i
Tliougl ile aii of painiing ilis

¯
Siavios S. Foiiou siudied Educaiion and Tleology in Nicosia, Cypius and
Ailens, Gieece. He is an Associaie Piofessoi of Tleology and Religious
Educaiion ai ile Depaiimeni of Educaiion of ile Univeisiiy of Cypius. He is
ile auiloi of ien bools and ediioi of iliiiy. He was awaided ile Siaie Piize of
ile Republic of Cypius foi lis bool Alienotion onJ Self-knowleJqe (in Gieel.
Ailens: Simaioios, iqqo). He las iecenily publisled Tbe Cburcb in tbe MoJern
VorlJ (Beileley: InieiOiilodox Piess, :oo(). Icon on facing page fiom
Siavioniliia Monasieiy, Mouni Ailos.
i
L. Ouspensly, Tbeoloqy of tbe icon (Ciesiwood, New Yoil: Si Vladimii's
Seminaiy Piess, iqyS), io; A. Gialalis, lmoqes of tbe Jivine. Tbe Tbeoloqy of
lcons ot tbe Seventb Ecumenicol Council (Leiden: E.}. Biill, iqq(), ¸(-¸q; A. C.
Viame, Tbe EJucotinq lcon. Teocbinq VisJom onJ Holiness in tbe OrtboJox
Voy (Bioolline, Mass.: Holy Cioss Oiilodox Piess, iqqq).
ONE IN CHRIST VOL.(¸ NO.i


cailolic coexisience is piominenily iepiesenied in ile icon of ile
Naiiviiy. Tlus, ile iconological inieipieiaiion of ilis paiiiculai icon
can piovide us wiil ile exegesis of ile aim and conieni of Cliisiian
ileology. In oilei woids, ile icon of ile Naiiviiy depicis ile gieaiesi
ilemes of luman life: ile lnowledge of God and of oneself, sociabiliiy,
and ecological sensiiiviiy. Foi ilis ieason, ii could be claiacieiized as
ile claiiei of ile Cluicl.
Jcsus Chvist as thc uniIying ccntvc oI cvcation
Tle infani Cliisi is poiiiayed in ile ceniei of ile icon as an infani wlo
is boin in a dail cave, ile laiiei symbolizing ile dailness of ignoiance
oi false peicepiion of God, ilai dominaied fallen lumaniiy.
i
Tle
Naiiviiy of Cliisi ieveals a ienewed ielaiionslip beiween God and
luman beings: God-lumaniiy. Fieedom and love aie ile main
claiacieiisiics of tbeontbropio (God-lumaniiy). Fieedom: God and
lumans, wiiloui being foiced by any lind of necessiiy, biing ileii
selves inio communion wiil one anoilei. In ilis communion luman
beings aie noi exiinguisled oi degiaded; on ile coniiaiy, iley become
individuals wlose uniqueness is biougli oui in ilis communion.
Fieedom wiilin ilis ileaniliopic communion is ile iealiiy in wlicl
God and lumans do noi fuse, bui leep ileii compleie oileiness. Love:
God and luman beings offei ilemselves io eacl oilei, and slaie life. In
ilis communion lumans become immoiial by giace, iley oveicome
ile diive iowaids non-being, io wlicl ileii cieaiuiely naiuie may
male ilem vulneiable. By love, we mean ilai in ile ileaniliopic
communion, God and lumans aie noi divided bui pieseive ileii full
uniiy.
:
Wiilin ile ielaiionslip beiween God and luman beings, wlicl
is manifesied iliougl Cliisi, any lind of God-exiinguisling
aniliopomonism oi luman-exiinguisling deism is demolisled. Cliisi
is ile divine peison of lumaniiy, ile luman peison of God.
Tlis new ielaiionslip beiween God and luman beings, as a fiee and
loving communion, deiives fiom a new peicepiion of God, wlicl is
ievealed in ile Naiiviiy.
¸
God, wlom ile angels piaise in ile iop lefi

i
Ailanasius of Alexandiia, On tbe incornotion of loqos, PG :¸, io(B; Giegoiy of
Nazianzus, On tbe Tbeopbony, PG ¸6, ¸i¸A; Giegoiy of Nyssa, On tbe notivity of
Cbrist, PG (6, ii(iCD-ii((A.
:
}. D. Zizioulas, Communion onJ otberness (London: T. and T. Clail, :oo6),
:¸o-:6¸.
¸
}oln of Damascus, On tbe onnunciotion, PG q6, 6¸6D.
FOTIOU One in Cbrist. Tbe lcon of tbe Notivity

