Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: nativity from Philip's Encyclopedia

Birth of a New Testament figure as marked by a Christian feast. In general, the term refers to the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem as described in the Gospels.


Summary Article: Nativity of the Lord
from The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity

The Nativity of the Lord is the liturgical feast commemorating the coming in flesh (incarnation) of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity: God made man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God among us. It is popularly known as Christmas. Jesus was born in Bethlehem of the Holy Virgin Mary, through the descent of the Holy Spirit, without the contribution of a human father. The Orthodox doctrine affirms the virginal conception and birth of the Lord and venerates Mary as the Ever-Virgin (Aei-Parthenos). Jesus was born during the reign of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, in the year 754 ab Urbe condita, when a census was taking place in the Roman Empire.

The event has a universal dimension, as it is accomplished for and through the whole creation. The icon of nativity depicts hosts of angels singing joyous hymns, shepherds who come to worship the light in the cave and a star guiding the three wise men who traveled from the Far East to glorify the Holy Infant and offer precious gifts. The icon is inspired by the liturgy and reflects the biblical account, yet also includes elements handed down by tradition.

Nativity is celebrated on a fixed date (December 25) in the Orthodox Churches (those following the old calendar still celebrate it on that date, although they reckon it as falling 13 days later). It is one of the most important feasts in the calendar after the Great Feasts of Pascha and Pentecost. The dates of other fixed feasts (Annunciation, for example) are established in relation to it.

The Nativity of the Lord is to be understood as a spiritual symbol too, because Jesus must be born in the soul of each human being, a mystery which will determine an ontological change in those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior. His birth is the premise of all his redeeming work, through which human persons can attain godlikeness (Greek theosis or deification).

SEE ALSO: Deification; Incarnation (of the Logos); Nativity of the Theotokos; Theotokos, the Blessed Virgin

REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS
  • McKinion, S. A. (2000) Words, Imagery, and the Mystery of Christ. Leiden: Brill.
  • McGuckin, J. A. (2004) St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
  • Macleod, D. (ed.) (1998) The Person of Christ. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • O’Collins, G. (2002) Incarnation. London: Continuum.
  • Wiley ©2010

    Related Articles


    Full text Article Nativity of the Lord
    The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity

    The Nativity of the Lord is the liturgical feast commemorating the coming in flesh (incarnation) of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity: God made

    Full text Article nativity
    Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

    pronunciation (14c) 1 : the process or circumstances of being born :birth; esp cap : the birth of Jesus 2 : a horoscope at or of the time of one's b

    Full text Article nativity
    The Penguin English Dictionary

    /nətiviti/ noun ( pl -ies ) ( pl nativities ) 1 one's birth. 2 a ( the Nativity ) the birth of Jesus Christ. b ...

    See more from Credo