Why “Sun of Justice”?
The ecclesiastical feast day celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ—which came to be called simply “Christ’s Mass,” or “Christmas” in English—was added to the calendar in the Eastern Church somewhat later than were other major feasts. Originally Christ’s Nativity and Baptism were celebrated on the same day: Epiphany (January 6th). Much has been written concerning what influences—Pagan, Persian, or Christian—led to December 25th becoming the feast day of the Nativity of Christ. All three—the late Roman Pagan holiday of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, the ancient Persian celebration of the birth of Mithras (the “Sun of Justice”), and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ—were each in the mind of the Roman populace to one extent or another during the development of the Christian calendar. This may explain why one of the main hymnological themes for Christmas is light in general and the sun specifically: Orthodox hymnography refers to Christ “dawning from a Virgin,” to his Nativity making “the light of knowledge dawn on the world,” and to him as the “Dayspring from on high,” or “Dayspring from the East.” The hymns even apply the title “Sun of Justice” to Jesus Christ. Christians seemed to say, “You all worship the sun in the sky or call this false god Mithras the ‘Sun of Justice,’ whereas we worship the true God, the spiritual, noetic ‘Sun of Justice’: Jesus Christ, the Son of God and true giver of light and life.”
This imagery permeates the feast’s hymnography, which also explores the paradox of God becoming man and the Virgin giving birth; the humility of the Son of God in his Incarnation; and the sanctifcation of the earth, the deification of humanity, and the reconciliation of God and Man in the God-Man Jesus Christ. The hymns culminate in creation’s universal exaltation: “Shout with joy, to the Lord, all the Earth!” “Glory to God in the highest!”
Sun of Justice Concert Series
Cappella’s Associate Music Director John Michael Boyer directs exhilarating Byzantine chants for Christmastide in Greek, Arabic, and English. Featuring Lebanon-born guest soloist, Rev’d Deacon John (Rassem) El Massih, and the release of a new CD of the program.
With performances in Seattle, Portland, Salem, and Sacramento.