Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is born!
In the gospel story we read, “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”
In the verses from Great Vespers on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers we sing, “…You came to be wrapped in swaddling clothes in order to break the chains and the fetters of my sins.” At Great Compline on the eve of the Nativity we sing, ”… today Adam’s ancient bonds are broken. Paradise is open to us...He is bound in swaddling clothes to loose the bonds of sin.”
Few of us give much attention to the significance of the fact that the Infant Christ was wrapped in swaddling clothes. The great king Solomon writes, “I was nursed in swaddling clothes, and that with cares.For there is no king that had any other beginning of birth.” The King emphasizes that despite his greatness, he like all infants was wrapped in swaddling clothes and given motherly care. Even more so the King of Kings, our Saviour as an infant silently teaches us humility by submitting Himself to such a humble, common beginning, only later to express Himself in words describing Himself as humble and meek. Our human reason in its fallen state cannot easily understand this great humility. The heretic Nestorius said to his secretary that he found it hard to believe that God was swaddled. His proud mind could not fathom such humility.
For what reasons were infants swaddled? One reason was to restrict their movements. To make them more peaceful, quiet. In the spiritual sense it was to help them begin learning restriction of movement from birth. The infant would be more inclined to restrict his passions and desires later.
The church services further explain the significance of the Infant Saviors swaddling clothes to be, “In order to break the chains and the fetters of my sins.” And, “He is bound in swaddling clothes to loose the bonds of sin.”
Thus even as an infant, immediately after birth, without words, our Lord is teaching us self restraint, to practice restricting ourselves in order to attain true freedom from sin and passions. This example, this teaching, is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the world. Not only are we encouraged to free ourselves from all restraint but encouraged, almost forced to consider sins, passions, entertaining distractions that normally we would not imagine.
The result is an increase in mental illness, depression, suicide, especially in young people, addictions of every sort and escape into the smorgasbord of psychotropic medications and tranquilizers.
Today our Infant Christ offers us hope out of this dark and tragic morass. He commands us to restrict our movements especially our sinful passions and desires in order to find peace and comfort in Him. Blessed Augustine was a very troubled youth who could find no inner peace but finally came to Christ and wrote, “Because God has made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.”... Our Lord summons us us, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The answer to all our questions are in the gospel and the Church and the answers to all that troubles us are in Christ.