This morning, following the rubrics of the Church, we did the service of the Royal Hours, which include readings from Old Testament and Epistle and Gospel for each of the services of the Hours (1st, 3rd, 6th, and 9th). Also much incense.
It is a service that in structure will be repeated again before the Theophany as well as during Holy Week before Pascha. It signals that each of these services have something in common – and that Pascha is the key. I have always said that Pascha is simply the key to everything.
But the Church in her services, just as in her icons, again draws the attention of the faithful to the Paschal shape of our Lord’s ministry and revelation.
The great climax of Christmas (now there’s something I’ve never thought of before) comes at the birth of Christ. Hell will shake at this triumphant entry. Even though the Holy Innocents will be slaughtered and the Holy Family will flee to Egypt, it is simply “ducking” the falling debris of a Kingdom that is crumbling.
Now God’s feet touch the earth, its air fills His lungs. He drinks deep from the milk that His mother gives. He will cry.
But even though he will cry like any baby, calling for human help, it is still the cry of God, a sound that will break the bonds of hell itself.
In one interpretation of the name Sheol, the implication of silence is heard. “Who can praise you from the grave?” Thus the voice of God crying in the night is a sound that must make every tree and rock tremble with anticipation.
It is in light of such that we ourselves must not forget to give alms, to lighten the burden of those around us, to make every effort to set captives free and give sight to the blind. Our King and Savior draws near.