Tag Archives: The Incarnation

Thy favor has appeared on earth.

Last night I attended the service of The Royal Hours of Nativity. It was not even an hour long, but the amount of Scripture in it — and theology in word, song, incense and candlelight — filled me to the brim. Here are a few excerpts:

Brethren, God, Who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, being made so much better than the Angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

For unto which of the Angels did He ever say: “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee”? Or again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?”

And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, He saith: “Let all the Angels of God worship Him.” And of the Angels He saith: “Who makes His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire.”

But unto the Son He saith: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy Kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness more than Thy companions…”

And: “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands; they shall perish, but Thou shalt remain; and they shall all grow old like a garment; like a cloak shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail…” (Hebrews 1:1-12)

Make ready, O Bethlehem.
Let the manger be prepared.
Let the cave show its welcome.
The Truth comes and the shadow flees.
God is born of a virgin and revealed to men.
He is clothed in our flesh, and makes it divine.
Therefore Adam is renewed, and cries out with Eve,
“Thy favor has appeared on earth, O Lord,
For the salvation of the human race.”

Psalm 86

His foundations are in the holy mountains;
the Lord loveth the gates of Sion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.
I will make mention of Raab and Babylon
to them that know me.
And lo, the foreigners and Tyre
and the people of the Ethiopians,
these were born there.
A man will say: Mother Sion;
and: That man was born in her;
and: The Most High Himself hath founded her.
The Lord shall tell it in the writ of the peoples and the princes,
even these that were born in her.
How joyous are all they
that have their habitation in Thee.

I wish you all a blessed, full Twelve Days of Christmas,
and a new year full of the experience of God’s favor and salvation.
Christ is born!

Let us eat of it and live forever.

Many, if not most, Orthodox Christians in the world will celebrate our Lord’s Nativity on January 7, as was the custom for all Orthodox until less than a century ago. Under various pressures to westernize, some began to use the “secular” calendar as had been requested of them since the 16th century. I happen to have been baptized into a “new calendar” diocese, so here I am! When I announce a feast day or a calendar date of a commemoration, saying “We –,” I don’t disregard the vast numbers of my beloved brothers and sisters who are waiting thirteen more days for their holy day. But here I go again:

We have entered the Forefeast of the Nativity of our Lord:

Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all!
Adorn yourself, O Ephratha,
for the tree of life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave!

Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the Divine Fruit:
If we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam.
Christ comes to restore the image which He made in the beginning!

A Rose dispels the darkness.

I didn’t encounter this Christmas carol,  “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” until long past my childhood. For various reasons it is one of my favorites now. This is a nice version:

I also love this one sung in Ely Cathedral:

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
She bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

By the time our family brought this carol into our repertoire, several of us would enjoy singing the carol in its original language when we gathered at Christmastime, at least a few times. Even before their father ceased to be one of the singers, the details of our festivities had begun to change. It’s been a while since we have been able to sing as many carols as we would like, usually because of the needs of small children.

This year I will sing it by myself. It will be a good chance to try the German version again and work on memorizing it. The tone and the message are certainly sweet like the loveliest rose. I appreciate the reminder of how Christ ultimately defeated death by his death. God is with us! That’s why every Christmas can be a merry one, and why I’m eagerly looking forward to this feast.

Everything depends upon that moment.

Today is the beginning of our salvation;
the revelation of the eternal Mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

I had wanted to continue my ruminations on The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air by further considering The Moment that Søren Kierkegaard refers to when, after waiting in silence, “…the silent lily understands that now is the moment, and makes use of it.”

I don’t know what that moment consists of for you, for me, for us as a world community, or in our cities or church communities or families. No doubt there are overlapping times and seasons containing infinite instants, and only by quiet listening can we make any sense of them. But this passage in particular I wanted to pass on, in which the writer discusses what is missed when we fail to make the proper, standing-before-God kind of preparation:

“Even though it is pregnant with rich significance, the moment does not send forth any herald in advance to announce its arrival; it comes too swiftly for that; indeed, there is not a moment’s time beforehand…. But of course everything depends upon “the moment.” And this is surely the misfortune in the lives of many, of far the greater part of humanity: that they never perceived ‘the moment,’ that in their lives the eternal and the temporal were exclusively separated.”

So many thoughts swirl in my own noisy mind and heart that I could not imagine how I might find a way to share even these few gleanings with you. Then, in God’s providence and the church calendar, appeared someone who is the supreme example for us of being ready for the moment, that time in history and that time in her life, in a particular moment of a day, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. Today we remember that event, when Mary listened, and responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

The Word became flesh and came to live with us, taking on all our human experience, its weakness and suffering and  death. He defeated death, and opened the gates of Paradise. The Incarnation, the beginning of our salvation, is The Moment of history; our own “Yes” to God, echoing Mary’s willingness, can be the essence of our every prayer as well, as we wait on Him.

Kierkegaard exhorts us, in words that seem especially fitting for this time of uncertainty and change: “Would that in the silence you might forget yourself, forget what you yourself are called, your own name, the famous name, the lowly name, the insignificant name, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Hallowed be your name!’ Would that in silence you might forget yourself, your plans, the great, all-encompassing plans, or the limited plans concerning your life and its future, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your kingdom come!’ Would that you might in silence forget your will, your willfulness, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your will be done.'”

We know that God’s will for us is good, now as ever. Our inability to see or understand that is due to our weakness or sin, or His hiding of His works. May He give us grace to wait and to pray, and eventually we will see the full salvation of the LORD.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11