:(
paii of ile icon, and wlose piesence iley announce io people, uppei
iigli, is limself ile communion of fieedom and love beiween ile iliee
divine peisons: ile Failei and ile Son and ile Holy Spiiii. Tle Failei
is symbolized by ile semi-ciicle of sly fiom wleie ile iay of ile Siai
begins in ile uppei middle paii of ile icon, and ile Holy Spiiii by ile
ciicle in ile middle of ile iay, wlicl naiuially ieacles oui iowaids
Cliisi.
i
In ilis peison-ceniied communion eacl peison is unique and
incompaiable and, ai ile same iime, in full uniiy wiil ile oilei
peisons. Eacl peison gives iiself compleiely io ile oileis and iliougl
ilis self-giving iis oileiness is fully pieseived. Life is ilai loving
fieedom, ile love ilai seis fiee.
To ilis fiee and loving communion, Cliisi inviies all luman beings.
Tlai is wly Cliisi is also called Emmanuel, 'wlicl is iianslaied ¨God
wiil us¨' (Maii. i::¸). Cliisi is noi ile 'unmoved movei' of ile idealisis
oi ile 'supieme Monad' of iaiionalisis. Cliisi is a living peison calling
us inio a ielaiionslip of communion wiil limself. Tlis is wly on ile
lalo of ile loly infani ii is wiiiien 'He Wlo Is.'
:
God inviies lumans io
woil wiil lim so ilai ile univeise will be peifecied. Tlus, in ilis icon,
ile Mosi Holy Moilei of Cliisi is poiiiayed nexi io Cliisi and
symbolizes lumaniiy wlo fieely ieceives God. Tle Viigin Maiy is ile
posiiive iesponse of lumaniiy io ile loving call of God; ile 'yes' of
lumans' love, wlicl meeis wiil ile 'yes' of ile love of God.
¸

Tliougl ile adjaceni figuies of Cliisi and of ile Tleoiolos (Moilei
of God), ile icon of ile Naiiviiy poiiiays ile auileniic way of life foi
luman beings.
(
In ile communion of fieedom and love wiil God,
lumans oveicome egoceniiic self-enclosuie, as well as any lind of
usuipaiion of ileii fellow luman beings, oi exploiiaiion of naiuie. Any
lind of disiance oi sepaiaiion, eveiy exclusion oi conflici is subsiiiuied
by a 'common celebiaiion of ile wlole cieaiion.'
¸
A new woild, ile new
woild of God, can ieplace ile fallen one. Tle angelic lymn pioclaims
ilai }esus Cliisi is ile manifesiaiion of leavenly God, peace upon
eaiil, of divine meicy. Till ilen, wai lad been lnown as ile cuise of

i
}. Foiesi, Proyinq witb icons (Maiylnoll, New Yoil: Oibis Bool, iqqy), 6¸.
:
Aiclim. Sopliony, Ve sboll see bim os be is (Essex: Siaviopegic Monasieiy of
Si }oln ile Bapiisi, iqqS), :oo.
¸
P. Evdolimov, Tbe ort of tbe icon. o tbeoloqy of beouty (Califoinia: Oalwood
Publicaiions, iqq6), :S:-(.
(
Maximus ile Confessoi, Ambiqua, PG qi, ioS(CD.
¸
Basil of Caesaiea, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG ¸i, i(y:D.
ONE IN CHRIST VOL.(¸ NO.i


ile gods; now, peace is ile blessing of God. As God is ile peison-
ceniied communion of self-giving and self-saciifice, le ieveals limself
on eaiil as peace, wlicl is ile manifesiaiion of lis meicy. Tle peace of
Cliisi is noi jusi ile absence of wai bui ile unmingled and undivided
communion of all and wiil all.
i
Hisioiy is no longei a peiennial
iecycling of ile cosmic subsiance bui ile way io ile esclaiological
iiansfoimaiion of ile wlole woild. Tlis is low deail, ile absoluie
enemy of lumans, can be defeaied. Tlis can be undeisiood iliougl ile
icon's symbolism, since ii is implied ilai Cliisi is boin in Hades and
wiapped in wliie swaddling cloiles÷in ile way ile dead weie
wiapped in ilose days.
:
In ile end, ile gospel of Cliisi, ile good news
of all ile yeais, is vicioiy ovei deail, oveicoming eveiy lind of deail÷
biological, sociological, exisieniial.
Cliisi is boin inio ile woild in oidei io biing salvaiion io luman
beings. Tle name }esus means 'savioui, salvaiion of people'.
¸
Salvaiion
implies ilai eveiy luman being will be wlole, wlicl means iniaci, full-
filled, noi lacling anyiling; be ii God, lim]leiself, lis]lei fellow
lumans, oi naiuie. Tle iiue luman peison, ile esclaiological peison,
is ile wlole luman being, unified wiil ile eniiie cieaiion, wiilin an
undivided and non-fused communion wiil God.
Havmonious co-cxistcncc with humanity's inncv wov!d
Because of ile Naiiviiy lumans become capable of leaiing, seeing, and
ioucling God.
(
In ilis way any paiiial view of lumaniiy is iianscended:
any soii of maieiialism, ilai sees spiiii as ile epiplenomenon of
maiiei, and any lind of idealism, ilai peiceives body as ile soul's
piison, is supeiseded by ile aclnowledgemeni of ile spiiiiual-maieiial
naiuie of luman beings. Body and soul aie iwo equal paiis of luman
beings, coopeiaiing in laimony, so as io ieacl ile aclievemeni of ileii
exisieniial goal. Humans aclieve communion wiil God iliougl all of

