293. Greet the Nativity of Christ with Song!

Today is the Eve of Christmas, so I’m aware you’re not reading this Post. However, just in case somebody else is, or if perhaps you do so later during the Great Feast of the Nativity…

Orthodox Christmas Music

The Orthodox Church is the Church of music. Almost all our services are sung. Music lifts our hearts to God, into the presence of the Holy.

This Post will consist of many videos of Orthodox music which surrounds the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. We’ll hear both liturgical music and popular carols, accompanied occasionally by a little commentary.

There are many videos here, surely more than you’ll want to hear and see at one time. (If you do so today, Santa Claus will likely have come and gone, and you’ll have missed him.) So my humble suggestion is that you watch a few at a time, or perhaps one or two during each of the Twelve or is it Seven Days of Christmas, as part of your daily prayers. (Yes, one can pray using the internet. I do. In fact collecting and listening to this music has been one long beautiful prayer for me. A good thing, because my regular prayer life has been the pits this week.)

In what follows, I will try to keep everything in calendar order. For any here who follow the “old calendar”, bookmark this Post, and go to it on January 6.

Please listen carefully to the deep meaning of the words, because most Orthodox music is written to support the texts, not to call attention to itself. It is usually sung slowly so we can take it all in. This is especially true of the hymns which lead into the Great Feasts.

For any here who are not accustomed to Orthodox liturgical music:

1  The words are ancient, from the early centuries of Christian history. They are not rhymed and metered like more modern Western Christian hymns. They are what is now called “free verse”.

2  Byzantine music is likewise ancient, almost certainly derived from Jewish temple chanting. It is not designed to move us emotionally, but simply to support the text. If you’re not accustomed to it, be patient. In due time the sound will “grow” on you, as it did on me. Music in the Russian tradition often is more modern. But in all cases please concentrate on the words, not on the music.

When I first became Orthodox I thought I would miss my favorite hymns so much. I still love them, but this goes… deeper, is the only way I know to describe it

I could not find the English words for some of the Carols. Even so we can catch the spirit of Christ’s wondrous birth in the music and sometimes in the lovely imagery provided.

I promise, these hymns will tell you more about the Holy Birth of our Lord Jesus than anything I could write.

What follows is divided into three sections: The Preparation for the Nativity, The Feast of the Nativity, Orthodox Christmas Carols.

Unless so noted, videos come from the “Orthodox Christian Chants” site. In other cases I have referenced the sources when I could find them. If there are errors please let me know, so I can make the correction.

1. The Preparation for Christmas

Chanted by Father Apostolos Hill


Chanted by “Anaphora”, adapted by Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America.


Troparion from the last of the Four Royal Hours, a Service sung on the the day of the Eve of the Nativity.


Hymn from the Ninth Royal Hour 


Courtesy of the Arabic Choir of Beirut

The Great Feast of the Nativity: Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

The Troparion (chief hymn) of Christmas

Below are several versions, among many in the Orthodox world.

“Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the Light of wisdom. For by it, those who worshipped the stars, were taught by a Star to adore You, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know You, the Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You!”

Courtesy of Saint Mary’s Church (OCA), Minneapolis (Serbian tune)


Below, the image beginning at .30 shows the place in the cave in Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born.

courtesy of Lillokh


Malankara Syrian Orthodox music


“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is a lovely Western Christmans hymn, written long before the Great Schism of 1054, by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-c. 413). The conclusion of each verse (“saecula et saeculorum”) should be translated “unto ages of ages”. The Gregorian music is from the Tenth Century.  So is this Orthodox? Yes, it is.

Three verses follow below. The last verse of the hymn (not sung here) is a Western “Doxology” to the Holy Trinity – the same as an Orthodox “Doxasticon”.

9. Christ, to Thee, with God the Father
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee!
Hymn, and chant, and high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be,
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore ! Amen.

translated by John Mason Neale (Church of England, 19th c.)

courtesy of Neumes & Tunes


This is from the Canon of Orthros (the Matins service).


Kontakion Hymn for the Nativity


Orthodox Christmas Carols from all over the world

Romanian Carol: “Din Cer Senin” (From the Clear Blue Sky).

You must watch this. It is “beyond beautiful”. Below,  go to “Watch on YouTube” Then, in the address panel at the top of this page, push the little “x” and return to this Post. There is still more to come.

Chanted by choir of Camarzani monastery in Romania.

Licensed to YouTube by TuneCore (on behalf of Mănăstirea Cămârzani); UMPG Publishing, and 2 Music Rights Societies


Popular Greek Christmas Carols

courtesy of Zeena 61

In Greek Orthodox tradition, carols are sung on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) and on Eve of Epiphany (Jan. 5). The lyrics for these days are different. Groups of children go from house to house in their neighbourhood singing the carols. The singing is accompanied by the playing of triangles. Householders hear them coming and reward the children with a small amount of money or with seasonal sweets. The lyrics shown below are the “standard” ones sung in cities, although there are several regional variations, which are typically longer and make use of local dialects.

The lyrics of the Christmas Carol follow.

Good evening to you noblemen, and if it is your wish, praise here at your mansion, for Jesus’ birth I’ll sing. Jesus Christ was born today in the town of Bethlehem The skies above rejoiced. All nature was fulfilled. T’was in a cave that He was born and in a manger laid, the king of all the skies above and maker of all things. Angelic hosts are singing All glory be to God! and holy be! to shepherds. And in their faithfulness. from Persia are arriving three magi with their gifts The brightest star has led them there. No hour have they delayed.


Serbian Christmas Carol


sung by by Georgian Harmony Choir, Orthodox Church of Georgia (courtesy of Nana Peradze ნანა ფერაძე)


In the Dark Night

The text of this carol follows after the Video. If you can listen to this, while reading the words, without shedding tears… … there’s something wrong with you.

by the Monks of Svetogorskaya Lavra in Ukraine

In the dark night, over Bethlehem, The clear dawn was gone, the earth covered with light. Holy Virgin, Holy Bride, In the den of the poor Son gave birth.

Refrain: Sleep, Jesus, Sleep, Little One, Sleep, you, star, mine. Your fate, my dear, I sing to you.

Gently kissed, covered with a cloth, She put to bed, and quietly started the song: You will grow up, You, my Son, You will become an adult, Into the world you will go, My baby.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus …

The love of the Lord and the truth of God You, in a world of faith, will bring your people, The truth will live, the shackles of sin will break. But on Calvary, My child will die.

Refrain: Sleep Jesus, Jesus, sleep little baby. Sleep, my star. Your fate, my dear, I sing to you …

Sleep Jesus, Jesus, sleep little baby. Sleep, you, my pink blossom. And with hope in You the whole world is watching!


Carol of the Bells

courtesy of Pomerodia

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

A blessed and holy and happy Christmas to you all.

Next Week: I’m going to give you your New Year’s Resolutions.  Again.

Week after next: Why ever would we believe this? that in this One Man lies the Life of the World

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