The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
The Adoration of the Magi: Melchior, Gaspar, & Balthasar
The Commemoration of the Shepherds in Bethlehem who were watching their flocks and came to see the Lord
Η ΚΑΤΑ ΣΑΡΚΑ ΓΕΝΝΗΣΙΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΘΕΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ ΗΜΩΝ ΙΗΣΟΥ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
Κατὰ Ματθαῖον 1.1-25
Βίβλος γενέσεως ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ, υἱοῦ Δαυῒδ υἱοῦ ᾿Αβραάμ.᾿Αβραὰμ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ισαάκ, ᾿Ισαὰκ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιακώβ, ᾿Ιακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιούδαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ,᾿Ιούδας δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Φαρὲς καὶ τὸν Ζαρὰ ἐκ τῆς Θάμαρ, Φαρὲς δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Εσρώμ, ᾿Εσρὼμ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Αράμ,᾿Αρὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Αμιναδάβ, ᾿Αμιναδὰβ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Ναασσών, Ναασσὼν δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Σαλμών,Σαλμὼν δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Βοὸζ ἐκ τῆς ῾Ραχάβ, Βοὸζ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ωβὴδ ἐκ τῆς ῾Ρούθ, ᾿Ωβὴδ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιεσσαί,᾿Ιεσσαὶ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Δαυῒδ τὸν βασιλέα. Δαυῒδ δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐγέννησε τὸν Σολομῶνα ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου,Σολομὼν δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ῾Ροβοάμ, ῾Ροβοὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Αβιά, ᾿Αβιὰ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ασά,᾿Ασὰ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιωσαφάτ, ᾿Ιωσαφὰτ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιωράμ, ᾿Ιωρὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Οζίαν,᾿Οζίας δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιωάθαμ, ᾿Ιωάθαμ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ῎Αχαζ, ῎Αχαζ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Εζεκίαν,᾿Εζεκίας δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Μανασσῆ, Μανασσῆς δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Αμών, ᾿Αμὼν δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιωσίαν,᾿Ιωσίας δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιεχονίαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος.
Μετὰ δὲ τὴν μετοικεσίαν Βαβυλῶνος ᾿Ιεχονίας ἐγέννησε τὸν Σαλαθιήλ, Σαλαθιὴλ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Ζοροβάβελ,Ζοροβάβελ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Αβιούδ, ᾿Αβιοὺδ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ελιακείμ, ᾿Ελιακεὶμ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Αζώρ,᾿Αζὼρ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Σαδώκ, Σαδὼκ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Αχείμ, ᾿Αχεὶμ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ελιούδ,᾿Ελιοὺδ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ελεάζαρ, ᾿Ελεάζαρ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν Ματθάν, Ματθὰν δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιακώβ,᾿Ιακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησε τὸν ᾿Ιωσὴφ τὸν ἄνδρα Μαρίας, ἐξ ἧς ἐγεννήθη ᾿Ιησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός.Πᾶσαι οὖν αἱ γενεαὶ ἀπὸ ᾿Αβραὰμ ἕως Δαυῒδ γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες, καὶ ἀπὸ Δαυῒδ ἕως τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες, καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος ἕως τοῦ Χριστοῦ γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες.
Τοῦ δὲ ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ γέννησις οὕτως ἦν. μνηστευθείσης γὰρ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μαρίας τῷ ᾿Ιωσήφ, πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ Πνεύματος ῾Αγίου.᾿Ιωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν παραδειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρα ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν.ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος Κυρίου κατ᾿ ὄναρ ἐφάνη αὐτῷ λέγων· ᾿Ιωσὴφ υἱὸς Δαυΐδ, μὴ φοβηθῇς παραλαβεῖν Μαριὰμ τὴν γυναῖκά σου· τὸ γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν ἐκ Πνεύματός ἐστιν ῾Αγίου.τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦν· αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν.Τοῦτο δὲ ὅλον γέγονεν ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ Κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος· ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν,καὶ καλέσουσι τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ᾿Εμμανουήλ,ὅ ἐστι μεθερμηνευόμενον μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός. Διεγερθεὶς δὲ ὁ ᾿Ιωσὴφ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕπνου ἐποίησεν ὡς προσέταξεν αὐτῷ ὁ ἄγγελος Κυρίου καὶ παρέλαβε τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ,καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐκάλεσε τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦν.