i
Dionysius ile Aieopagiie, On tbe Jivine nomes, PG ¸, q(SD-q¸¸B.
:
}oln Cliysosiom, On Pbiloqonius, PG (S, y¸¸; P. Evdolimov, Tbe ort of tbe
icon. o tbeoloqy of beouty, :yq; }. B. Gieen, Tbe Gospel of luke (Giand Rapids,
Micligan: William B. Eeidmans, iqqy), i:(.
¸
Basil of Caesaiea, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG ¸i, i(6¸B; }oln Cliysosiom,
Homilies on tbe qospel of St Mottbew, PG ¸y, :6; Tleoplylacius of Bulgaiia, On
Mottbew, PG i:¸, i¸yC.
(
Ailanasius of Alexandiia, On tbe incornotion of loqos, PG :¸, i:oB; }oln of
Damascus, On tbe Jivine imoqes, PG q(, i:6(C.
FOTIOU One in Cbrist. Tbe lcon of tbe Notivity

:6
ileii bodily and spiiiiual poweis: ieason, will and emoiion, imaginaiion
and senses.
Tle incainaiion of God encouiages ile iecogniiion of ile value of ile
luman body.
i
Body is noi an infeiioi paii of ile luman being, wlicl
lumans lave io suboidinaie io ile supeiioi spiiii oi even exclude in
ileii jouiney iowaids God. Tle biiil of Cliisi denoies ilai body is ile
biidge of communion wiil ile oilei, and wiilin a communal
ielaiionslip wiil God ii can become incoiiupiible iogeilei wiil ile
soul. Tliougl ilis advanced view of ile luman body Cliisiianiiy sei
lumans fiee of ile view ilai in ile body demonic poweis lide and
dwell.
:
Tlus, ii piomoied ieseaicl and siudy of ile body, and in doing
ilis ii coniiibuied io ile developmeni of medical science and ile
piogiess of science in geneial.
Fuiileimoie, in ile new woild of God lumans aie no longei
anonymous, foi iley aie eponymous; iley lave a name by wlicl iley
develop ileii acquainiance wiil God. Human beings aie noi feaiuieless
molecules in ile univeise, foi eacl is equal in impoiiance io ile wlole
of ile woild. Since lumans aie fiee befoie God iley aie ai ile same
iime sei fiee foim any lind of piedeieiminaiion. Tlis means ilai
lumans aie iesponsible foi ileii aciions. Because of ile incainaiion of
Cliisi lumans aie fiee io quesiion any given piinciple, inleiiied ai
biiil, in ile foim of a colleciivisi ideniiiy: ile luman peison is noi
ieducible io anyiling.
Neveiileless fieedom musi coexisi wiil love. Tlus, in ile uppei iigli
of ile icon, ile Angel announces ile biiil of Cliisi io ile slepleids,
and seis people fiee fiom eiioneous noiions of God. Tle God-wlo-is-
boin does noi feaiuie in any of ile naiuial ieligions, foi wlicl
encounieiing ile divine causes feai. We aie noi ialling aboui a
ieiioiisi god, ile guaidian of leaven and eaiil, wlo enjoys ilieaiening
lis clildien. Having ilese noiions aboui God, ile slepleids weie
'gieaily afiaid' wlen ile Angel slowed limself io ilem. Bui ile Angel's
message is diffeieni: 'Do noi be afiaid, foi belold, I biing you good
iidings of gieai joy wlicl will be io all people' (Lule ::q-io). Tle gieai
joy deiives fiom ile faci ilai Cliisiianiiy is ile denouncemeni of ile
ioiiuiei-god; of eveiy god wlo favouis ile idea of weal-willed luman

i
}oln Cliysosiom, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG (q, ¸¸q-¸6o; Giegoiy Palamas,
On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG i¸i, :o(AD.
:
Ailanasius of Alexandiia, On tbe incornotion of loqos, PG :¸, iSoBC.
ONE IN CHRIST VOL.(¸ NO.i

