When I first started to read St. Gregory Palamas’ homily on Christmas, the first sentence that really jumped out at me was the following:
today I see equality of honour between heaven and earth, and a way up for all those below to things above, matching the condescension of those on high.
There are two very striking things about this statement. Americans tend to be rather numb to the word ‘equality.’ We tend to take it for granted given those famous words from the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. This statement by Palamas is a good reminder of the power of the word: today earth is equal to heaven in honor — two radically different things are now equal. Not only that, but St. Gregory sees a means by which all of creation may rise to the condescension (superiority) of heaven. Note what Palamas says next in his homily:
However great the heaven of heavens may be, or the upper waters which form a roof over the celestial regions, or any heavenly place, state or order, they are no more marvellous or honourable than the cave, the manger, the water sprinkled on the infant and His swaddling clothes.
This lays bare as to how awesome (in the true sense of the word) the Nativity of Christ really is. God has not only taken on our humanity, but has willingly taken up the very stuff of all creation. This reality becomes even more clear if we look upon it from a scientific point of view. At a molecular level, the Incarnate Christ is made up of the very same stuff as all creation. Indeed, every time He ate or drank the molecules that make up creation (the food and water) became part of Him.
This is a very potent reminder that on the sixth day of creation God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Gen 1:31). Christ came not just for us, but for all of creation. This is also a reminder of our vital role in creation:
you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. — 1 Peter 2:9
As the Church it is our calling to be the means by which creation is lifted up to the condescension of heaven. Please note this prayer from the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:
We also offer to You this spiritual worship for the whole world
All this has been made possible because God so loved the world that He sent His Son to be born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. Amen.