The Reading is from Matthew 1:1-25
The book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel"(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.
Πρὸς Γαλάτας 4:4-7
Προκείμενον. Ἦχος πλ α΄.
Πᾶσα ἡ γῆ προσκυνησάτωσάν σοι καὶ ψαλάτωσάν σοι.
Στίχ. Ἀλαλάξατε τῷ Κυρίῳ πᾶσα ἡ γῆ.
Ἀδελφοί, ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου, ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ, γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, γενόμενον ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον ἐξαγοράσῃ, ἵνα τὴν υἱοθεσίαν ἀπολάβωμεν. Ὅτι δέ ἐστε υἱοί, ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν, κρᾶζον, Ἀββᾶ, ὁ πατήρ. Ὥστε οὐκέτι εἶ δοῦλος, ἀλλʼ υἱός· εἰ δὲ υἱός, καὶ κληρονόμος θεοῦ διὰ Χριστοῦ.
St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians 4:4-7
Prokeimenon. Mode Plagal 1.
Let all the earth worship you, and sing praises to you.
Verse: Shout with joy to God, all the earth.
BRETHREN, when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir of God through Christ.
The Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'"
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Κατὰ Ματθαῖον 2.1-12
Τοῦ δὲ ᾿Ιησοῦ γεννηθέντος ἐν Βηθλεὲμ τῆς ᾿Ιουδαίας ἐν ἡμέραις ῾Ηρῴδου τοῦ βασιλέως, ἰδοὺ μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν παρεγένοντο εἰς ῾Ιεροσόλυμαλέγοντες· ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ τεχθεὶς βασιλεὺς τῶν ᾿Ιουδαίων; εἴδομεν γὰρ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ καὶ ἤλθομεν προσκυνῆσαι αὐτῷ.᾿Ακούσας δὲ ῾Ηρῴδης ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐταράχθη καὶ πᾶσα ῾Ιεροσόλυμα μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ,καὶ συναγαγὼν πάντας τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ γραμματεῖς τοῦ λαοῦ ἐπυνθάνετο παρ᾿ αὐτῶν ποῦ ὁ Χριστὸς γεννᾶται.οἱ δὲ εἶπον αὐτῷ· ἐν Βηθλεὲμ τῆς ᾿Ιουδαίας· οὕτω γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου· καὶ σὺ Βηθλεέμ, γῆ ᾿Ιούδα,οὐδαμῶς ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν ᾿Ιούδα·ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ ἐξελεύσεται ἡγούμενος,ὅστις ποιμανεῖ τὸν λαόν μου τὸν ᾿Ισραήλ. Τότε ῾Ηρῴδης λάθρα καλέσας τοὺς μάγους ἠκρίβωσε παρ᾿ αὐτῶν τὸν χρόνον τοῦ φαινομένου ἀστέρος,καὶ πέμψας αὐτοὺς εἰς Βηθλεὲμ εἶπε· πορευθέντες ἀκριβῶς ἐξετάσατε περὶ τοῦ παιδίου, ἐπὰν δὲ εὕρητε, ἀπαγγείλατέ μοι, ὅπως κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν προσκυνήσω αὐτῷ.οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες τοῦ βασιλέως ἐπορεύθησαν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ὁ ἀστὴρ ὃν εἶδον ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ προῆγεν αὐτούς, ἕως ἐλθὼν ἔστη ἐπάνω οὗ ἦν τὸ παιδίον·ἰδόντες δὲ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα,καὶ ἐλθόντες εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν εἶδον τὸ παιδίον μετὰ Μαρίας τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, καὶ πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ, καὶ ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα, χρυσὸν καὶ λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν·καὶ χρηματισθέντες κατ᾿ ὄναρ μὴ ἀνακάμψαι πρὸς ῾Ηρῴδην, δι᾿ ἄλλης ὁδοῦ ἀνεχώρησαν εἰς τὴν χώραν αὐτῶν.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΚΕ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Ἡ κατὰ σάρκα Γέννησις τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ καὶ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
Θεὸς τὸ τεχθέν, ἡ δὲ Μήτηρ Παρθένος.
