Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A strange and most wonderful mystery

Tonight all around the world Old Calendar Orthodox Christians, like myself and my family, will be going to church to celebrate Christ's birth. Ineffably (one of Orthodoxy's favorite words) the church becomes the cave where Christ was born; we become the shepherds and wise men come to glorify Him. The service says "Heaven and earth are united today, for Christ is born. Today has God come upon earth, and man gone up to heaven. Today for man's sake is seen in the flesh He who by nature is invisible" (Festal Menaion 263). We have been given the greatest gift possible: the gift of God's love for and mercy toward us. The paradoxical beauty of this feast, that He who is without time became part of time, points to the mystery of our faith.

Throughout the night we will refer to the prophets of the Old Testament, those who foretold the birth of Christ and the redemption of mankind. The patriarchs and righteous women of old are the lineage through which Christ was born to save us all, so we honor them as well. We sing the rich and ancient words that the Church gives us: "A strange and most wonderful mystery do I see: the cave is heaven; the Virgin the throne of the cherubim; the manger a room in which Christ, the God whom nothing can contain is laid. Him do we praise and glorify" (Festal Menaion 282).

In this great mystery of Christ's birth, we see His love for us. So let us say together:

Christ is Born!
Glorify Him!


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