Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

When the first star appears in the sky tonight, Orthodox Christmas begins. Instead of Merry Christmas, believers greet each other saying, "Christ is Born" and the other answers, "Glorify Him!"

Here is a 16th century icon of the Nativity. Mary is resting on her pillow. The Child is wrapped in swaddling clothes, prefiguring his being wrapped after having been taken down from the cross. The cave prefigures the tomb from which Jesus proceeds on Easter morning.

The Mother of God looks out at the shepherds, the Lord's first guests. I might imagine myself standing in the middle of the little flock, catching her eye. We see the angel announcing the good news of Christ's birth. 

The icon includes a number of other scenes, telling the whole story, as we see midwives bathing the Infant Christ in the lower right hand corner. The Magi are on horseback on the left looking up at the star. The chorus of angels is in the upper left corner waiting to sing, "Glory to God in the highest!"

An extra biblical story has poor Joseph sitting in the lower left corner, rather forlorn, confused by all of this. Someone stands before him, tempting him not to believe. We needn't worry: Joseph becomes a silent hero in this story fraught with danger - foreshadowing the dangerous events at the other end of the Gospel.

Here is the Kontakion-hymn from the Christmas liturgy in the Eastern Church.
Today the Virgin gives birth to the incomprehensible One; and the earth offers a  cave to the unapproachable One. Angels and shepherds glorify him; the wise men journey with a star, since for our sakes is born the Eternal God, as a little Child.


  1. Christ is Born! Let us journey toward him together.

  2. Its amazing, the lessons that can be learned from an icon. This Nativity scene holds so much information (with the help of your interpretation) about the Birth of Christ. Icons really are a religious experience. Appreciate, your bringing these holy works of art to us.

    1. The Christmas account is filled with hints of EASTER! And what the proclaimed Gospel does for the ears, the icon does for the eyes. Very neat

  3. I forgot that the Eastern Church celebrates Christmas on a different date so thank your for reminding us that our Eastern brothers and sisters are celebrating the birth of Christ today. It makes the day feel special. May we all be silent heroes with Joseph.

  4. Liturgically, Eastern Christians follow the Julian Calendar. There's a 13 day difference. Nice for us - we get to think about it all again. Christmas needs to extend and extend again. Like Easter it's too big for one day - then thrown out with the poor Christmas tree at curbside.