Τὶ μεῖζον ἄλλο καινὸν εἶδεν ἡ κτίσις;
Παρθενικὴ Μαρίη Θεὸν εἰκάδι γείνατο πέμπτη.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Ἡ προσκύνησις τῶν Μάγων.
Σὲ προσκυνοῦσα τάξις ἐθνική, Λόγε,
Τὸ πρὸς σὲ δηλοῖ τῶν Ἐθνῶν μέλλον σέβας.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῶν θεασαμένων Ποιμένων τὸν Κύριον.
Ποίμνην ἀφέντες τὴν ἑαυτῶν Ποιμένες,
Ἰδεῖν καλὸν σπεύδουσι Χριστὸν ποιμένα.
Αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.
The incomprehensible and inexplicable Nativity of Christ came to pass when Herod the Great was reigning in Judea; the latter was an Ascalonite on his fathers's side and an Idumean on his mother's. He was in every way foreign to the royal line of David; rather, he had received his authority from the Roman emperors, and had ruled tyrannically over the Jewish people for some thirty-three years. The tribe of Judah, which had reigned of old, was deprived of its rights and stripped of all rule and authority. Such was the condition of the Jews when the awaited Messiah was born, and truly thus was fulfilled the prophecy which the Patriarch Jacob had spoken 1,807 years before: "A ruler shall not fail from Judah, nor a prince from his loins, until there come the things stored up for him; and he is the expectation of the nations" (Gen.49:10).
Thus, our Saviour was born in Bethlehem, a city of Judea, whither Joseph had come from Nazareth of Galilee, taking Mary his betrothed, who was great with child, that, according to the decree issued in those days by the Emperor Augustus, they might be registered in the census of those subject to Rome. Therefore, when the time came for the Virgin to give birth, and since because of the great multitude there was no place in the inn, the Virgin's circumstace constrained them to enter a cave which was near Bethlehem. Having as shelter a stable of irrational beasts, she gave birth there, and swaddled the Infant and laid Him in the manger (Luke 2:1-7). From this, the tradition has come down to us that when Christ was born He lay between two animals, an ox and an ass, that the words of the Prophets might be fulfilled: "Between two living creatures shalt Thou be known" (Abbacum 3:2), and "The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib" (Esaias 1: 3).
But while the earth gave the new-born Saviour such a humble reception, Heaven on high celebrated majestically His world-saving coming. A wondrous star, shining with uncommon brightness and following a strange course, led Magi from the East to Bethlehem to worship the new-born King. Certain shepherds who were in the area of Bethlehem, who kept watch while tending their sheep, were suddenly surrounded by an extraordinary light, and they saw before them an Angel who proclaimed to them the good tidings of the Lord's joyous Nativity. And straightway, together with this Angel, they beheld and heard a whole host of the Heavenly Powers praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men" (Luke 2:8-14).
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Ἡ γέννησίς σου Χριστὲ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ἀνέτειλε τῶ κόσμω, τὸ φῶς τὸ τῆς γνώσεως, ἐν αὐτῇ γὰρ οἱ τοὶς ἄστροις λατρεύοντες, ὑπὸ ἀστέρος ἐδιδάσκοντο, σὲ προσκυνεῖν, τὸν Ἥλιον τῆς δικαιοσύνης, καὶ σὲ γινώσκειν ἐξ ὕψους ἀνατολήν, Κύριε δόξα σοί.
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined the light of knowledge upon the world; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Ἡ Παρθένος σήμερον, τὸν ὑπερούσιον τίκτει, καὶ ἡ γῆ τὸ Σπήλαιον, τῶ ἀπροσίτω προσάγει. Ἄγγελοι μετὰ Ποιμένων δοξολογοῦσι. Μάγοι δὲ μετὰ ἀστέρος ὁδοιποροῦσι. δι' ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγεννήθη, Παιδίον νέον, ὁ πρὸ αἰώνων Θεός.
