In the Menaion (the book of commemorative hymns for the feasts and saints throughout the year) , I saw the following Hymn to the Theotokos listed for the Vespers “Lord I call…” verses for the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. I found the hymn to very theologically profound, especially in this Nativity season as we prepare ourselves to celebrate our Savior’s birth.
THE CREATOR AND FASHIONER OF MEN TOOK FLESH FROM YOUR WOMB, ALL-BLESSED ONE.
The incarnation of God is central to the Good News: God became flesh and dwelt among us. The mystery of the Word of God becoming a human silences our thoughts as we contemplate the God of love entering into His creation. God not only loves humans, God becomes a human in Jesus Christ. This is the mystery of God’s love for us. The God who is love holds nothing back from us. God’s desire is not only for us to dwell with Him, but also He desires to dwell in us and for us to dwell in Him. God takes upon Himself our flesh which He receives from one whom He created, namely the Virgin Theotokos, Mary.
HEALING US WHO HAD FALLEN, DECEIVED BY THE SERPENT.
God does not merely forgive us or show mercy to us. The Trinitarian God reveals that He is not only transcendent but also immanent. God in uniting Himself to us, heals human nature, heals each of us. Entering into the world as a human God restores not only humans to their natural, God-given role in creation; God also restores all of creation. God uniting Himself to humanity is a healing act, restoring us from within, bringing humanity to communion with divinity again. In Holy Communion, God literally enters into our veins as the medicine of immortality.
YOU GAVE BIRTH WONDROUSLY TO GOD THE WORD, PURE ONE;
God incarnate in the womb of the Theotokos is then born into the world. Mary gives birth to the transcendent God in the flesh. This is what Christmas originally celebrates. The Word of God in the flesh is the prototype for every good gift, given or received. For believers, each gift is but a symbol of God’s gift of love to us. Each gift given or received by Christians can bring our attention to salvation.
YOUR OFFSPRING SET US FREE FROM CORRUPTION, FOR WE HAD GROWN OLD IN SIN:
Again the mystery of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is that God unites Himself to mortal flesh. God becomes flesh, takes on sin in order to die. Christ is made to be sin so that we can become righteous (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). His life and death frees us from corruption and delivers us from mortality by opening to us eternal life in paradise.
THEREFORE WE BLESS YOU, UNWEDDED BRIDE, THE SHELTER OF ALL WHO IN FAITH GLORIFY YOU.
The Theotokos Mary is the unwedded bride – a most intriguing phrase. Mary is wed to Joseph, but it is not through Joseph that she conceives a child. Mary cannot be wed to eternal God, but it is His Son she bears. Mary, as though she is unwed, remains a virgin though giving birth to a Son. The mystery of the incarnation does not pretend to be modern science, does not make any comment about human genetics. The entire Gospel claim about God in the flesh says this is the revelation of the mystery of God’s love. It is a revelation about God, about God’s love for humanity and the world, about what humanity is capable of becoming. And yes it defies logic and reveals our limited capacity to understand what it is to be human, especially if we only think in materialistic terms. To the materialist who says, “I don’t see how the Virgin birth and incarnation are possible”, we agree. Our hymns continuously marvel at these events which do not seem possible, We however would say we see the events, AND we think they are ineffable, indescribably and incomprehensible. We do not know the science involved. We see in the event of the Virgin birth an image of a new creation story. God acting in history again. How this can happen is as scientifically improbable for believers as it is for non-believers. Faithists and atheists can agree on this issue. Believers however marvel at the mystery, at the inexplicable, at what remains unknown to us and uncertain to science. We have no simple explanations. We do stand in awe before the love of God revealed in the world.