Oikos of Christmas Day

«Τὴν Ἐδὲμ Βηθλεὲμ ἤνοιξε, δεῦτε ἴδωμεν· τὴν τρυφὴν ἐν κρυφῇ εὕρομεν, δεῦτε λάβωμεν, τὰ τοῦ Παραδείσου ἔνδον τοῦ Σπηλαίου. Ἐκεῖ ἐφάνη ῥίζα ἀπότιστος, βλαστάνουσα ἄφεσιν· ἐκεῖ εὑρέθη φρέαρ ἀνώρυκτον, οὗ πιεῖν Δαυῒδ πρὶν ἐπεθύμησεν· ἐκεῖ Παρθένος τεκοῦσα βρέφος, τὴν δίψαν ἔπαυσεν εὐθύς, τὴν τοῦ Ἀδὰμ καὶ τοῦ Δαυΐδ· διὰ τοῦτο πρὸς τοῦτο ἐπειχθῶμεν, οὗ ἐτέχθη, Παιδίον νέον, ὁ πρὸ αἰώνων Θεός .»

“Bethlehem has opened Eden, come, let us see; we have found delight in secret, come, let us receive the joys of Paradise within the cave. There the unwatered root whose blossom is forgiveness has appeared. There has been found the undug well from which David once longed to drink. There a virgin has borne a babe and has quenched at once Adam’s and David’s thirst. For this, let us hasten to this place where there has been born a little Child, God before the ages.”

This hymn is the first verse of the most famous work of St Romanos the Melodist, his first kontakion on the Nativity of Christ. The ‘unwatered root’ that St Romanos refers to is a direct reference to Isaiah 11:1, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse and a blossom shall come up from his root.” The imagery of the unwatered root that blossoms is not only referring to the Birth of Christ but also to the manner of His conception. St Leo the Great tells us that “this shoot signifies the Blessed Virgin Mary, who sprang from the stock of Jesse and David and was made fruitful by the Holy Spirit, bringing forth a new flower of human flesh, from a mother’s womb to be sure, but through a virgin birth.”

The reference to the undug well from which David “once longed to drink” is particularly insightful. Taken from the 2nd Book of Kingdoms, 23:13-1, it is in reference to an incident during the campaign of King David and the army of Israelites against the invading army of the Philistines. They were encamped outside Bethlehem, which the Philistine army had occupied. King David longed to quench his thirst and three of his mightiest soldiers volunteered to break through enemy lines and dig for the well which was by the gate of the city of Bethlehem.

Having secured the water, they brought it to David but he refused to drink of it, pouring it out onto the earth before God, saying, “O Lord, forbid that I should do this, that I should drink of the blood of the men who went at [the risk of] their lives.” Christ is the living water which quenched David’s and Adam’s thirst, as well as ours. The ‘blood of men’, that is, all human effort and sacrifice could never secure our salvation and offer eternal life. This was only achieved through the coming of the Living Water, Christ, “God before the ages.”


Source: Lychnos December 2019 – January 2020