On this day the Virgin beareth the Transcendent in essence; * to the Unapproachable, * the earth doth offer a small cave; * Angels join in choir with shepherds * in giving glory; * with a star the Magi travel upon their journey; * for our sakes is born a young Child, * He that existed * before the ages as God.
Ό,τι δεν φθάνουν οι άνθρωποι να συλλάβουν με το μυαλό τους και δεν μπορούν να το εκφράσουν με τον λόγο, το κάνουν ύμνο και τραγούδι - την μεγάλη τους χαρά και την μεγάλη τους λύπη, τα θαύματα του κόσμου και τις αποκαλύψεις του Θεού. Ο ύμνος και το τραγούδι, που πηγάζουν από τα κατάβαθα της υπάρξεώς μας, είναι η ειλικρινέστερη και πνευματικώτερη δημιουργία μας. Ένας σοφός και πιστός είπε, πως η μουσική "έχει την δύναμιν να εκφράζη το θείον μυστήριον βαθύτερον πάσης θεολογικής διατυπώσεως". Οι συνοπτικοί Ευαγγελισταί ιστόρησαν το θαύμα της Γεννήσεως του Χριστού. Ο Ιωάννης εθεολόγησε με επιγραμματική λιτότητα: "ο λόγος σαρξ εγένετο και εσκήνωσεν εν ημίν...". Και η Εκκλησία εσύστησεν εορτή και μυσταγωγεί σήμερα τους πιστούς στην θεία Γέννηση με ύμνους των Αγγέλων και των ανθρώπων: "Δόξα εν υψίστοις Θεώ και επί γης ειρήνη...", "Η Παρθένος σήμερον τον υπερούσιον τίκτει...".
Ἡ Γέννησις τοῦ Χριστοῦ
Αὐτὴν τὴν ἡμέρα ἡ ἁγία Ἐκκλησία μας γιορτάζει τὸ μεγάλο καὶ ἀνερμήνευτο γεγονὸς τῆς κατὰ σάρκα γεννήσεως τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ Λόγου τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀπὸ τὴν Ὑπεραγία Θεοτόκο. Μετὰ τὸν Εὐαγγελισμὸ τῆς Παρθένου Μαρίας ἀπὸ τὸν ἀρχάγγελο Γαβριὴλ καὶ ἐνῷ πλησίαζε ὁ καιρὸς νὰ τελειώσουν οἱ ἐννιὰ μῆνες ἀπὸ τὴν ὑπερφυσικὴ σύλληψη τοῦ Χριστοῦ στὴν παρθενική της μήτρα, ὁ Καῖσαρ Αὔγουστος διέταξε ἀπογραφὴ τοῦ πληθυσμοῦ τοῦ ῥωμαϊκοῦ κράτους. Τότε ὁ Ἰωσὴφ μαζὶ μὲ τὴν Θεοτόκο, ξεκίνησαν γιὰ τὴν Βηθλεέμ, γιὰ νὰ ἀπογραφοῦν ἐκεῖ. Ἐπειδὴ ὅμως εἶχε πλησιάσει ὁ καιρὸς νὰ γεννήσει ἡ Παρθένος καὶ δὲν ἔβρισκαν κατοικία νὰ καταλύσουν, διότι εἶχε μαζευτεῖ πολὺς λαὸς στὴ Βηθλεέμ, μπῆκαν σὲ ἕνα φτωχικὸ σπήλαιο. Ἐκεῖ ἡ Θεοτόκος γέννησε τὸν Κύριο Ἰησοῦ Χριστὸ καὶ σπαργάνωσε σὰν βρέφος τὸν Κτίστη τῶν ἁπάντων. Ἔπειτα Τὸν ἔβαλε ἐπάνω στὴ φάτνη τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων, διότι «ἔμελλε νὰ ἐλευθέρωση ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τὴν ἀλογίαν», ὅπως χαρακτηριστικὰ γράφει ὁ Ἅγιος Νικόδημος ὁ Ἁγιορείτης. Ἀπὸ τότε, ὅλοι οἱ πιστοὶ χριστιανοὶ μὲ χαρὰ ψάλλουν τὸν ὕμνο τῶν ἀγγέλων ἐκείνης τῆς νύκτας: «Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις Θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη, ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία». Δόξα δηλαδή, ἂς εἶναι στὸ Θεό, ποὺ βρίσκεται στὰ ὕψιστα μέρη τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ στὴ γῆ ὁλόκληρη, ποὺ εἶναι ταραγμένη ἀπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτία ἂς βασιλεύσει ἡ θεία εἰρήνη, διότι ὁ Θεὸς ἔδειξε τὴν ἀγάπη Του στοὺς ἀνθρώπους μὲ τὴν ἐνανθρώπηση τοῦ Υἱοῦ Του. Νὰ σημειώσουμε ἐδῶ, ὅτι ἡ γιορτὴ τῶν Χριστουγέννων καθιερώθηκε γιὰ πρώτη φορὰ τὴν 25η Δεκεμβρίου τοῦ 397 ἐπὶ πατριαρχείας Ἁγ. Ἰωάννου τοῦ Χρυσοστόμου. Κατ᾿ ἄλλους ὁ πατριάρχης Ἱεροσολύμων Ἰουβενάλιος, χώρισε τὶς δυὸ γιορτὲς τῶν Φώτων καὶ τῶν Χριστουγέννων, οἱ ὁποῖες παλιότερα γίνονταν τὴν ἴδια μέρα, δηλαδὴ τὴν 6η Ἰανουαρίου.
The Nativity according to the Flesh of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ
