Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nativity 'Holy Week'

Dear Parish Faithful,

By far and away, our attendance and prayerful presence at the pre-festal Vespers leading up to the Feast of our Lord's Nativity in the flesh is at the highest it has ever been. This is especially true of yesterday evening. This, in turn, is giving us more of a sense of a "holy week" guiding us toward the "Winter Pascha." This is always very encouraging; and we thank God for these services that bring our focus back to Christ - "the Reason for the Season." Hopefully, this will continue tonight with the last of such Vesper services. So, if you have yet to come, this evening offers one more opportunity. As I shared on Tuesday evening, there is no place better to be than the warm and prayerful atmosphere of the church, especially after a long hard day of work and activity. This experience is enhanced even further with the hymnography that is already proclaiming the Incarnation of the Son of God from the Virgin Mary. In addition, we celebrate the saint(s) of the day, and these have all been martyrs from Dec. 20 - 24. The cross is already present at the advent of the Son of God in the flesh, and the Lord's martyrs witness to the fact that there is an eternal and unchangeable Truth that one would be willing to die for.

On Friday morning, we will serve the Royal Hours at 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and Noon. These are about the most scripturally full services in the Nativity cycle, with especially-chosen psalms, an OT reading, and then an Epistle and Gospel reading all centering on the birth of Christ.

The beautiful festal Matins will be served on "Christmas Eve" at 7:00 p.m. The entire service proclaims that "God is with us!" Our celebration culminates with the celebration of the Nativity on Christmas morning when we serve the Divine Liturgy beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Here are two other passages from St. Irenaeus of Lyons that contrasts Eve and the Virgin Mary, so that the Virgin Mary is understood to be the "new Eve:"

Eve was seduced by the word of the [fallen] angel and transgressed God's word, so that she fled from him. In the same way, [Mary} was evangelized by the word of an angel and obeyed God's word, so that she carried him [within her]. And while the former was seduced into disobeying God, the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate (advocata) of the virgin Eve.
And just as the human race was bound to death because of a virgin, so it was set free from death by a Virgin, since the disobedience of one virgin was counterbalanced by a Virgin's obedience.
If, then, the first-made man's sin was mended by the right conduct of the firstborn Son [of God], and if the serpent's cunning was bested by the simplicity of the dove [Mary], and if the chains that held us bound to death have been broken, then the heretics are fools; they are ignorant of God's economy ("saving dispensation"), and they are unaware of his economy for [the salvation of] man. (Against Heresies, 5, 19)

Adam had to be recapitulated ("renewed," literally, "reheaded") in Christ, so that death might be swallowed up in immortality, and Eve [had to be recapitulated] in Mary, so that the Virgin, having become another virgin's advocate, might destroy and abolish one virgin's disobedience by the obedience of another virgin. (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 33)

Fr. Steven

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