My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ the Incarnate Logos/Word,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON THE 25th OF DECEMBER,
OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH CELEBRATES
AND COMMEMORATES THE DIVINE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD
AND GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
Katavasia of Nativity
CHRIST is born, give ye glory.
CHRIST cometh from heaven, meet ye Him.
CHRIST is on earth, be ye exalted.
O all the earth, sing unto the Lord,
and sing praises in gladness, O ye people,
for He hath been glorified.
To the Son Who was begotten of the Father
without change before all ages,
and in the last times was without seed and made flesh of the Virgin,
to Christ our God let us cry aloud:
Thou hast raised up our horn,
holy art Thou, O Lord.
A strange and most wonderful mystery do I see:
the cave is heaven;
the Virgin the throne of the cherubim;
the manger a room,
in which Christ, the God Whom nothing can contain, is laid.
Him do we praise and magnify.
The Great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord is celebrated by Saint Romanos the Melodist, through the blessing and aid of the Virgin herself: "Today the Virgin giveth birth to Him Who is Supra-essential; and the earth presenteth a cave to Him Who is unapproachable. Angels with shepherds give glory; with a star, the Magi journey; for our sakes, a young Child is born, Who is pre-eternal God."
"What mysteries beyond mind and speech! God, in His compassion, is born on earth, putting on the form of a servant that He may snatch from servitude to the enemy these who with fervent love cry out: ‘BLESSED ART THOU, O SAVIOR, WHO LOVEST MANKIND.’
The Preaching of the Prophets Has Reached Its Fulfillment
Saint Andrew of Crete comments, "Of thee, O Mary, all interpreters of the Spirit sang," Nowhere in the divinely inspired Scripture can one look without seeing some allusion to her. "Rejoice, Mediatress of the law and of grace, seal of the Old and New Testaments, clear fulfillment of the whole of prophecy, of the truth of Scriptures inspired by God, the living and most pure book of God and the Logos in which, without voice or writing, the Writer Himself, God and Logos, is everyday read." Saint Gregory Palamas thought that "all divine inspired Scripture was written because of the Virgin who brought forth God incarnate."
Saint John of Damascus interprets the burning bush [Exodus 3:1-8] as an image of the virgin birth when he chants: "Plainly foreshadowed by the burning bush that was not consumed [Exodus 3:2], a hollowed womb has borne the Logos. God is mingled with the form of mortal men, and so looses the unhappy womb of Eve from the bitter curse of old [Genesis 3:16]. And, "That which was revealed to Moses in the bush, we see accomplished here in a strange manner. The Virgin bore Fire within her, yet was not consumed when she gave birth to the Benefactor Who brings us light."
The Prophecy of Isaiah
"Isaiah, as he watched by night, beheld the light that known no evening, the light of Thy theophany, O Christ, that came to pass from tender love for us; and he cries aloud: ‘Behold, the Virgin shall conceive in the womb’ [Isaiah 7:14] and shall bear the incarnate Logos, and all those on earth shall rejoice exceedingly." Saint Kosmas the Poet also chants of this Virgin: "Lo, the Virgin, as it was said in days of old [Isaiah 7:14] has conceived in her womb and brought forth God made Man, and she has remained a virgin. Reconciled to God through her, let us sinners sing her praises, for she is verily the Theotokos."
Mary as Prophetess
In another prophecy, Esaias states, "And I went in to the prophetess and she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said to me, "Call His name, "Spoil quickly, plunder speedily." For before the Child shall know His father or His mother, He shall take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria before the king of the Assyrians" [Isaiah 8:3-4]. The Persian sage, monk, and bishop, Saint Aphrahat (4th Century), speaks of Mary as a "prophetess," because of the Magnificat [Luke 1:46-55].
Saint Kyril of Alexandria (444 A.D.) says that "contemporaneously with the birth of Christ, the power of the devil was spoiled. The name ‘Spoil quickly, hastily plunder’ refers to our Lord. The prophetess is the Holy Virgin, and the name given to the Child suits not man, but God, for, says He, call His name ‘Spoil quickly; hastily plunder.’ for at His birth, the heavenly and supernatural Infant, while yet in swaddling bands and on His Mother’s bosom, because of His human nature, stripped forthwith Satan of his goods by His ineffable might as God; for the Magi came from the east to worship Him."
Rod of the Root of Jesse
Here again, Saint Kosmas composes hymns by weaving in Old Testament prophecies, showing the Virgin as the rod and the overshadowed mountain: "Rod of the root of Jesse [Isaiah 11:1], and flower that blossomed from his stem, O Christ, Thou hast sprung from the Virgin. From the mountain overshadowed by the forest Thou hast come [Hab. 3:3], made flesh from her that knew not wedlock, O God, Who art not formed from matter." Saint Andrew also speaks of the Virgin as the rod and Christ as the Flower: "Let Jesse rejoice and let David dance; for behold, the Virgin, the rod planted by God hath blossomed forth the Flower, even the Everlasting Christ."
Creation is Renewed and Led to Its Former Beauty
Saint Kyril of Alexandria writes that "she bore Emmanuel, Who is truly God. "And the Logos became flesh" (John 1:14) and was born according to the flesh so that we might be found to be brothers of Him Who is above all creation." He also writes in another letter about Him Who was ineffably begotten of the Father before all ages and finally born as man from a woman, that He is one person and not two."
Orthodox theology of the incarnation is clear in the Church’s hymnology. Saint Joseph the Hymnographer chants: "The Son of the Father…has appeared to us…to give light to those in darkness and to gather the dispersed. Therefore, the far-famed Theotokos do we magnify." This hymnographer also writes that Mary Theotokos ushered in our renewal, thus: "Like a lily, like a fragrant rose, like a divine scent did the All-Divine Logos find thee, O All-Pure Bride of God, and He made His abode within thy womb, making fragrant our nature which had been full of fetor through sin." Thus, "in the fulness of time, He raised up man who of old had grievously fallen, leading him up to his pristine beauty."
The Appellation "THEOTOKOS" or "God-birthgiver"
Christ, Who was born of the Virgin, is True God become Man. There are not two sons; a Son of God and a son of the Virgin. He is one Son from above, MOTHERLESS OUT OF THE Father, from below, FATHERLESS out of a mother. It is proper to call the virgin Mother "THEOTOKOS," on the ground that SHE TRULY GAVE BIRTH IN THE FLESH TO GOD."
Saint John of Damascus says, "We never say that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of Christ (Christotokos) because this appellation came about in order to do away with the title Mother of God (Theotokos), and to bring dishonor on the Mother of God, who alone is in truth worthy of honor above all creation. It was the impure and abominable Judaizing Nestorius (a heretic), that vessel of dishonor, who invented this name for an insult. For David the king and Aaron the high priest are also called ‘christ’ or ‘anointed one.’ Moreover, every God-inspired man may be called ‘christ’ though he is not by nature God. Yes, the accursed Nestorius insulted Him Who was born of the Virgin by calling Him (Jesus) God-bearer (Theophoros), Who is in Truth GOD INCARNATE. God the Logos/Word divinized the nature that He assumed. He was not first made like us and only later became higher than us, but even from the first moment of incarnation, He existed WITH THE DOUBLE NATURE, BECAUSE He is God the Logos/Word Himself. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George