The Synaxarion's account includes this tradition from the Protoevangelium of James: "When Joseph had found a place for Mary in Bethlehem, he went out to look for a midwife. On his way, he noticed that the whole of nature had suddenly become utterly still as though seized with astonishment: the birds hung motionless in mid-air, men and beasts stopped in their tracks, and the waters ceased flowing. The continuous movement that leads everything from birth to death and imprisons it in vanity (cf Pss. 38:6-7; 102:15. Eccles. 1) was suspended, for at that moment the Eternal entered within the heart of time. The pre-eternal God became a newborn child. Time and history now took on a new dimension."
The Shepherds who saw the Lord
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8- 14)
The Veneration of the Magi
See Matthew ch. 2. According to the verses of the Feast and most of the Holy Fathers, the Magi were astrologers from Persia or Babylonia (The Scripture says only that they came "from the east.") The star which they followed was no inanimate object, but one of the Angelic Powers of heaven, appointed to lead them to the Savior. From the very beginning, the Good News of Christ was proclaimed to the nations.
The Nativity (Rozhdestvo) of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, was born of the MostHoly Virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem during the reign of the emperor Augustus (Octavian). Caesar Augustus decreed that an universal census be made throughout all his empire, which then also included Palestinian Israel. The Jews were accustomed to carry out the nation's census-taking according to ancestral-origins, tribes and family-relations. Every ancestral-origin and family-relation had its own designated city as its place of ancestry. The MostBlessed Virgin Mary and Righteous Joseph, descended from the family line of King David, had to go to Bethlehem (the city of David), to register their names on the census-list of Caesar's subjects. At Bethlehem they did not find a single place vacant at any of the city's inns. In the celebrated cave, used as a stable, amidst the hay and the straw, strewn about as food and bedding for the cattle, far from the hearth of home, amidst people that were total strangers, on the cold winter night, and in a setting deprived not only of worldly grandeur but even of the basic amenities -- was born the God-Man, the Saviour of the world. "I behold a strange and most glorious mystery, -- with awe sings Holy Church, -- Heaven -- the Cave; the Throne of the Cherubim -- the Virgin; the Manger -- the Crib, in which lay the placeless Christ God" (Irmos in 9th Ode of the Festal Canon). Without defilement having given birth to the Divine Infant the MostHoly Virgin, Herself without help from strangers, "wraps Him in swaddling cloths and places Him in the manger" (Lk. 2). But amidst the midnight stillness, when all mankind was shrouded in its deepest sinful sleep, the proclaiming of the Birth of the Saviour of the world was heard by shepherds, watching their flocks by night. And the Angel of the Lord came before them and said: "Fear not, for lo I proclaim ye tidings of great joy, which shalt be for all people, for this day is born unto you the Saviour, Which be Christ the Lord in the city of David". The humble shepherds were the first deemed worthy to offer worship for the salvation of mankind unto He That hath condescended to "the image of an humble servant". Besides the Angelic glad tidings to the Bethlehem shepherds, the Nativity of Christ by means of a wondrous star was made known to Magi "knowing the stars", and in the person of these Eastern wise-men all the pagan world, imperceptibly -- bent down upon its knees before the true Saviour of the world, the God-Man. Entering wherein the Infant lay, the wise-men Magi -- "falling down they worshipped Him, and opening their treasure they presented Him gifts: gold and frankincense and myrh" (Mt. 2: 11).
