NB:The barren desert will bear many children.

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)


desert flowers http://www.desertusa.com/images/anza-113.jpgThe 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”.


A comment to this post quoted the entire  35th chapter is Isaiah. Obviously, this sticheron is based on this passage. So, a little bit outside of the "letter of the law" regarding the "nota bene" posts) (all are meant to be short, so they are read more, and therfore more beneficial to our readers), here is that amazing chapter:

Be glad, thou thirsty desert: let the wilderness exult, and flower as the lily.  (2)  And the desert places of Jordan shall blossom and rejoice; the glory of Libanus has been given to it, and the honour of Carmel; and my people shall see the glory o the Lord, and the majesty of God.  (3)  Be strong, ye relaxed hands and palsied knees.  (4)  Comfort one another, ye fainthearted; be strong, fear not; behold, our God renders judgement, and he will render it; he will come and save us.  (5)  Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear.  (6)  Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerers shall speak plainly; for water has burst forth in the desert, and a channel of water in a thirsty land.  (7)  And the dry land shall become pools, and a fountain of water shall be poured into the thirsty land; there shall there be a joy of birds, ready habitations and marshes.  (8)  There shall be there a pure way, and it shall be called a holy way; and there shall not pass by there any unclean person, neither shall there be there an unclean way; but the dispersed shall walk on it, and they shall not go astray.  (9)  And there shall be no lion there, neither shall any evil beast go up upon it, nor at all be found there; but the redeemed and gathered on the Lord’s behalf, shall walk in it,  (10)  (35:9B) and shall return, and come to Sion with joy, and everlasting joy shall be over their head; for on their head shall be praise and exultation, and joy shall take possession of them: sorrow and pain, and groaning have fled away. (Isa 35:1-10 Brenton Septuagint)

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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  1. Thank you, Father!

    We all seek salvation. But we so often find ourselves in a desert – helpless, fruitless state of soul. Everything falls out of our hands. We think we are good for nothing…and this state can be very useful & can give us many valuable notions & ideas – if we just make an effort and cast a glance at our Saviour. He is able to raise us from this desert of sorrows & sins, and plant roses in the dry garden of our souls – even if no one else believes it can be. As it is hardly possible to explain in winter to a person, who never saw a spring, that the dead & ugly trees will turn green, and there will be many picturesque flowers around…

    With God’s help we can scratch a desert & produce a garden!

    But if we sit doing nothing, drowned in our despair & disbelief, we’ll die in that desert of our empty heart.

    “A desert is a place without expectation”.
    (Nadine Gordimer)

    We have expectation. And more – we have God’s promise. All that we should do – no persistently move forward, following our Christ.

  2. Isaiah 35

    “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

    It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.

    Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.

    Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

    Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

    Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

    And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

    And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

    No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:

    And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

    Christ is born!

  3. This is why I love comments. Obviously, the sticheron is based on this passage from Isaiah (the entire 35th chapter), but I missed it.

    I feel acutely my desert, but it is never without expectatioon. the scriptures, services and our own personal experience abouds with thie dogma that our desert can bear many children.

    I will add the passage to the article, somewhat out of the spirit of our “nota bene” artiucles (meant to be short), but this is too good to leave out.

  4. This is why I love this blog so much!
    Absolutely tremendous posts, wonderful thoughtful Deborah’s comments!
    It’s as if I explore another new planet each time!

  5. This in particular caught my eye in that my little one is from Russia. We plan to visit the church for service hopefully this coming weekend.

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