From Michael Ruse:
We are all born without clothes and we all die without taking them with us. That natural cycle is a fact. In this chapter, the Nativity cycle emphasizes what the Eternal Word put on for our salvation, human flesh, and what we must put on, Christ Himself, so that we can die with Him and live with Him.
How should we live and plan our lives? The Nativity cycle offers us an answer that includes doing something in time but also stepping outside of created time and into the ages created by the Holy Trinity since the beginning.
What happened in the Old Testament isn’t so different than what has happened in the New Testament except that the Incarnation of the Son of God has now come into and conquered the world and recreated it, He now rules all things, and He has fulfilled the will of God the Father. During the Nativity Cycle, the Menaion and liturgical texts of the services highlight some Orthodox themes and the mystery of baptism.
1. Jesus Christ is taken care of by his Mother, the Most-Holy Theotokos, and they flee from the slaughter of children in Bethlehem by the evil king, Herod. We too look for refuge, nurturing, and protection from the Mother of God. We are already persecuted in the world and we already are in danger for following Christ.
2. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law and freed us from curse on us. He teaches us how to fulfill the Law through Him.
3. St. John the Forerunner baptized Christ in the Jordan. The waters of the deep are sanctified with his divine energies and we are cleansed from sin through our baptism in Christ.
4. Jesus Christ was circumcised as a child on the eighth day. We put off our old ways through baptism and we enter into relationship with Christ and His Church.
5. Just as Jesus Christ remembered and fulfilled what the prophets and Old Testament righteous have taught about Him. We too follow Christ and take the prophets as our saints too, we find our family and genealogy in Christ, as the Apostle Matthew has written it down.
6. The Righteous Simeon held the Creator in his hands. We hold him within our bodies and carry him with us everywhere.
7. The Righteous Simeon proclaimed that Jesus Christ will go down into Hades to tell the good news to Adam. Likewise, we die in Christ and go out to tell everyone of the gospel to free them from enslavement to sin and captivity by death.
8. In glorification, Moses saw “back parts of God” and Simeon beheld Jesus Christ face to face. So too we are able to see Christ glorified as the true Light of the world.
These are all true and real in the Orthodox Church, not because they are nice philosophies or were compiled correctly. They are verified because they were experienced and witnessed by humankind, and we can still experience these realities in the Orthodox Church today.
The Feast of Theophany is another part of the Nativity cycle and it originated in the East. It was known in early times as “the day of lights.” The phrase refers to “enlightenment” (not the New Age idea) and another phrase we confess every Sunday, “Light from Light” in the Symbol of Faith. The baptism and theophany of Jesus Christ also reveals to us the true Light as three Lights who have come into the world to save us, and so the Feast of Theophany contains an important trinitarian teaching. The final feast in the Nativity cycle is the Meeting of the Lord that ends in February and liturgical texts follow the four gospel readings. What would anyone expect if God came into the world? Mercy, peace, forgiveness of sins, light, miracles, healing, spiritual cleansing, revelation of truth, and salvation from death. Join us this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. to learn more about the liturgical details of the Nativity Cycle.