In remembrance of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, the feastday was established by the Church. Its very origin is related to the times of the Apostles. In the Apostolic Constitutions it says: "Brethren, observe the feastdays, and among the chief such the day of the Birth of Christ, which make ye celebration of on the 25th day of the tenth month" (from March, which in those days began the year). There also in another place it said: "Celebrate ye the day of the Nativity of Christ, in the which unseen grace is given man by the birth of the Word of God from the Virgin Mary for the salvation of the world".
In the II Century also Sainted Clement of Alexandria indicates that the day of the Nativity of Christ is 25 December. In the III Century as before Saint Hypolitus of Rome makes mention concerning the feastday of the Nativity of Christ, and designates the Gospel readings for this day from the beginning chapters of Saint Matthew. It is known also, that during the time of persecution of Christians by Maximian in the year 302, Nicomedia Christians numbering 20,000 were burned in church on the very feastday of the Nativity of Christ (Comm. 28 December). In that same century, but later on after the persecution when the Church had received freedom of religion and had become the official religion in the Roman empire, we find the feastday of the Nativity of Christ observed throughout all the Universal Church. And this is evidenced from the works of saint Ephrem the Syrian, Sainted Basil the great, Sainted Gregory the Theologian, Sainted Gregory of Nyssa, Sainted Ambrose of Milan, Sainted John Chrysostom and other fathers of the Church of the IV Century concerning this feastday. Saint John Chrysostom, in his sermon which he gave in the year 385, points out that the feast of the Nativity of Christ is ancient and indeed very ancient. In this same century also at the place of the Bethlehem Cave, made famous by the Birth of Jesus Christ, the Equal-to-the-Apostles empress Helen erected a church, which her mighty son Constantine strove after her to make resplendid. In the Codex of the emperor Theodosius from 438, and of the emperor Justinian -- in 535, is promulgated as law the universal celebration of the day of the Nativity of Christ. It is in this sense, truly, that Nicephoros Kallistos, a writer of the XIV Century, says in his history that the emperor Justinian in the VI Century established the celebration of the Nativity of Christ throughout all the world.
In the V Century the Patriarch of Constantinople Anatolios, in the VII -- Sophronios and Andrew of Jerusalem, in the VIII -- Saints John of Damascus, Cosma of Maium and the Patriarch of Tsar'grad Germanos, in the IX -- the Nun Cassia and others of names unknown, all these wrote for the feast of the Nativity of Christ many sacred hymns, used at present by the Church to the glory of this radiant festal event.
