The radiance of the Father has come to make us bright

WHAT saves a man is, again, not what man does in his helplessness, but what the word of God does dwelling in us. …

Even in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, God says to man: “Be holy, because I am holy!” He does not say “be holy because it is good, it is nice”. “Because I am holy!”

It is God speaking that word by Moses. To Moses he revealed that “I AM.” God is He Who Is. And he wants to bring man to the same state of being. He shared something of this in the beginning; and to the degree that man allows himself to share in this word of God, he finds in that word of God the vigour of life.

Fr Rafail Noica. Source. (My translation.)

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St Paul's Jarrow, Chancel

The chancel of St Paul’s Church in Jarrow, originally the 7th century monastery chapel. This was where St Bede attended the liturgy, with icons (so he tells us) on the walls and stretching across from wall to wall in front of the altar.

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IN a sermon on the Nativity, St Bede (+735), a monk of Jarrow in what is now the North East of England, drew lessons from the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to be assessed for tax.

NOW, the holy church is our citizenship (Phil 3:20-21), which in part wanders here in the earth, absent from the Lord (2 Cor 5:6), and in part reigns now with the Lord in heaven; and after the end of this age, will reign together with him, perfect for evermore.

So we ought all of us to walk in this citizenship, nothing should excuse us from such a wholesome journey.

We must all pay a tax debt to the King who was born: that is, we must comply with the divine commands in the unity of this present church, and by a tireless course of good works, make haste towards our entry into our heavenly homeland.

Now, in enrolling for the tax a denarius amounting to ten silver pennies was handed over, bearing the image of Caesar and his name (cf. Mt 22:15-22). This is something we should imitate spiritually.

For we render our denarius to our king, when we make it our business to fulfil the ten commandments of his law.

We bear the name of our king inscribed on the denarius, when in all our actions we remember that we are named Christians from Christ (cf. Acts 11:26), and so take care to keep the honour of his name unsullied in ourselves.

Onto this denarius of our good manner of life we should also stamp his image, and that image only, as he himself taught, saying “Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2 Vulg.). This is that same image of God, for which we were made in the first man (Gen 1:26), so that we might be holy by an endless sharing in divine holiness (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). For on this subject the Psalmist said: The light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us (Ps 4:6 Vulg.).

But because man lost this light of the divine countenance by sin, it pleased God to clothe himself in the countenance of a man by being born in flesh, by which he taught us that we must be reborn in the Spirit. It pleased him to appear in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin (Heb 4:15), so that he could wash us clean from every sin, and retrace the clean brightness of his image in us.

St Bede, Homily 44 (Christmas Eve). My translation.

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THY kingdom, O Christ God, is a kingdom of all the ages, and thy rule is in generation and generation. Thou who wast incarnate of the holy Spirit, and made man from the ever-Virgin Mary, hast shined light upon us, O Christ God, by thy presence, light from light, the radiance of the Father, making all creation bright and clean. Everything that hath breath praiseth thee (Ps 150:6), the expression of the Father’s glory (Heb 1:3; Wisd 7:24-26). Thou who art I AM, and I AM before all,* and didst shine out as God from the Virgin, have mercy upon us.

* Ὁ ὢν καὶ προών. See Ex 3:14.

At Vespers for December 31. Source.

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O GLADSOME light, O grace
Of God the Father’s face,
The eternal splendour wearing;
Celestial, holy, blest,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Joyful in thine appearing.

Now, ere day fadeth quite,
We see the evening light,
Our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
Thee, his incarnate Son,
And Holy Spirit adoring.

To thee of right belongs
All praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Lifegiver;
Thee, therefore, O Most High,
The world doth glorify,
And shall exalt forever.

Translation by Robert Bridges (1844-1930)

Joseph, tell the good news

ON the Sunday after Christmas, we make commemoration of Joseph the Betrothed, David the King, and James the Brother of the Lord.

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OUR Saviour from on high hath visited us, Daystar from the morning lands, and we dwellers in darkness and shadow have found the truth; for the Lord was born of the Virgin.

O JOSEPH, tell the good news of these wonders to David, the ancestor of God: thou hast seen a virgin with child, thou hast worshipped with magi, thou hast given glory with shepherds, thou hast dealt through an angel. Intercede with Christ God, that our souls be saved.

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An icon of St Joseph carrying Jesus, with his son St James, and his wife St Mary the Virgin, escaping to Egypt shortly after the birth of Jesus.

An icon of St Joseph carrying Jesus, with his son St James, and his wife St Mary the Virgin, escaping to Egypt shortly after the birth of Jesus.

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CHRIST the King, whom the shepherds acclaimed in Bethelehem, and the star revealed, in servant’s form: all ye his works, praise him and exalt him to all the ages.

Christ the born child, whom the magi worshipped with gifts, and the hosts of angels sang as God: all ye his works, praise him and exalt him to all the ages.

