On December 20th, the Greek Orthodox Church begins the Forefeast of the Nativity, whose liturgical structure is similar to the Holy Week preceding Pascha, for the birth of the Son of God is the beginning of the saving ministry which will lead Him, for the sake of our salvation, to the ultimate sacrifice of the Cross.
From now on, most of the liturgical hymns in Greek Orthodox Churches worldwide will be concerned with the birth of Jesus Christ our Saviour. 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 the faithful sing the Troparion (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.”
They also sing the Kontaion (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 the faithful 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….”
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