However, during the first three centuries, when persecutions hindered the freedom of Christian Divine-services, in certain places in the East -- in the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Cyprus -- the feastday of the Nativity of Christ was combined together with the feastday of the Baptism of Christ on 6 January, under the in-common term "Theophany" ["Bogoyavlenie" -- which both in the Greek and the Slavonic means "Manifestation of God"]. The reason for this, actually, was from the view, that Christ was baptised at a later time on His birthday, as might be inferred concerning this from the discourse of Saint John Chrysostom who, in one of his sermons on the Nativity of Christ, says: "it is not that day on which Christ was born which is called Theophany, but rather that day on which He was baptised". Towards suchlike a viewpoint also it is possible to consider a nuance in the words of the Evangelist Luke who, speaking about the Baptism of Jesus Christ, testifies, that then "Jesus being incipient [incipiens, arkhomenos] upon His thirtieth year" (Lk. 3:23). The celebration of the Nativity of Christ conjointly with Theophany in certain of the Eastern Churches continued to the end of the IV Century, and in some -- until the V or even the VI Century. Remembrance of the ancient conjoining of the feasts of the Nativity of Christ and Theophany at present enters into the making of the order of services in the celebration of these feasts. For both -- on the eve-day preceding the feast, there is a similar tradition among the people, that on the festal eve-days the fast ought to be kept until the stars appear. The order of Divine-services on the eve of both feastdays and the feastdays themselves is done the same.
The day of the Nativity of Christ from of old was numbered by the Church among the Twelve Great Feasts, -- in accord with the Divine witness of the Gospel in depicting these festal events as the greatest, most all-joyful and wondrous. "Behold, I proclaim unto you glad tidings, -- said the Angel to the Bethlehem shepherds, -- of great joy, for all mankind. For unto you this day is born the Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this for ye is the sign: ye will find the Infant wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. Then suddenly with the Angel was a multitude of the heavenly hosts, glorifying God and saying: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good-will to mankind. Those hearing of this were awestruck at the sayings of the shepherds concerning this Child. And the shepherds themselves returned back, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen" (Lk. 2: 10-20). Thus the Nativity of Christ, as an event most profound and extraordinary, was accompanied by the wondrous tidings to the shepherds and the Magi about the universal rejoicing for all mankind, -- "for the Saviour is Born!", by the Angelic proclamation of glory to the new-born Saviour, by the worship to him by shepherds and wise-men, by the reverent awe of many, hearkening to the words of the shepherds about the new-born Child, amidst glory and praise of Him by the Shepherds.
In accord with the Divine witness of the Gospel, the fathers of the Church in their God-imbued writings also depict the feast of the Nativity of Christ as most profound, universal and all-joyous, which serves as a basis and foundation for all the other feastdays.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Nativity of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son (Galatians 4:4) to save the human race. And when nine months were fulfilled from the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel had appeared to the Most-holy Virgin in Nazareth, saying, Rejoice, thou that art highly favored … behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son (Luke 1:28, 31), at that time there went forth a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the people of the Roman Empire should be taxed. In accordance with this decree, everyone had to go to his own town and be registered. That is why the righteous Joseph came with the Most-holy Virgin to Bethlehem, the city of David, for they were both of the royal lineage of David. Since many people descended on this small town for the census, Joseph and Mary were unable to find lodging in any house, and they sought shelter in a cave which shepherds used as a sheepfold. In this cave-on the night between Saturday and Sunday, on the 25th of December-the Most-holy Virgin gave birth to the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. Giving birth to Him without pain just as He was conceived without sin by the Holy Spirit and not by man, she herself wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, worshiped Him as God, and laid Him in a manger. Then the righteous Joseph drew near and worshiped Him as the Divine Fruit of the Virgin's womb. Then the shepherds came in from the fields, directed by an angel of God, and worshiped Him as the Messiah and Savior. The shepherds heard a multitude of God's angels singing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:14). At that time three wise men arrived from the east, led by a wondrous star, bearing their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. They worshiped Him as the King of kings, and offered Him their gifts (Matthew 2). Thus entered the world He Whose coming was foretold by the prophets, and Who was born in the same manner in which it had been prophesied: of a Most-holy Virgin, in the town of Bethlehem, of the lineage of David according to the flesh, at the time when there was no king in Jerusalem of the lineage of Judah, but rather when Herod, a foreigner, was reigning. After many types and prefigurings, messengers and heralds, prophets and righteous men, wise men and kings, finally He appeared, the Lord of the world and King of kings, to perform the work of the salvation of mankind, which could not be performed by His servants. To Him be eternal glory and praise! Amen.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Nativity of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ
Out of burning love, Thou didst come down from heaven;
From eternal beauty, Thou didst descend into monstrous pain;
From eternal light, Thou didst descend into the thick darkness of evil.
