Sunday, December 25, 2005

Orthodox Christmas Music: What We Believe, We Pray

Orthodox Christians sometimes say to others, "If you want to know what we believe, come and see how we pray." What we believe, the teachings passed down to us from the time of the Holy Apostles, is revealed in our ancient services through both the readings from the Holy Scripture and through our prayerful music. When Orthodox Christians gather together for worship, we should always open our hearts, our eyes, and our ears. I recommend the same for non-Orthodox visitors so that they may see and hear how we worship, what we believe, and how we live. Below are some of the words sung during the Divine Liturgy on Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Nativity. The songs are our prayers that reveal the answer to the question, "Who is Jesus?," and remind us what He has done for us.

The Troparion of the Nativity

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
has shone to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it those who worshipped the stars,
were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness,
and to know Thee, the Orient from on high.
O Lord, glory to Thee!

The Kontakion of the Nativity

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels, with shepherds, glorify Him!
The wise men journey with the star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a little child!

Post-Gospel Stikhera

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Today all creation is filled with joy, for Christ is born of the Virgin.
Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Today all creation is filled with joy, for Christ is born of the Virgin.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great goodness
and according to the abundance of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions.
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.
Today Bethlehem receives Him, who sits forever with the Father.
Today the angels glorify with holy hymns the Babe that is born:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.

Megalynarion of the Nativity

O my soul, magnify her who is more honorable
and who is more glorious than the heavenly hosts.
A mystery, I behold, which is strange and wondrous.
The cave is heaven and the Virgin is the throne of the Cherubim.
In the confines of the manger is laid the infinite Christ, our God,
whom we praise and magnify.

(Note on the Megalynarion: This song is in honor of Mary, the Virgin mother of Christ. Songs that honor the Virgin Mary always direct our attention to her Son and reveal His true identity. Christ, the King of All, who sits in heaven upon the throne of angelic Cherubim, was born in a cave and sat upon His mother, who lovingly laid the One who fills all things in the confining space of a manger.)

May we all keep these words close to our hearts during the Christmas season and meditate on their meaning for our lives in the coming year, the Year of Our Lord, two thousand six.

Copyright © 2005 by Dana S. Kees. Photo Copyright © 2005 by Dana S. Kees. Words of liturgical music in the Public Domain.