:y
beings, wlo eveniually become passive insiiumenis in lis lands. Tle
ielaiionslip of God wiil lumans is no longei ilai of loid and seivani,
oi masiei and slave, bui ilai of failei and clild, of fiiend wiil fiiend:
fieedom insiead of slaveiy, love insiead of feai.
i
Feai and iewaid cease
io be ile moiives foi luman belavioui.
:
Humans no longei iefiain
fiom evil foi feai of punislmeni, oi do good in ile expeciaiion of
iewaid. Tle luman peison loves in oidei io iefleci God, wlose love is
uncondiiional, cailolic and eieinal.
Thc havmonious communion oI human bcings with cach
othcv
Apaii fiom ile laimonious communion of lumans wiil ileii own
selves, ile communal ielaiionslip of luman beings wiil God also
exiends io laimonious coexisience wiil ileii fellow luman beings.
Tlis coexisience is iepiesenied in ile icon of ile Naiiviiy and is
aclieved in ile conjunciion of love and fieedom, of diffeience and
uniiy. In ile fallen siaie of ilings any lind of diffeience causes feai.
Tle Oilei and ile oilei aie peiceived as opponenis and enemies. Tlis
is wly people cieaie associaiions on ile basis of a single biological oi
social mailei, wlicl ilen conflici. Coloui, iiibe, gendei, language,
naiion eic. aie ofien ile cause of animosiiy and conflici beiween
peoples and couniiies. In coniiasi, oui icon depicis a woild in wlicl
diffeience leads noi io division bui io uniiy.
Tlus, ile icon slows ile diffeience-in-uniiy of geneiaiions. Tle fiisi
magus on ile lefi of ile icon is piciuied young, ile one in ile middle is
middle-aged, and ile iliid one is old.
¸
In ilis way ile biidging of ile
gap beiween diffeieni geneiaiions÷wlen and wleie ii exisis÷is being
emplasized. Tle eneigeiic young luman being, ile cieaiive middle-
aged one and ile wise old one, iogeilei consiiiuie lumaniiy, inviied io
celebiaie life. Clildisl innocence, maiuie cieaiiviiy and ile wisdom of
old age eacl gain iespeci and value, in accepiing God's loving inviiaiion

i
Sopliony of }eiusalem, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG SyC, ¸y((A.
:
Ailanasius of Alexandiia, On tbe incornotion of loqos, PG :¸, i6SB-i6qB;
Giegoiy of Nazianzus, On tbe Tbeopbony, PG ¸6, ¸:iD-¸:(A; Ampliloclius of
Iconion, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG ¸q, (iC.
¸
L. Ouspensly, V. Lossly, Tbe meoninq of icons (Ciesiwood, New Yoil: Si
Vladimii's Seminaiy Piess, iqS¸), i6o; N. Ozoline, 'Tleology in coloi: ile icon
of Cliisi's Naiiviiy', in lcons. VinJows on eternity, ed. Gennadios Limouiis
(Geneva: Woild Council of Cluicles, iqqo), i¸y.
FOTIOU One in Cbrist. Tbe lcon of tbe Notivity

