Monday, December 20, 2010

Dec. 20 - The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord

The Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord begins on December 20. This ancient celebration is witnessed by St. John Chrysostom in his sermon praising Saint Philogonios, who is also commemorated this day [PG 48:747].

From now on, most of the liturgical hymns will be concerned with the birth of the Savior. Many of the Church's hymns of this period are slightly modified versions of the hymns of Holy Week.

From the 20th to the 23rd we sing the Apolytikion (Tone 4): "Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all. Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the Tree of Life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave. Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the fruit divine; if we eat of it we shall live forever and not die like Adam. Christ is coming to restore the image which He made in the beginning."

We also sing the Kontakion (Tone 3): "Today the Virgin comes to the cave where she will give birth past understanding to the Word from all eternity. Rejoice, O universe, when the tidings are proclaimed. Glorify, with the angels and shepherds, the one Who chose to be manifest as a newborn Child, while remaining the eternal God."

At Vespers on this first day of the prefeast we sing: "Let us celebrate, O people, the prefeast of Christ's Nativity; let us raise our minds on high, in spirit going up to Bethlehem…." (Sticheron on "Lord, I Call.")

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