Christ the incarnate, whom the powers of heaven glorified, and the Many-eyed ceaselessly hymn: all ye his works, praise him and exalt him to all the ages.

Christ the incarnate, whom David the ancestor of God foretold, and James preached to the peoples: all ye his works, praise him and exalt him to all the ages.

CHRIST the King, whom the Virgin Mary bore for us, and after the birth remained pure virgin: all ye his works, praise him and exalt him to all the ages.

From Vespers and Matins on December 30. Source.

Let all Creation dance now, and skip for joy

THEN the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Genesis 3:13-16.

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LET Jerusalem be glad, and keep the feast, all ye who love Sion. Today the age long bond of Adam’s sentence is broken, Paradise is opened to us, and the serpent confounded. For she whom he once trod down now is seen to have become the mother of the Creator. O the depth of riches, and the wisdom, and the knowledge of God! She who let death come into all flesh, the tool of sin, has become the first fruits of salvation for the whole world, through the Theotokos. For from her has been born an infant child who is God beyond perfection. Through this child-bearing, he gives his seal to virginity. Through swaddling bands, he looses the bands of sin. And through childhood, he heals Eve’s sorrowful birth-pangs. So let all Creation dance now, and skip for joy; for Christ came to call her back, and save our souls.

At Vespers for December 28. Source.

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COME, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent’s head.
Adam’s likeness now efface,
Stamp thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Re-instate us in thy love.

Charles Wesley, “Hark! the herald angels sing”.

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Andante for Clarinet and Orchestra
Alice Mary Smith (1839 – 1884)

Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven

I SAW in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14.

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An icon of Christ in the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

An icon of Christ in the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

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BUT Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Acts 7:55-56.

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THE Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send out a rod of power for thee out of Sion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. With thee is dominion in the day of thy power, in the splendours of thy saints: I have begotten thee from the womb before the Morning Star.

Psalm 109[110]:1-3 (LXX).

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O THOU that art not contained in any place, how art thou contained in a womb? O thou that lieth in the bosom of the Father, how dost thou lie in the arms of thy mother? This is all as he knoweth, as he hath willed it, as it was well-pleasing to him. And He Who Is [Ex 3:14] hath become he who was not, for our sakes. And without departing from his own nature, he hath partaken of our lump [cf. Rom 11:16]. Christ was born into two natures, wishing to fill the world above.

At Matins on December 27. Source.

Cradle song

Berceuse (cradle song) in D Flat, by Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849).
Played by Valentina Lisitsa.

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A STRANGE mystery I see, and a wondrous thing! I see heaven, and it is a cave, the throne of cherubim, and it is the Virgin, I see the cradle, and it is the place where Christ God, who cannot be contained in any place, lays his head. This is he whom we magnify, singing hymns of praise.

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THY birth O Christ our God, made the light of knowledge dawn upon the world. For those who gave worship to the star were taught by means of a star to worship thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know in thee the Daystar from on high. O Lord, glory be to thee.

On December 26, the Synaxis of the Mother of God.

Come, let us behold the place where Christ was born

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Δεῦτε ἴδωμεν πιστοί, ποῦ ἐγεννήθη ὁ Χριστός, ἀκολουθήσωμεν λοιπὸν ἔνθα ὁδεύει ὁ ἀστήρ, μετὰ τῶν Μάγων Ἀνατολῆς τῶν Βασιλέων. Ἄγγελοι ὑμνοῦσιν, ἀκαταπαύστως ἐκεῖ. Ποιμένες ἀγραυλοῦσιν, ᾠδὴν ἐπάξιον. Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις λέγοντες, τῷ σήμερον ἐν Σπηλαίῳ τεχθέντι, ἐκ τῆς Παρθένου, καὶ Θεοτόκου, ἐν Βηθλεὲμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας.

COME, ye faithful, let us behold the place where Christ was born. Let us follow with the magi, kings of the east, wherein the Star doth lead the way. Angels are singing ceaselessly there. Shepherds abiding in the fields are telling this fitting hymn: Glory in the highest to him that is born this day in the Cave, from the virgin, from the Theotokos, in Bethlehem of Judaea.

At Matins on December 26, the Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos.

Today the Virgin giveth birth

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Ἡ Παρθένος σήμερον, τὸν ὑπερούσιον τίκτει, καὶ ἡ γῆ τὸ Σπήλαιον, τῷ ἀπροσίτῳ προσάγει. Ἄγγελοι μετὰ Ποιμένων δοξολογοῦσι. Μάγοι δὲ μετὰ ἀστέρος ὁδοιποροῦσι· δι’ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγεννήθη, Παιδίον νέον, ὁ πρὸ αἰώνων Θεός.

TODAY the Virgin giveth birth unto him that is beyond all being, and unto him who is unapproachable the earth bringeth a cave. Angels are giving glory with shepherds, while magi are following after a star. For an infant child was born for our sakes, he who is God before the ages.