:S
io lumaniiy.
i
In addiiion, ile icon depicis ile diffeience-in-uniiy
beiween iaces. One of ile iliee magi is poiiiayed as blacl (see Ps.
yi:io), demonsiiaiing ilai all lumans, of all iaces and colouis, aie
equal. Tle iaces and colouis of lumaniiy iefleci ile beauiy of cieaiion:
iley aie ile iainbow of bioilei]sisieilood and coopeiaiion.
On ile oilei land, ile icon iepiesenis ile diffeience-in-uniiy
beiween naiions. Tle slepleids aie }ews, ile magi aie Geniiles.
:
Tle
animosiiy and laiied wlicl sepaiaied }ews and Geniiles gives way io
ieconciliaiion and dialogical communicaiion. In ile new woild of God
ile naiional and ile ecumenical coexisi in iiuil. Tle naiional ieminds
us of ile faci ilai iiuil is noi impeisonal bui is incainaied in peisons.
Tle ecumenical ieminds us of ile faci ilai iiuil is noi exclusive wlile
ii consisis of ile commonwealil of lumaniiy.
Finally, ile slepleids aie pooi and uneducaied wlile ile magi aie
iicl and educaied.
¸
Humans aie ofien sepaiaied noi only because of
ileii maieiial possessions, bui also because of ileii spiiiiual
possessions. Oui icon calls us io foiego all uiiliiaiian exploiiaiion.
Humans aie exloiied noi io claim possession ovei ilings, bui io slaie
eveiyiling. Tlis is ile only way iley will compielend ilai ile iiuly
iicl aie ile ones wlo give; ileii money and ileii caie, ileii iime and
ileii iendeiness.
Tle icon of ile Naiiviiy slows ilai ile auileniic inieipeisonal
ielaiionslip is a ielaiionslip of fieedom and love. In communion,
luman beings slaie ileii lives wiil oileis, wlile ieiaining ileii
'oileiness'. In ilis way individualism and colleciivism aie oveicome.
Individualism is a fiee life wlicl lacls love and ends up in exisieniial
deail. Colleciivism is a life of love ilai lacls fieedom, and also iesulis
in exisieniial deail. In coniiasi, oui icon inviies lumans io love eveiy
single being, iegaidless of age, naiionaliiy, social class eic. In ile
viiginal biiil of Cliisi fiom Tleoiolos Maiy, ile icon also manifesis
ile equaliiy of ile iwo sexes. In ile beginning of lisioiy, a woman was
boin of a man wiiloui paiiicipaiion of woman; now, in ile iebiiil of
lisioiy, a man is boin of a woman wiiloui paiiicipaiion of man.
(
All

i
Giegoiy of Nazianzus, On tbe Tbeopbony, PG ¸6, ¸¸:B.
:
Basil of Caesaiea, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG ¸i, i(6qB; }oln Cliysosiom,
Homilies on tbe qospel of St Mottbew, PG ¸y, ¸y, 6¸; Cosmas of }eiusalem, On
tbeoqony, PG qS, (6iC.
¸
}oln Cliysosiom, Homilies on tbe qospel of St Mottbew, PG ¸y, yq.
(
}oln Cliysosiom, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG ¸6, ¸Sq-¸qo.
ONE IN CHRIST VOL.(¸ NO.i

:q
people÷moileis and infanis, men and women, lings and
slepleids
i
÷aie clildien of God and membeis of ile same communiiy.
Tlis is wleie ile luman peison acquiies a cailolic consciousness and a
sense of iesponsibiliiy foi eveiyone and eveiyiling: ilis is ile
legiiimaie ideniificaiion of ile luman being wiil lumaniiy.
Havmonious communion bctwccn humans and natuvc
Tle icon noi only slows ile laimonious communion of lumans wiil
God and ileiefoie, by exiension, wiil ileii selves and ileii fellow
luman beings, bui ii also manifesis laimonious communion wiil
naiuie. Tle wlole cieaiion is ile woil of God's fieedom and love;
oileiwise, ileie is noiling divine in any cieaiuie. Tlis dociiine
depiived naiuie of iis magical and pagan claiaciei. Neiilei desiiny oi
ile siais deieimine life.
:
Human beings aie noi passive subjecis wiilin
naiuie, bui God's collaboiaiois, woiling iowaids iis peifeciion.
Humans aie ile cieaiuies wlo aie able, by means of ileii woil and
ileii ciafi, io clange ile plysical daia; wlo aie inviied io lumanize
naiuie and seal ii wiil ile iefleciion of divine beauiy. Tlis vision of life
is opposed io eveiy dualisiic view. Eveiyiling is cieaied by God, and, as
a consequence, noiling is degiaded and noiling is despised. Life is noi
ile vicioiy of one ovei anoilei. Tle wlole cieaiion÷menial and
iangible, spiiiiual and maieiial÷is unified, in oidei io commune,
unconfusedly and indivisibly, wiil iis Cieaioi.
In ilis communion eveiyiling paiiicipaies. In ile icon, as well as ile
iwo animals visible by ile mangei÷confiiming Isaial's pioplecy ilai
ile animals will accepi ileii Loid bui ile Isiaeliies will noi (see Isa.
i:¸)÷ile mouniain, ile cave, ile slepleids' sleep, ile loises of ile
magi, iiees and biids aie also poiiiayed. All cieaiuies of God aie inviied
io ile laimonious coexisience of lumans wiil naiuie (see Isa. ii: i-q).
¸

