Nativity

Texts

Romanos the Melodist: On the Nativity II, 14

I have taken you as mother    I, the Maker of Creation,
and like an infant I grow    I, who am perfect from him who is perfect.
I am wrapped    in swaddling bands
because of them    that put on in the past cloaks of skin,
and the cave delights me    because of them that hated
delectation and Paradise    and fell in love with corruption.
They have transgressed    my life-bearing commandment.
I have come down to earth    so they may have life.
But if you learn, holy one,    what else
I must do for their sake,    the event will shake you
with all the elements    you "full of grace."Alexiou, After Antiquity, 427.

De cerimoniis: Acclamations for the Feast of the Nativity

A star goes before and shines in a cave to point out to the Magi the ruler of the sun; a new-born babe was seen, and flesh from the Virgin, wiping out the old disobedience of Adam. May he guard your power, rulers, for a long time, to the exaltation of the Romans!Book of Ceremonies, 1:37.

Cod. Marc. Gr. 524: Εἰς τὴν Χριστοῦ γέννησιν

Commentary

On Byzantine seals, the Nativity, like the Presentation of the Virgin and the Dormition of the Virgin, is an exceptionally rare scene, crowded with people and objects. All specimens come from the eleventh and twelfth centuries.Cotsonis, "Narrative Scenes on Byzantine Lead Seals," 63. In the center one can see the reclining Virgin. Below to the right is Joseph, to the left of whom are two other figures bathing Christ. Above are three Magi, presenting their gifts.

This seal belongs to Isaac Komnenos, one of several individuals of that name known from the twelfth century. The choice of such complex iconography is particularly striking, and would have made Isaac stand out from his homonymous relatives.

 
Associated Items: BZS.1951.31.5.1166

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