Nativity, the mind-blowing pivot
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:30 AM [+]
We dance around this great hinge of our theology and of our practices. The "official" and ancient title of the feast says it bluntly: "The Feast of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord, and God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ." Hallmark should consider using it on their cards, I think.
Seriously, so much of what we Orthodox do is rooted in the Nativity. Our icons, veneration of the Saints, and relics (and on and on) is all intimately connected with God enfleshed.
Allow me to be blunt. Orthodoxy has added so much...so VERY much richness to my understanding and celebration of Christmas. You can read some of what I mean HERE (one of my earliest posts on Christmas). I still marvel at the mystery we are preparing to celebrate...it is SUCH an astonishing thing, could words ever do it justice?
Too big to be contained in a single service, the richness of the feast is dispensed to us in portions of various services as we approach Christmas (or as my old calenderist friends likes to call it: Catholic Christmas). The words, prayers, and chants communicate to us the enigmatic nature of this feast; the incomprehensible depths of the mystery of God being fed from the body of a Virgin - He who is in fact returning the favor (by feeding us from His Body) unto eternal life.
How can a womb contain Him whom nothing can contain?
How can He remain in His Father's bosom, yet rest in His mother's arms?
It is His good pleasure to accomplish this!
Having no flesh, He purposely assumes it for our sake.
He who is become what He never was.
He shares our substance without forsaking His own nature.
Desiring to make us citizens of the world in high,
Christ, the only-begotten of the Father, is born on earth as a man.
The Creator shaped man with His own hands,
but when He saw us perishing eternally,
He bowed the heavens and came down to earth,
and clothed Himself completely in our nature,
truly incarnate from a pure and holy virgin,
for He has been glorified!
Heaven brought the first-fruits of the Gentiles as a gift for You;
A star summoned the wise men to the babe in the manger.
They were amazed to see neither throne nor scepter.
But only abject poverty.
What is more humble than a cave?
What is more lowly than swaddling clothes?
Yet the riches of Your divinity shone through all these.
O Lord, glory to You!
You have borne the Savior, O Virgin Theotokos.
You have overthrown Eve's ancient curse.
You became the mother of the Son of God.
The Father is well-pleased in Him.
You carry at your bosom God, the Word, made flesh.
We cannot fathom this mystery.
We can only believe, and give glory to you:
O Lord, beyond all explanation, glory to you!