The Sunday before the Nativity of our Lord
Sermon by Archbishop Andrei (Rymarenko, 1893-1978)
"Adam...where art thou?" (Gen. 3:9). This is the voice of God which resounded in Adam’s conscience after the Fall and tormented him. As long as Adam was in obedience to God — cultivated and kept Paradise, receiving strength for this by eating the fruits of the Tree of Life — he was in ceaseless communion with God. In his heart there was continuous quiet and joy. But after tasting of the forbidden fruits of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the thread of communion with God was broken in Adam’s heart. Sin stood as a wall between God and man.
From this very time began a new history of man’s life on earth. Man now lived under a curse and in the sweat of his face obtained his bread. But in spite of all his labors, he did not obtain a joyful heart. His life went on in sin. This sin was washed away by the Flood, but sin continued to possess man; and the confusion of Babel filled the whole world. But in this darkness, in this inconsolable anguish, we find a man who sought spiritual joy. This is Abraham. To him was given the law of life, and as a promise, the coming to earth of the Savior of the world, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Centuries went by; people impatiently awaited the promised Messiah. People longed to be freed from sin, but without the Tree of Life, the promised Messiah, this was impossible. And finally the fulfillment of times is accomplished. The Savior of the world from sin comes to earth. He fulfills the commandment, given to man, of love for God and neighbor. But above all, He restores that Tree of Life which was in Paradise, which helped Adam to be in communion with God. Here are the words with which the Lord Himself announced this New Testamental communion with God: "He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him" (Jn. 6:56).
Today the holy Church in the Gospel reading lists the names of those men who were the righteous ones and prepared for the appearance of the Savior. We call them the Fathers. By their lives they also give us the hope of receiving that joy of Paradise and peace of heart which Adam possessed in Paradise. And this is why we so reverently and prayerfully ask them today to help us to be partakers of this worldwide joy, the Nativity of Christ.
"Adam...where art thou?" So even now this eternal question resounds in our conscience. Of course, not in a geographical sense: God knows where each of us is. But in relation to Him — to God. O, let us not leave this question unanswered! Let us be able to say: I am here, Lord, at Thy manger, in Thy Church, before Thy Chalice — "I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who came into the world to save sinners.