The Christmas Eve Royal Hours

Today is born of the Virgin Him Who holdest all creation in the hollow of His hand. He Whose essence is untouchable is wrapped in swaddling clothes as a babe. The God Who from of old established the heavens lieth in a manger. He Who showered the people with manna in the wilderness feedeth on milk from the breasts. And the bridegroom of the Church calleth the Magi. And the Son of the Virgin accepteth gifts from them. We worship Thy Nativity, O Christ, we worship Thy Nativity, O Christ, we worship Thy Nativity, O Christ. Show us also Thy divine Theophany!

With its Divine leadership, the church of Christ, trough its rich hymnography and tradition of Divine services, has already introduced us in the great mystery of the Nativity holiday. Thus today, according to the established liturgical Typikon, the so called Christmas Eve Royal (or Great) Hours were served in the church of the Baptist at the Bigorski monastery, which actually marks the Eve of Nativity.

They are called Royal because in the ancient East Roman Empire they were always served in the presence of the Emperor and ended with a polychronion for him, as well as for the Patriarch. The main feature of the Royal Hours is singing of the twelve festive troparia, accompanied by readings from the psalms of Prophet David, old testament prophesies, Apostolic and Evangelical readings, the content of which represent the meaning and the importance of the holiday. The prophesying tone finds it’s reflection in the Apostolic readings and in the wonderful verses of the troparia. The evangelical quotes already clearly recount the event of the great mystery of the Incarnation of God Logos.

Especially rich in content is the Ninth Hour, when the canonarch in festive voice and harmoniously recites the touching verse: Today is born of the Virgin… Also, according to the ancient practice, at the end of the ninth Hour, our canonarch proclaimed loudly the polychronion, first for the Head of the Prime and great Mother Church in Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarchate, His All Holiness Mr. Bartholomew, and then for all the other Heads of the Local Orthodox Churches in order, including the newly proclaimed Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Mr. Ephiphanius, which is a great joy, because a years-long wound of the Orthodoxy has finally been healed. This ceremonious act ended with the polychronion in honor of our Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia and Iustiniana Prima, his Beatitude Mr. Stephen, then for our most respected Archipastor of the God-protected diocese of Debar and Kichevo, the Most Reverent Mr. Timothy, and finally for our Elder end Abbot, Archimandrite Parthenius.

The royal Hours are truly a graceful, divine experience of an especially festive atmosphere, where the temporal fades away, almost vanishes and gives place to the eternal. Now the gates of the Nativity of Christ, stand open before us…

Let us also open our hearts for the newborn King of human hearts, so that He could move into them! We wish you all a good and joyful Christmas.