Eveiy cieaiuie coniiibuies io ile iealizaiion of ilis cailolic
communion in a disiinci way. Tle wlole cieaiion pioceeds along wiil
lumans iowaids iedempiion fiom coiiupiion. Humans become ile
piiesis of ile cieaiion, discovei ile ieasons (loqoi) of beings, ile value
of ile mission ilai eveiy being las io accomplisl wiilin cieaiion. Tle
suboidinaiion of naiuie io lumans, oi of lumans io naiuie, is ieplaced

i
Pioclos of Consianiinople, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG 6¸, yi:AC.
:
Ailanasius of Alexandiia, On tbe incornotion of loqos, PG :¸, ii6C; }oln
Cliysosiom, Homilies on tbe qospel of St Mottbew, PG ¸y, 6i-6:.
¸
Ailanasius of Alexandiia, On tbe incornotion of loqos, PG :¸, iSSC-iSqB.
FOTIOU One in Cbrist. Tbe lcon of tbe Notivity

¸o
by ile liiuigical sanciificaiion, ile iiansfiguiaiion of ile woild inio a
iemple of God. Inside ilis iemple-lile woild all cieaiuies piaise God in
a 'musical symplony'.
i
Tlis 'lymn of all cieaiion'
:
io wlicl ile luman
peison becomes aiiuned, is symbolized by ile slepleid playing lis
fluie on ile iigli of ile icon.
A ncw hicvavchy oI nccds
Tlis cailolic communion suggesis a specific lieiaicly of needs, a
paiiiculai exisieniial seiiing of goals. God is a failei and lumans aie
lis clildien, fellow lumans aie bioileis and sisieis, and naiuie is ile
gieai louse of all. If ilese condiiions aie iealized, ilen ile values of ile
fallen woild aie undeimined and oveiiliown.
Tlus, ile icon of ile Naiiviiy subveiis all oilei ieligious beliefs of iis
iime. Tle angels aie piaising God in a mangei and noi in ile gieai
iemple of }eiusalem.
¸
Consequenily, God can be woislipped
eveiywleie, and ile disiinciion beiween sacied and non-sacied place is
no longei valid. Tle aliai of God coexisis wiil ile aliai of ile
bioilei]sisiei, since woislip also consisis in accommodaiing ilose foi
wlom÷lile Cliisi÷ileie is 'no ioom' (Ll. ::y).
(

Tle icon also oveiiliows some poliiical peispeciives. Tle savioui of
ile woild is noi ile Roman Empeioi bui Cliisi. Tlai is wly ile angels
give io Cliisi ile names ilai lad been aiiiibuied io ile Roman
Empeioi Ociavian, sucl as savioui, loid.
¸
Tle woild is now noi saved
iliougl Roman poliiical siiuciuies bui iliougl life in Cliisi. Rome
imposes: and auiloiiiy diciaies wlai is iiue. Cliisi pioclaims: and
iiuil is ile auiloiiiy. Foi Rome iiuil is a command imposed on
lumans fiom above oi fiom ouiside. Foi Cliisi iiuil is ideniified wiil
love, wlicl can be fieely expeiienced by all people. Tle biiil of Cliisi
evangelizes a new woild in wlicl ileie aie no masieis oi seivanis, bui
only bioileis]sisieis and fiiends. Tle fiisi slall be lasi; auiloiiiy is a
seivice addiessing ile specific needs of specific lumans.
6


i
}oln of Euclaiien, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG i:o, ii:¸C; Cosmas of
}eiusalem, On tbeoqony, PG qS, (6(D.
:
Giegoiy of Nyssa, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG (6, ii(qC.
¸
}. B. Gieen, Tbe Gospel of luke, i¸i.
(
}. Foiesi, Proyinq witb icons (Maiylnoll, New Yoil: Oibis Bool, iqqy), 6¸.
¸
}. B. Gieen, Tbe Gospel of luke, i::-¸, i¸(-¸.
6
Tleoplylacius of Bulgaiia, On Mottbew, PG i:¸, i6(C.
ONE IN CHRIST VOL.(¸ NO.i

