Saturday, December 30, 2006

Continuing Christmas

We’re still in the post-festal time of Christmas, so don’t follow the lead of our commercial society that eliminates all traces of Christmas on the following day (or when they’ve processed all the returned merchandise). Don’t stop singing and playing Christmas carols, don’t take your tree down, and continue in meditation on this great and divine mystery at least for the “twelve days of Christmas.” To that end, I will share with you some of the liturgical texts from our Christmas services, which I find to be a blessing for deeper reflection and poetic beauty.

"Rejoice, O my soul, for in a cave was born Christ the King. A strange and incredible mystery I behold: the cave becomes Heaven, the Virgin becomes the Throne of Cherubim, the manger becomes the place where lies the unplaceable Christ God. To Him we sing praises.

“Plainly foreshadowed by the burning bush that was not consumed, a hallowed womb has borne the Word. God is mingled with the form of mortal men, and so he looses the unhappy womb of Eve from the bitter curse of old. We men give Him glory.

“The choir of shepherds abiding in the field was overwhelmed by the strange sight they were counted worthy to behold: for they looked upon the all-blessed Offspring of an all-pure Bride. And they saw also the ranks of bodiless angels who sang in praise of Christ the King, incarnate without seed.

“Of your own will, O Most High, You have come forth equal to mortal men, taking flesh from the Virgin to purge the poison of the serpent’s head. God by nature, You lead all from the gates that know no sun to the life-giving Light.

“The Master, by his coming in the flesh, has cut clean through the harsh enmity of the flesh against Him, and has destroyed the might of the murderer of our souls. Uniting the world to the immaterial essences, He has made the Father merciful to the creation.

“God the Word, who was in the beginning with God, seeing our nature powerless to guard unharmed its ancient fellowship with Him, now grants it new strength: abasing Himself, in a second act of fellowship He makes it once again free from the passions.

“O Christ our Defender, You have put to shame the adversary of man, using as shield your ineffable Incarnation. Taking man’s form, You have bestowed upon him the joy of becoming godlike. Once he sought this of old and fell from on high into the dark depths of the earth. [Gen. 3:5]

“You have overthrown by your almighty power the fierce sin that raised its head in wanton pride and raged with blasphemy throughout a world gone mad. Those whom in times past it dragged down, today you have delivered from its snares, O Benefactor, who of your own will have taken flesh.

“You have come, O Resurrection of the nations, to bring back the nature of man from its wanderings, leading it from the hills of the wilderness to a pasture rich in flowers. Destroy the violent strength of the murderer of man, O You who in your providence have appeared as man and God.

“The three children of the Old Covenant who walked in the fire yet were not burned prefigured the womb of the Maiden that remained sealed when she gave birth in fashion past nature. It was the same grace of God that brought both these wonders to pass in a miracle, and rouses the peoples to sing in praise.”

Christ is born! Glorify Him!