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8. David, who is a forefather of God on account of Him who has now been born of his line, hymns God somewhere, “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments” (Ps. 119:73). What does this mean? That only the Creator can grant true understanding. Anyone who has been vouchsafed understanding and grasped the honour which our nature received from God through being formed by His hands in His own image, will run towards Him, having come to a realization of His love for mankind, and will obey Him and learn His commandments. But how much more so if he comprehends, as far as is possible, this great mystery of our re-creation and restoration. God formed human nature out of the earth with His own hand and breathed His own life into man (Gen. 2:7, cf. 1 Thess. 5:23), whereas everything else He brought into being by His word alone. He then allowed man to be governed by his own thoughts and follow his own initiative, because he was a rational creature with a sovereign will. Left alone, deceived by the evil one’s counsel and unable to withstand his assault, man did not keep to what was in accordance with his nature, but slid towards what was unnatural to it. So now God not only forms human nature anew by His own hand in a mysterious way, but also keeps it near Him. Not only does He assume this nature and raise it up from the fall, but He inexpressibly clothes Himself in it and unites Himself inseparably with it and was born as both God and man: from a woman, in the first instance, that He might take upon Himself the same nature which He formed in our forefathers; and from a woman who was a virgin, in the second, so that He might make man new. — St. Gregory Palamas, Homily Fifty-Eight on the Saving Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior.

Psalm 119:73 is a verse that Orthodox Christian priests know well. It is part of the prayers that they say while vesting. This particular verse is said while putting on the left cuff (epimanikia). It is a stark reminder that what we know of God is given to us. This knowledge and this relationship has little to do with a person’s intelligence, skill or age. I know people who the world would call mentally challenged who know the liturgy better than I do. St. Kyrikos was three years old when he chose martyrdom over denouncing Christ.

It is also a reminder that atheism, secularism and the rejection of Christianity is willful ignorance — to  make the choice to believe that we know better than God is nothing more than arrogance. God has given us everything we need to know Him, understand Him and have a relationship with Him. As a matter of fact, He has gone beyond our wildest expectations and imaginations — becoming a babe born in a cave — in order that we might be with Him eternally. We need only have the humility to say, “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.”

He whom nothing can contain has been contained in a womb. He is in the Father’s bosom and His Mother’s embrace. How can this be, but as He knows and willed and was well pleased. Fleshless as He was, He willingly took flesh. And He Who Is became what He was not, for us. And while departing not from His own nature, He shared in our nature’s substance. So Christ was born with dual natures, wishing to replenish the world on high. — Third Kathisma from the Orthros of the Nativity

Amen.