“A newborn babe, the God before time.”

Icon Christmas

The Virgin today gives birth to the superessential One,
And the earth proffers the cave to the unapproachable One.
Angels with the shepherds sing songs of praise;
The Magi, with the star to guide pursue their way.
For to us has been born
A newborn babe, the God before time.

Bethlehem opened Eden, come let us behold;
We have found joy in this hidden place, come let us seize
The pleasures of Paradise within the cave;
There appeared an unwatered root which sprouted forgiveness;
There was found an undug well
From which David once yearned to drink;
And there the Virgin brought forth an infant
Who at once quenched their thirst, that of Adam and of David.
Come, then, let us hasten to this place where there has been born
A newborn babe, the God before time.

The father became of His own will the son of his mother,
The Savior of children lay as a child in the manger.
His mother looked down at Him and said:
“Tell me, my child, how the seed was planted in me and how it grew in me?
I behold thee, merciful One, and am amazed
That I, who am unwed, nurse Thee;
And though I see Thee in swaddling clothes, still I behold
My virginity untouched,
for Thou hast preserved it, and yet consented to be born
A newborn babe, the God before time.

“Exalted King, what hast Thou to do with lowly ones?
Creator of Heaven, why hast Thou come to men on earth?
Didst Thou long for the cave, or joy in the manger?
Lo, there is no place, for Thy handmaiden at the inn;
There is no place, not even a cave,
Since that, too, belongs to another.
On Sarah, as she was to bring forth a child,
Was bestowed a great inheritance of land, but to me,
Not even a den.
I made use of the cave in which Thou didst will to dwell as
A newborn babe, the God before time.

While she was pondering these things in secret,
And entreating Him who has knowledge of all secret things,
She hears the Magi who are seeking the child.
Straightway, the maiden called out to them: “Who are you?”
And they to her: “Who art thou
Who hast produced and brought forth such an One?
Who, thy father? Who, thy mother?
For thou hast become the mother and nurse of a fatherless son.
It was His star that we saw when we came to behold
A newborn babe, the God before time.

“Clearly did Balaam reveal to us
The meaning of the words which were prophesied,
Saying that a star would rise up,
A star which would dim all prophecies and divinations,
A star to destroy the parables of the wise,
Their teachings and their enigmas,
A star much brighter than this star which just appeared.
For he is the maker of stars,
About whom it was written: ‘From Jacob shall rise up
A newborn babe, the God before time.'”

— from Romanos the Melodist (6th c.), Kontakion “On the Nativity I (Mary and the Magi),” trans. Marjorie Carpenter


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