Saturday, December 21, 2013

Meditations on the Winter Pascha - The Sun of Righteousness

This chapter of The Winter Pascha is primarily about the coming of Christ as the bringer of Light to the world. Fr. Tom points out that God is called the "Sun" and "a light to those who sit in darkness" in the Old Testament. He also explains how the festival of the Lord's appearing celebrated the fact that Jesus is the Light of the world and offers to the pagans who kept the festival of the "Nativity of the Invincible Sun" the True Sun and thus the fulfillment of their festival.

He says,

It appears that the main hymn of the feast of Christ's Nativity in the Eastern Church was formulated as a conscious polemic against paganism, with a very pointed flaunting of the fact that those who formerly worshipped the stars, including the sun, were taught by a star to worship the True Sun... who gives, and is, the True Light. 

Here is the hymn itself:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Hast given rise to the light of knowledge in the world
For they who did worship the stars
Learned from them to worship Thee, O Sun of Justice,
And to know that Thou didst come from the east of the Highest
Glory to Thee, O Lord.

Every time we sing this hymn I am always awed by the words "For they who did worship the stars learned from them to worship Thee, O Sun of Justice". The magi, who spent their whole lives in the study of the stars and the movement of the planets were seekers of the Truth. They may not have realized that this Truth was a person but they relentlessly pursued it and sought answers. Their faith was rewarded, because the very heavenly bodies that they worshipped pointed to their own creator and showed these wise men the way beyond them to Him.

The Magi who had been led on their way by a divine star
Stood before You in wonder at Your marvelous birth;
And bearing gifts, they see the Sun
Who rose from the virgin cloud.

Let the people who sat in darkness 
See shining forth the Light that knows no evening,
Him whom the star once manifested
To the fire-worshipping Persian kings.*

There are people who believe that unless children are taught from specifically and purely Christian sources and texts that they will somehow be tempted to turn away from Christ and pursue "other gods". I believe that if we teach our children to love what is True, and to seek Truth, then we need not fear "non-religious" or "secular" books or sources. Those who pursue Truth and Wisdom and Virtue with their whole hearts will always find it.

Some people fault the Christian Church for establishing the feast of Christ's birth on the day of the "birth of the sun." Certain Christian sects even oppose the celebration. Orthodox Christians believe that it was an act inspired by the Holy Spirit. God has sent His Son into the world for its sanctification and salvation. 

Christ, by His coming, has renewed and sanctified all things. He brings fullness and fulfillment to those who came before and who had only a dim vision of the truth.

Our Savior, the Dayspring from the East,
Has visited us from on high;
And we who were in darkness and shadow
Have found the Truth
For the Lord is born of a Virgin!**

*A Matins hymn on the final day of the prefeast of the Nativity - Christmas Eve
**The hymn of light at Matins of the feast of the Nativity

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