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“John Chrysostom - Homily on the Date of Christmas, sections 1 and 2”
A homily for Christmas Day (in which Chrysostom argues that the date of Christ's birth was 25th December)
Click here to read at earlychurchtexts.com in the original Greek (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is by the Revd Andrew Maguire (Early Church Texts Webmaster). This should be acknowledged if the translation is used or cited in any publication or any other website.
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On the birthday of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the date of which was still uncertain at that time, but which, within a few years, was made plain by some who came from the West and shared it.
1. There is something which long ago patriarchs painfully longed for, prophets foretold and the righteous set their hearts on. Now it has come to pass and had its consummation today. God was seen on earth through flesh and dwelt among humankind. So then, beloved, let us rejoice with great gladness. For if John leapt in his mother’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth, consider that we have actually seen our Saviour born today. So now we, much more, must leap, rejoice, and be full of wonder and astonishment at the grandeur of God’s plan which exceeds all thought. Think how great it would be to see the sun coming down from the heavens, running on the earth and sending out its beams on everybody from here. If the sight of such splendour would astound all who behold it, consider and contemplate now how great it is to see the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4: 2), sending out beams from our own flesh and illuminating our souls. Long ago I set my heart on seeing this day, and not just seeing it, but seeing it with such a great gathering of people. I continually prayed that our place of meeting would be filled just as we now see it filled. So this has come to pass and had its consummation. Although it is not yet the tenth year since this day became clear and familiar to us, through your zeal, it has now flourished as though it was given from the beginning many years ago. Because of this one would not be far wrong in saying that it is both new and old: new because it has only recently been made known to you, old and venerable because it has swiftly become similar in stature to days long recognised and it feels as though it is of similar age to them. It is as with carefully bred and cultivated plants (the ones that reach an impressive height almost as soon as they are placed in the earth, and are laden with fruit). This day was known from the beginning to those in the West: now it has been brought to us and before the passing of many years, has swiftly shot up, bearing such fruit as you now see – the precincts full and the church packed with the crowd who have gathered together. Expect a repayment worthy of such zeal from Christ who is born today in the flesh. He will reward you for this enthusiasm. Your heartfelt zeal for this day is a great sign of your love for the one who is born. If it is necessary for anything to be contributed by us, your fellow servants, then, as we are able, we will contribute it; or rather whatever words the grace of God gives me to build you up. What do you wish to hear today? You want, of course, to hear about this day. I well know that many are still debating with each other about it, some arguing against, some for. Everywhere there is a lot of conversation about this day, some saying accusingly that the day is a new innovation which has only recently been introduced, while others contend that it is ancient and venerable, that the prophets spoke in advance about his birth and that from the beginning it was plain and clear to those living from Thrace to Cadiz. So come then and let us begin to give an account of these things. At the moment a day which is debated among you enjoys significant goodwill. If it became more familiar to you it is obvious that it would enjoy even greater zeal. Clarity of teaching will consolidate its position among you.
I have three convincing arguments to share with you through which we will know for sure that this is the time at which our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word, was born. Of the three the first is that the news about the feast was swiftly circulated everywhere; it increased in prominence and the feast flourished. Gamaliel said of the proclamation of the Gospel – if it is from men and women it will come to an end, but if it is from God you will not be able to bring it to an end lest you are found to be fighting against God. I would confidently say of this day that, since God the Word is of God, far from it coming to an end, it is increasing in prominence each year and becoming better and better known. Within a few years the preaching of the Gospel had taken hold of the entire world even though it was shared in each place by ordinary people of little education like tentmakers and fishermen. The modest circumstances of its servants did it no harm, but the power of the message won over everything, brought to nothing whatever got in the way and demonstrated a strength of its own.
2. On the subscription version of the website there is also a translation of
section 2 in which Chrysostom states that details of the census mentioned in
chapter 2 of Luke's gospel were stored publicly in Rome. There is also a
link (active in December 2015) to a complete English translation of this homily.
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Homiliy on the date of Christmas Day
Christmas Day Homily
25th December as date of Christmas
twenty-fifth December date of birth of Jesus Christ
Homilia In Diem Natalem Domini Nostri Jesu Christi
John Chrysostom in Greek with English Translation
Migne Greek Text
Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus
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