Eve of Nativity
Christ cometh to be born, bestowing a strange regeneration upon the descendents of Adam, in that He is God. Be glad, O human nature, thou barren desert, for the master hath come to make thee bear many children. (Matins, Eve of Nativity, December 24, Canon, Ode I)
The great power of the holy services of the church and especially the deeply theological and devotional content of matins is that it presents the important dogmas of our faith in startling and understandable ways. In every matins service, there is something that is too beautiful for words, and yet, the words being sung warm the soul and comfort it.
This sticheron above contains such words. A dogma of our faith is that Christ came so that human nature could change, be renewed, become holy. We know this (or should know this – many Christians do not understand this dogma), but in order for it to be completely active in us, we must experience it.
Here, the bearing of many children is used as a beautiful metaphor to sum up the entire good news of our salvation.
Human nature without God becoming man to change it is a “barren desert”. With the coming of the God-man, His teaching, example and His changing of human nature so that it can, if it chooses and desires, be completely changed into holiness and peace is represented by the exclamation ”the master hath come to make thee bear many children.”
These “children” are the virtues. They are the same virtues that our Lord Jesus Christ has, and that we are capable of obtaining.
The joy of a barren woman who has a child is profound. So is that of the barren soul which becomes clothed in the virtues. This is the real “nativity story”.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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