“Behold all Creation is saved by Christ and sang praise for the Son’s Nativity”
~Qolo: Nativity Night Vigil
Advent is a season of travail. Birth pangs are upon the entire creation that yearns for the coming of its Creator; for salvation is not anthropocentric but eco-centric. It is not just the human beings who long for the advent of Christ but the entire creation; “The whole creation has been groaning in labour pains.” (Rom. 8:22). God so loved the world (κόσμος) and not just human beings that He gave His only begotten Son. (John 3:16). Christ does indeed become a human being – that is because among creatures only human beings are created in the image of God therefore Christ could only become a human being – but that does not mean deification is exclusive to human beings. This would be a fallacious idea. As we sing in the Bo’utho Mor Jacob in our Nativity Vespers; “Earth rejoices with peace on His Nativity. Glory to Him who gladdened the earth by His birth.”
Human beings cannot be conceived apart from the cosmos because through a visible body and an invisible soul, human beings hold in themselves the visible and invisible worlds. As Dumitru Staniloae eruditely puts it; “Each human person in a certain way is a hypostasis of the entire cosmic nature, but he is this only in solidarity with others. Cosmic nature is thus common to all hypostases, although each one hypostasizes it and lives it personally in a way that is particular to himself and complementary to that of others.”
Human beings are not just on the earth but more emphatically of the earth. A single prepositional change makes a world of difference. We are earth and we literally realize this only when we die and become soil; until then we are withering away, each day, each moment. St. Barnabas beautifully remarks; “A human being is earth suffering.” Even the worship offered by human beings encompasses the entire creation. In fact we are blessed with mouth and tongue to praise God not only for ourselves but also the wider creation. Thus we sing in the Qolo of Monday Vespers; “The one who possess a mouth and word and tongue; ought to give thanks for the creatures which are silent.” No Sacrament is complete without the mutual cooperation of human beings and ecology. For instance the Holy Eucharist. We do not offer a sheaf of wheat and a bunch of grapes but bread and wine. It is a collective effort of human beings and ecology. Incarnation itself – in a generic sense – is God becoming matter. As Eric Simpson writes;
“The Gospel story emphatically declares: Christ, who as the discarnate Logos is the second Person of the Triune God, was made flesh, a fully material human being, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Through this act alone, all matter becomes subject to redemption and is now not only good because God declared all of creation to be good, but all matter carries the potential for purity, or holiness. The wood of the cross of Christ, Athanasius argues, is transformed from mere wood into the vehicle of redemption for the entire cosmos; it is therefore legitimate to value matter because it is through matter that we are redeemed.”
Therefore the entire cosmos anxiously awaits Christ – The Coming One (ἐρχόμενος).
Christ is the coming one (ἐρχόμενος). This was blatantly confessed by Martha of Bethany. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John omits Peter’s confession of Christ but places a more profound Christological confession on the lips of Martha; “You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” (11:27). Martha bestows upon Christ three titles; Messiah, the Son of God and the Coming One. By identifying Christ as ‘The Coming One’ (ἐρχόμενος), Martha sheds light on the transcendental immanence of Christ. Christ is indeed ‘the coming one’ for the Lord himself states; “I am Alpha and Omega, the one who is and was and is coming.” (Rev. 1:8). His ever-coming(ness) generates in us an insatiable longing for him. There is something more to Christ than his physicality. It is this transcendental immanence of Christ that fervently and magnetically draws (ἀντλέω) us towards him as he promised; “When I am lifted up I will draw (ἀντλέω) all people to myself.” (John 12:32). St. Gregory expatiates this further;
“The divine draws us towards itself, for what is completely ungraspable is unhoped for and unsought. Yet one wonders at the ungraspable, and one desires more intensely the object of wonder, and being desired it purifies, and purifying it makes deiform, and with those who has become such he converses as with those close to him – I speak with vehement boldness – God is united with gods.” (Or. 38:7).
Christ is always the coming one (ἐρχόμενος). The labyrinth of meanings this phrase gives birth to should not be denigrated by affixing it to a mere numerical understanding (for instance first coming and second coming) of the advent of Christ. The coming of Christ is hinged upon our ability to receive him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20). Christ is not going to break open the door and come in rather it is incumbent on us to open the door of our heart, mind and soul and invite Christ. As Origen notes; “If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you?”
Incarnation happens at the fullness of time; it is precisely the “intersection of the timeless with time.” Time is not a meagre historical continuum rather it should be consciously redeemed; “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, redeeming (ἐξαγοραζόμενοι) the time.” (Eph. 5:15-16). Time is not futile but purposive; it has to be given meaning constantly for “without meaning there is no time.” Incarnation of Christ could then be understood as the transformation of time. As Kallistos Ware observes;
“True time is living, personal, existential, measured not by mere succession but by intention. True time is kairos rather than chronos, characterized not by the predetermined swing of the pendulum but by unpredictable yet decisive moments of opportunity, moments of disclosure filled with meaning when clock time stands still, as Joseph found in the Protoevangelion, and when eternity breaks in.”
May we have a redemptive time this advent season as we prepare to receive Christ – The Coming One.
Dn. Basil Paul
 “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” (John 1:3).
 “God created humankind in his image.” (Gen 1:27). Notice that in the preceding verse God says; “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” (v. 26). But then God creates humankind only in his image (not likeness). This means that image is a gift and likeness is a calling (something yet to be attained) and both would be consummated at the eschaton. One must understand creation in an eschatological sense (something that is still in process) rather than protological. As Rowan Williams puts it: “It could be said, though rather awkwardly, that the world we inhabit as material beings is not ‘created’ by God: it is made, or at least conditioned, by the choices of his creatures, and regulated by his providence. ‘Creation’, ktisis, is strictly only the unimpeded expression of God’s rational will.” (Arius, 141)
 Christ is the image of God into which we humans are being fashioned. “He is the image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15).
 The entire creation is very good. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31).
 This concept has been very well expressed by St. Gregory of Nazianzus; “The human being is a kind of second world, great in smallness, placed on the earth, another angel, a composite worshiper, a beholder of the visible creation, an initiate into the intelligible, king of things on earth, subject to what is above, earthly and heavenly, transitory and immortal, visible and intelligible, a mean between greatness and lowliness.” (Or. 38.11). St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Festal Orations, Nonna Verna Harrison trans. (Crestwood: SVS Press, 2008), 68.
 Dumitru Staniloae; The Experience of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology Vol 2. The Word: Creation and Deification, Ioan Ionita and Robert Barringer trans. and eds. (Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2005), 2.
 Eric Simpson, “On The Incarnation: The Value of Matter” https://orthodoxyindialogue.com/2018/12/08/on-the-incarnation-the-value-of-matter-by-eric-simpson/?fbclid=IwAR0YS75ni8kx5bST9eabo4YPf-GYNx5rnlOGVGx1MjnHsZY69_5jX27ZViY.
 “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is coming (ἐρχόμενος) into the world.” John 6:14. Even the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus; “Are you the coming one (ἐρχόμενος)?” They could have phrased their question as; “Are you the one was supposed to come?” Because he was already there. But No. They specifically asked; “Are you the coming one?”
 For we read; “My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you.” (Ps. 63:1). This can be read alongside Is. 65: 1; “I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that did not call on my name.” This means that it is because Christ sought us first we do now feel the urge to seek him.
 Gregory of Nazianzus, Festal Orations, 65.
 “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.” (Gal. 4:4)
 T.S. Eliot, “The Dry Salvages”, The Complete Poems and Plays (London: Faber, 1969), 160.
 Kallistos Ware, The Inner Kingdom (Crestwood: SVS Press, 2000), 190.