Thou didst extend Thy holy hand to those choked in sin.
Heaven was amazed, the earth quaked.
Welcome, O Christ! O ye peoples, rejoice!
Out of burning love, by which Thou didst create the world,
As a slave Thou didst debase Thyself to loose the enslaved,
To restore the house that Adam destroyed,
To enlighten the darkened, to unloose sinners.
Love that knows not fear or humiliation-
Welcome, O Christ! The Master of Salvation!
Out of burning love, O King of all beauty,
Thou didst leave the radiance of the beautiful Cherubim,
Thou didst descend into the cave of human life,
To despairing men, with a torch and peace.
How to contain Thee?-The earth became frightened.
Welcome, O Christ! Heaven bears Thee up!
The most beautiful Virgin for a long time hoped in Thee.
The earth raises her to Thee, that through her Thou wilt descend
From the lofty throne, from the heavenly city,
To bring health, to release man from sin.
O Holy Virgin, Golden Censer-
To thee be glory and praise, O Mother full of grace!
The Lord Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was first worshiped by shepherds and wise men (astrologers) from the east-the simplest and the wisest of this world. Even today, those who most sincerely worship the Lord Jesus as God and Savior are the simplest and the wisest of this world. Perverted simplicity and half-learned wisdom were always the enemies of Christ's divinity and His Gospel. But who were these wise men from the east? This question was especially studied by St. Dimitri of Rostov. He claims that they were kings of certain smaller regions or individual towns in Persia, Arabia and Egypt. At the same time, they were erudite in the knowledge of astronomy. This wondrous star appeared to them, which announced the birth of the New King. According to St. Dimitri, this star appeared to them nine months before the birth of the Lord Jesus, i.e., at the time of His conception by the Most-holy Theotokos. They spent nine months in studying this star, in preparing for the journey and in traveling. They arrived in Bethlehem shortly after the birth of the Savior of the world. One of them was called Melchior. He was old, with long white hair and beard. He offered the Lord the gift of gold. The second was called Caspar, of ruddy face, young and beardless. He offered the Lord the gift of frankincense. The third was called Balthasar, of dark complexion and a very heavy beard. He offered the Lord the gift of myrrh. After their deaths, their bodies were taken to Constantinople, from Constantinople to Milan, and from Milan to Cologne. It can be added that these three wise men were representatives of the three main races of men that descended from Noah's three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. The Persian represented the Japhethites, the Arabian represented the Semites, and the Egyptian represented the Hamites. Thus it can be said that, through these three, the whole human race worshiped the Incarnate Lord and God.
Contemplate the beauty of the soul of the Most-holy Theotokos:
1. How her soul was radiant and immaculate;
2. How her soul was filled with peace from faith and hope in God;
3. How her soul was filled with the sweet-smelling fragrance of prayer.
on the birth of the Lord, the Son of God
I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world (John 16:28).
The only-begotten Son of God, brethren, begotten in eternity of the Father without a mother, was born in time of a mother without a father. That first begetting is an unfathomable mystery of the Holy Trinity in eternity, and the second is the unfathomable mystery of God's power and love for mankind in time. The greatest mystery in time corresponds to the greatest mystery in eternity. Without entering into this greatest mystery with the small taper of our understanding, let us be content, brethren, with the knowledge that our salvation had its origin not from man or from earth, but from the greatest heights of the divine invisible world. So great is God's mercy, and so great is the dignity of man, that the Son of God Himself came down from eternity into time, from heaven to earth, from the throne of glory to the shepherd's cave, solely to save mankind, to cleanse men from sin and to return them to Paradise. I came forth from the Father, where I had everything, and am come into the world, which cannot give Me anything. The Lord was born in a cave to show that the whole world is one dark cave, which He alone can illumine. The Lord was born in Bethlehem-and Bethlehem means ``the House of Bread''-to show that He is the only Bread of Life worthy of true men.
O Lord Jesus, the Pre-eternal Son of the Living God and the Son of the Virgin Mary, enlighten us and nourish us with Thyself.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.