St. Romanos the Melodist: Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ

St. Romanos the Melodist

True, this is a bit early to post, but the meditations on the Nativity of Christ by St. Romanos the Melodist are so sublime they deserve more time to digest. St. Romanos the Melodist lived 490-556 A.D. and is known for his numerous liturgical contributions to the Eastern Church.  As to his kontakion (a type of poetic sermon) on the Nativity of Christ, Wikipedia notes:

His Kontakion of the Nativity is still considered to be his masterpiece, and up until the twelfth century, it was sung every year at the imperial banquet on that feast by the joint choirs of Hagia Sophia and of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. Most of the poem takes the form of a dialogue between the Mother of God and the Magi, whose visit to the newborn Christ Child is celebrated in the Byzantine rite on 25th of December, rather than on the 6th of January, when Western Christians celebrate the visit (in the Orthodox Church, January 6, the Feast of the Theophany, celebrates the Baptism of Christ).

Here’s an excerpt:

On the Nativity of Christ

Prelude

Today the Virgin gives birth to him who is above all being,

and the earth offers a cave to him whom no one can approach.

Angels with shepherds give glory,

and magi journey with a star,

for to us there has been born

a little Child, God before the ages.

1

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.

2

The mother’s Father has willingly become her Son,

the infants’ saviour is laid as an infant in a manger.

As she who bore him contemplates him, she says,

“Tell me, my Child, how were you sown, or how were you planted in me?

I see you, my flesh and blood, and I am amazed,

because I give suck and yet I am not married.

And though I see you in swaddling clothes,

I know that the flower of my virginity is sealed,

for you preserved it when, in your good pleasure, you were born

a little Child, God before the ages.

The full text of St. Romanos’ Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ can be read here. A reading of the entire Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ by Frederica Mathewes-Green can be listened to here.

Icon of the Nativity of Christ

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