Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The link between Tomb and Womb

In the life of the Orthodox Church we can easily identify the link between the festivities. Such is also the case between the Birth and Death of Christ. This relationship is evident through the Byzantine hymnological tradition, for example we sing a similar hymn in both festivities: Today he is Born of a Virgin…, Today He is hung…St Ephrem wishes to show this relationship, to emphasise the link between the virginal womb with the sealed tomb of Christ. Both of these declare the mystery of the Risen Christ. St Ephrem proclaims:

‘By your resurrection you convinced them about your birth, for the den was sealed and the grave was secured – the pure one in the den and the living one in the grave. You witnesses were the sealed den and the grave. The womb and Sheol shouted with joy and cried out about your resurrection. The womb that was sealed conceived you; Sheol that was secured, brought you forth. Against nature the womb conceived and Sheol yielded. Sealed was the grave which they entrusted with keeping the dead man. Virginal was the womb that no man knew. The virginal womb and the sealed grave like trumpets for a deaf people, shouted in its ear.’[1]   
Additionally, St Augustine also comments on this link between Tomb and Womb, explaining: ‘He is believed to have been conceived on 25 March, and also to have suffered on that day. Thus to the new tomb he was buried in, where no mortal body was laid before or after, there corresponds the womb he was conceived in, where no mortal body was sown before or after.’[2]

[1] St Ephrem of Syria, Hymns on the Nativity, 10.6-8. Trans. K.E. McVey (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist press, 1989).
[2] Augustine, On the Trinity, 4.2.9., Trans. E. Hill (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1991). 

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