1st Ode Katavasia of Christmas
This hymn is chanted in every Matins (Όρθρος) service from the 21st November until Christmas Day. It is the 1st Ode of the Katavasies of Christmas, written by St Kosmas, Bishop of Maiouma. Most of the hymn is an exact duplication of the opening of the 38th Oration of St Gregory the Theologian on the Feast of Theophany, from the thrice-fold repetition of the exclamatory phrases beginning with ‘Christ’, up to the phrase which St Gregory himself borrows from Psalm 91:1, “Sing to the Lord all the earth”. Τhese words were also sung by the Israelites after God had miraculously delivered them over the Red Sea (Ex 15:1-21), forming the first Biblical Song or Ode, the latter derived from the Greek word for Song – Ὡδή – hence why this hymn is linked with the 1st Ode.
This hymn affirms the joy that our Church feels on the Incarnation of God. There could be no joy, no salvation, no hope, if God did not become man.
St Athanasius is very clear on this: “For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Saviour of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death.”1
In another sermon, St Gregory states that “God must come down to us, as I know He did of old to Moses; and on the other that we must go up to Him, and that so there should come to pass a Communion of God with men, by a coalescing of the dignity. For as long as either remains on its own footing, the One in His Glory the other in his lowliness, the Goodness of God cannot mingle with us, and His loving kindness is incommunicable, and there is a great gulf between, which cannot be crossed; and which separates not only the Rich Man from Lazarus and Abraham’s Bosom which he longs for, but also the created and changing natures from that which is eternal and immutable.” 2
The Feast of Christmas is another opportunity for us to respond freely and without coercion to God’s Love, indeed, to become “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:11).
- St. Athanasius the Great, “On the Incarnation”, SVSP, NY, 1998, p 35.
- St Gregory the Theologian, “Oration 41:12”, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series,Vol. 7.
Source: December 2015 – January 2016 Lychnos Edition