¸i
In addiiion, ile suipassing of old peispeciives is made manifesi
ilougl ile woislip of ile Magi. Tle Magi aie ile gieai, ile gloiious
and ile poweiful. Tlese gloiious and poweiful peisonages aie noi
woislipping a poweiful ling bui a pooi clild.
i
Fuiileimoie, ile place
wleie iley woislip ilis clild is noi ile capiial of some lingdom, as
iley lad fiisi ilougli, bui a small and despised iown,
:
and fuiileimoie
a siable.
Ai ile same iime, ile new eilos wlicl is suggesied iliougl ile biiil
of Cliisi is made obvious in ile icon by ile piesence of ile pooi
slepleids: ilose wlo weie so despised by mosi people ilai ileii
iesiimony caiiied no weigli in ile couiis, now become ile fiisi io
wiiness and pioclaim Cliisi's biiil.
¸
God's new woild is goveined by
diffeieni values ilan ilose pievailing in ile fallen woild. In ilis woild,
ile blessed aie ilose wlo may noi lave possessions, bui aie puie in
leaii, and lungiy and iliisiy foi jusiice.
Tle new eilos in Cliisi causes a conflici wiil eveiy soii of siaius
÷ieligious, poliiical, spiiiiual, eic. Tle believei siands againsi anyiling
wlicl degiades luman beings and biuializes life. Tlai is ile ieason
wly ile biiil of Cliisi biougli ile ieaciion ii did fiom Heiod, and as ii
will fiom any auiloiiiy seeling io ieplace God.
(
Slaugliei of ile
innoceni, banislmeni of wisdom, exile of love: ile lingdom of Caesai
will be in conflici wiil ile lingdom of God; ile iyiannical
delumanizaiion of ilose wlo laie God will oppose ile self-denying
plilaniliopy of Cliisi.
Existcntia! vcbivth
In oidei io eniei God's new woild, luman beings lave io be ienewed.
Tle necessiiy of ienewal is manifesied in ile icon of ile Naiiviiy in ile
bailing of ile loly infani by midwives, lowei iigli.
¸
Tlis scene noi only
commemoiaies ile luman naiuie of Cliisi, bui also suggesis ilai if
luman beings wisl io expeiience life, iley lave io obiain a new
exisieniial oiieniaiion. Humans eniei ile woild and move fiom Easi io
Wesi, iising, ilen seiiing. Tliougl iebiiil ileii diieciion is ieveised,

i
Ibid. i6¸D.
:
Ibid. i6(B.
¸
}. B. Gieen, Tbe Gospel of luke, i¸o.
(
Tleoplylacius op. cii. ¸SSD.
¸
C. Aslanoff, Tbe lncornote GoJ (Ciesiwood, New Yoil: Si Vladimii's Seminaiy
Piess, :oo:), ii¸.
FOTIOU One in Cbrist. Tbe lcon of tbe Notivity

¸:
fiom Wesi io Easi÷iowaids immoiialiiy. Tleii new iouie iowaids ilai
'Easi of Easis', ile 'Sun of iiglieousness',
i
ile Cliisi, begins wiil
bapiism. Enieiing ile Cluicl, lumans become ciiizens of God's new
woild. Tleii ideniiiy no longei deiives fiom ileii biological bui,
piimaiily, fiom ileii exisieniial encounieis. Humans aie noi only io
love ileii lin and lin, bui all people.
:
Tle icon ieminds us ilai Cliisi
is noi welcomed inio life by biological ielaiives÷as was ile case foi
}oln ile Bapiisi÷bui by lis bioadei exisieniial family; ile people wiil
wlom le ielaies in fieedom and love.
¸

Membeislip in ilis univeisal communiiy can be expeiienced by
luman beings in eveiy celebiaiion of ile Euclaiisi. Tlai is wly in ile
icon ile mangei iesembles ile Holy Aliai.
(
In ile Euclaiisi all lumans
become bioileis and sisieis iliougl ile common slaiing of ile Body
of Cliisi, of ile Biead of Life. Cliisi is ile 'biead of life' (}oln 6:¸¸), so
le is boin in Beillelem wlicl means 'louse of biead'.
¸
Tlis is wleie
people leain ilai life is a gifi of God, a giace, and ilai is ile ieason wly
ii is mosi valued, wlen ii is given bacl. Tlus ile faiilful give bacl wlai
iley aie, and wlo iley aie io oileis. Life is a gifi of love offeied and
ieceived, giace foi giace.
Fvcc potcntia!ity
Cailolic, univeisal communion is noi imposed on lumans by God. Ii is
an inviiaiion ilai addiesses lumans' fieedom and lumans aie fiee io
accepi oi iejeci God's pioposal of love. Ai lowei lefi, ile icon poiiiays
ilis geneious offei. Tleie }osepl is poiiiayed in an aiiiiude of
mediiaiion, as if le is ilinling aboui ile immaculaie concepiion and

i
}oln Cliysosiom, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG (q, ¸¸i; Ampliloclius of
Iconion, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG ¸q, (oB; Pioclos of Consianiinople, On tbe
notivity of Cbrist, PG 6¸, yi¸B.
:
}. D. Zizioulas, Beinq os Communion (Ciesiwood, New Yoil: Si Vladimii's
Seminaiy Piess, iqS¸), ¸y-¸S).
¸
}. B. Gieen, Tbe Gospel of luke, i:i, i¸:.
(
Eusebius of Alexandiia, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG S6A, ¸6¸C; }oln
Cliysosiom, On Pbiloqonius, PG (S, y¸¸; N. Ozoline, 'Tleology in coloi: ile
icon of Cliisi's Naiiviiy', i¸¸-i¸(.
¸
}oln Cliysosiom, Homilies on tbe Gospel of St Mottbew, PG ¸y, yS;
Tleoplylacius of Bulgaiia, On Mottbew, PG i:¸, i6iA.
ONE IN CHRIST VOL.(¸ NO.i

