Orthodox Christianity understands the Nativity of Christ to be the revelation of the hidden mystery of God.
The birth of Jesus opens our hearts, minds and eyes to many things which were, before the Christmas event, hidden from not only the world but even from the people of God.
The prophets were given glimpses of what God was doing, but did not fully foresee what God had in mind. One of the hymns of the Prefeast of the Nativity says:
THE CREATOR, THE WISDOM OF GOD, DRAWS NEAR;
THE MIST OF THE PROPHETIC PROMISE IS DISPERSED.
JOY CLEARS THE SKIES;
TRUTH SHINES; THE DARK SHADOWS ARE RESTRAINED;
THE GATE OF EDEN IS OPENED;
ADAM DANCES IN EXULTATION;
OUR CREATOR AND GOD WILLS TO FASHION US ANEW.
The “Creator “ in the above hymn is obviously Christ Himself who is the Wisdom of God.
Notice what the birth of Christ opens to us: an understanding of the Jewish Scriptures. The prophecies of the Old Testament are made clear in Christ, with mist and shadow being put aside so that we can clearly understand the message of the Torah. Not only are the Scriptures explicated in Christ, but the gate of Eden, shut to us because of sin is opened to us. In Christ, we can mystically and spiritually experience Paradise again.
Another Prefestal Hymn says:
DESIRING TO CLEANSE THE SCARLET OF MY SINS
AND TO RESTORE MY ROYAL IMAGE,
YOU TOOK MY FLESH AND WERE FED AT YOUR MOTHER’S BREAST;
YOU WERE WRAPPED IN SWADDLING CLOTHES,
WHO BY A NOD OF YOUR HEAD, CONTROL THE REVOLUTION OF THE EARTH!
I GLORIFY YOU, O WORD, DOER OF MIGHTY WONDERS,
THE ANGEL OF GREAT COUNSEL OF THE FATHER,
THROUGH WHOM I HAVE BEEN MADE DIVINE.
The mystery of the incarnation never ceases to amaze. The hymns in the Orthodox Church meditate on how the One who nurtures and sustains the universe is in turn nurtured by His mother’s breast. The birth of Christ represents an event shrouded in incomprehensible mystery which is magnified by the fact that describing the event puts it in incredible ambiguity. How can a Virgin give birth? How can God be a little child? We can only marvel at the mystery.
You can find links to all the blogs I have or will post during this year’s Christmas season at 2012 Nativity Blogs.
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I love how the light shines on the icons of the Annunciation and of the Nativity in the mornings this time of year. Was that by design? Or just happenstance? Either way, it’s very moving!
If you are in the church at the right moment, there are many wonderful scenes created by the sunlight on the icons. We did not totally plan that but have been blessed by it. God is the architect!