Service of Matins for Christmas Day


Ὀρθρος των Χριστουγέννων «Ὁ ἀχώρητος παντί, πῶς ἐχωρήθη ἐν γαστρὶ; ὁ ἐν κόλποις τοῦ Πατρός, πῶς ἐν ἀγκάλαις τῆς Μητρός; πάντως ὡς οἶδεν ὡς ἠθέλησε καὶ ὡς ηὐδόκησεν· ἄσαρκος γὰρ ὢν, ἐσαρκώθη ἑκών· καὶ γέγονεν ὁ Ὢν ὃ οὐκ ἦν δι’ ἡμᾶς· καὶ μὴ ἐκστὰς τῆς φύσεως, μετέσχε τοῦ ἡμετέρου φυράματος. Διπλοῦς ἐτέχθη, Χριστὸς τὸν ἄνω, κόσμον θέλων ἀναπληρῶσαι» (Κάθισµα Γʹ. Ἦχος δʹ).
“How is he contained in a womb, whom nothing can contain? How held in his Mother’s arms, he who is in the Father’s bosom? This is all as he knows, as he wished and as he was well pleased. For being without flesh, willingly he was made flesh; and He Who Is, for our sake has become what he was not; without departing from his own nature he shared in our matter; wishing to fill the world on high, Christ was born in two natures. own nature he shared in our matter; wishing to fill the world on high, Christ was born in two natures” (Kathisma III. Mode 4).


When engaging with the awesome mystery of the incarnation of the Word of God, the hymnographers of our Church cannot fail but expose the limits of their own humanity.

However, these hymns are not just an opportunity for a display of poetic flair. They serve principally to teach us the theology of Christmas.

This hymn is filled with patristic sayings. For example, “… as he wished and as he was well pleased” is a quote of St Athanasios the Great from his Sermon on the Nativity: “He entered the Virgin’s womb as he wished, he was conceived as He was well pleased.” The phrase, “become/has become what He was not” is encountered in numerous Fathers, such as St Proclus’ Sermon on the Nativity where we read, “[f]or while remaining Who He was, He became what He was not; For he was God, and is God, and will be God.” The words “in our matter”, which was used by the Fathers to highlight the complete adoption of our own human nature by the Word of God, is likely to have first appeared in the writings of St Gregory of Nyssa, and has been borrowed and used by Saints Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, John of Damascus, Gregory Palamas and others.

But it seems that the sentiment that moves us the most in human terms, is expressed in the opening questions: “[h]ow is he contained in a womb?”, “[h]ow held in his Mother’s arms?”

These are not interrogative questions, but questions which highlight our inability as humans, as creations of God, to completely comprehend the Birth of God. It is a mystery that goes beyond all human understanding. In a way, it reflects the sentiment expressed by Panayia, Mary, the Mother of our Lord, the Bearer of God, in her question of the Archangel Gabriel, “[h]ow can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34).

The previous hymn of Christmas Matins has already provided us with the answer: “where God so wills, the order of nature is overcome.”


Source: Lychnos December 2020 – January 2021