¸¸
biiil of Cliisi.
i
In fioni of lim siands ile devil disguised as a
slepleid÷in some icons le is poiiiayed wiil loin and iail
:
÷in an
effoii io iiaduce God and casi doubi on lis plilaniliopy. Holding a
siicl, le addiesses }osepl, saying ilai ii is impossible foi a siicl io
giow and ileiefoie ii is impossible foi a viigin io give biiil.
¸
In some
icons ile siicl buisis inio flowei.
(
Tlis scene iesiifies io ile fieedom of
lumans, io ileii abiliiy io accepi oi iejeci love as a way of
undeisianding life. Deificaiion oi noilingness; confusion oi alieiiiy;
dividedness oi uniiy; ilese aie ile cloices foi lumaniiy. In ilis
paiiiculai case }osepl oveicomes doubi and seives ile will of God. Tlai
is wly lis figuie is poiiiayed wiil a lalo.
¸
Similaily, ile faiilful aie
called upon io oveicome vaiious iempiaiions, wlicl ilieaien God's
new woild.
6
}usi lile }osepl, ile faiilful aie inviied io believe ilai wlai
seems impossible io people becomes possible iliougl ile giace of God.
Tleie is meaning in life; cieaiion can be iiansfiguied. No luman effoii
is wasied; even if you aie alone leep figliing, and love will pievail in
ile end.
Tle duiy of ile Cluicl is io ieveal ile communiiy of fieedom and
love, peace and beauiy. Wiilin ilis communion eacl one will siand by
eveiyone and eveiyone will siand by ile one. Eveiy gifi will be a pieseni
offeied io oileis÷as wiil ile Magi, offeiing ileii gifis io Cliisi.
y
Tlis
is low cailolic communion will be incainaied in ile Cluicl; ii will be
manifesied in ile eilos of ile faiilful. Tlis is low lumans will be
empiiically convinced ilai Cliisi is boin among ilem ai eveiy
momeni.
S

Tle mission of ile Cluicl las io be iealised in ile life of ile woild,
jusi as ile message of ile angels was iealised in ile expeiience of ile

i
}oln Cliysosiom, Homilies on tbe Gospel of St Mottbew, PG ¸y, S¸; Pioclos of
Consianiinople, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG 6¸, y¸6A-y(oA.
:
L. Ouspensly, V. Lossly, Tbe Meoninq of lcons, i6o.
¸
N. Ozoline, 'Tleology in coloi: ile icon of Cliisi's Naiiviiy,' i¸S-q.
(
P. Evdolimov, Tbe ort of tbe icon. o tbeoloqy of beouty, :S(-¸.
¸
C. Cavainos, GuiJe to Byzontine iconoqropby, Vol. i. (Bosion, Mass.: Holy
Tiansfiguiaiion Monasieiy, iqq¸), i¸(.
6
}. Foiesi, Proyinq witb icons, 6o-i.
y
}oln Cliysosiom, On Pbiloqonius, PG (S, y¸¸.
S
Eusebius of Alexandiia, On tbe notivity of Cbrist, PG S6A, ¸:qA; Ailanasius of
Alexandiia, On tbe incornotion of loqos, PG :¸, i:(BC.
FOTIOU One in Cbrist. Tbe lcon of tbe Notivity

¸(
slepleids.
i
Beyond ile iempiaiions of Monoplysiiism oi Nesioiianism,
ile Cluicl las io iiansfiguie ilis woild and ilis life io ile gieaiesi
possible exieni, leie and now, always and eveiywleie. One in Cliisi:
communion of ile uncieaied God and ile cieaied woild, peisonal
uniqueness alongside communal uniiy, ile meiamoiplosis of naiuie
and vicioiy ovei deail÷in ilese consisi ile good news of ile Cluicl
io luman lisioiy.

i
Andieas of Cieien, On tbe circumcision of Cbrist, onJ on St Bosil, PG qy, qi6A.


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