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Emmanuel - Joshua: God is with us - God is salvation
Dominic Theotokopoulos
Benaki Museum, Athens, ca. 1565-1575

Father Theodosios Martzouhos
In the 19th century there was a famous and well-known French acrobat, Charles Blondin (1824-1897), who was active in America. His name was from some time onward... an aggressive designation of ability and potential. Even Abraham Lincoln was nicknamed Blondin because of his ability to break through deadly obstacles and difficulties.

So he, at one point, dared to cross Niagara Falls by walking on a rope! He did it perfectly. Beneath his feet the murderous water of the cascading tumult and the topography of the ground threatened to obliterate him if he failed to wade through and fall into that ruin.

Of course people praised him, admired him, and asked him how he did it! Then he revealed the secret to them:
"I had fixed my gaze on a bright star," he told them, "which I had hung on the opposite bank! The whole way I didn't let it out of my sight and so the sight of the great waterfall and the dizziness caused by the noise could not affect me".

Human life is often transformed and is a rushing Niagara, which with its descents and waterfalls threatens to carry away and crush everything that finds itself in its rushing waters. Our earthly life is a turbulent condition with allurements, traps, temptations, persecutions, lies - "the biggest lies, in the most innocent looks" - that attract, arrest, suggest, persecute, misinform each of us.
And us, of course, the Christians. No one can successfully live alone.

Human life is a chain, each link of which is conditioned by the existence of the previous one and is the cause of the existence of the next link.
In the Gospel we read today we heard of such a human chain. The great and comforting thing is that Christ came and became a link in the human chain. This His coming and incarnation and mingling with people was announced by the prophet Isaiah with the identification of the coming one, that he is Emmanuel! That is: God is with us!

Loneliness and much more wilderness breed insecurity and fears.
When I am alone in any effort and effort, I experience the agony of helplessness! The feeling of inadequacy. The fear of failure. Christ, after he came with us as a man, remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah, that he is Emmanuel, with the remark: "Without me, no one can do anything." Without me you will not be able to do anything. What do you mean, my Christ? Some atheists do a lot of things. Expertise in something – which even animals possess – is not what Christ is talking about, as far as we humans are concerned!

Without Christ we can achieve a lot, but we will not be able to love, to be freed from jealousy and envy, to be filled with peace, to establish relationships of happiness and joy, to feel completeness. And these are acquired not with a formal relationship but with a relationship-self-surrender in both the difficult and the easy! Not only in the walks to the Lake of Gennesaret but also in the difficulty of the stable and the manger and the agony of the Cross. Resurrection comes at the end of the journey. We know Christ in the circumstances of our everyday life, when we have walked with Him for a long time!

"God is with us", but not like the parachute of the aviator, who knows he has it with him, hoping he won't need it! (CS Lewis).
"God is with us" as a light on the way and the way of our life.
"God is with us" as a criterion for choices in dilemmas, as a scale of the value of life's issues.
"God is with us" as our supplicatory prayer.

The prophet Isaiah prophesied Emmanuel as a condition of existence and presence for us. Mary and Joseph, the One who came among us and became incarnate and entered the chain of the human genome, they named him Joshua-Jesus, meaning "God is salvation". It is what the Apostle Paul will later say to the Jews and to all of us: "Looking to Jesus, the leader and finisher of faith" (Heb. 12, 21).

To behold means to look with admiration, to regard, to admire. This position and attitude is suggested by the Apostle Paul for Him who is the leader of the believers and their completion-salvation! That is, he tells us to make the journey of our life like Blondin in Niagara and before Him the magicians of the East! To have a Star "guide our steps", to overcome the difficulties without... drowning! To keep the gaze of our existence fixed on this Star that saves, that preserves and heals those who accept it and make it the goal of their life's course.

In the last book of the New Testament, in the Apocalypse of St. John the Theologian, Christ is "the bright and morning star". At the same time, he is also an outcast. Human life begins with the light of the bright star and ends with the peaceful beauty of the evening light of the Risen Christ. The straight Star illuminates, ripens, saves. And Vespers welcomes in the joy of our Lord. Emmanuel and Joshua are our hope.

May God be with us and may we be strengthened by the salvation that Christ offers us.