“Christ is born! Glorify Him!”
“How was He, who cannot be contained in any way, be contained in the womb? How can He, who is in the bosom of the Father, be held in the arms of the Mother? Certainly, this transpired just as He knew it, as He willed it, as He condescended. For being without flesh, He willingly became incarnate, and became Being itself, He became for us that which He was not, and was not inseparate from His nature. He shared in of what we were composed. Christ was born with dual natures wanting to fulfill the heavenly world.” ~Hymn from the Kathismata of Nativity Orthros
Dearest Spiritual Ohana,
The Mystery and Glory of our Lord’s Wondrous Birth and Incarnation is commemorated and celebrated in this month of December. In the days leading up to Christmas, we Orthodox Christians follow or rather should be following a 40-day Fast in anticipation of this Glorious Feast. Unlike the Great Lenten Fast which is penitential in character, the Fast leading us to the Nativity is anticipatory and much less strict in character. Outside of the typical Wednesday and Friday Fast, which is usually always strict with the exception of Feast of the Theotokos’ Entry into the Temple, even if it falls on a Wednesday or Friday, all the other days of the week allow for fish and wine up to December 12th.
But why fast during this Advent Season, while it seems the rest of the world is partying? St. Gregory the Theologian gives us a most clear answer to this question: “This is what we are celebrating today: the Coming of God to man, that we might go forth, or rather that we might go back to God, that putting off the old man we might put on the new; and that we have died in Adam, so we might live in Christ. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not after the manner of a pagan festival, but in a godly way. And how shall this be? Let us not decorate our porches, nor attend dances, nor adorn the streets…these are the ways that lead to evil and are the entrances of sin. Let us leave all these things to the pagans. But let us, who are worshipers of the true God, if we must in some way have luxury, let us seek it in God’s Word and the Law and the Scriptures.”
St. Gregory is not telling us not to put up our Christmas trees and decorations and so forth. We should do these things, because in doing these things as Orthodox Christians we are remembering the Glory of His Holy Birth and should be! The problem comes when we focus on and overemphasize the secular aspects of the season, such as getting carried away with buying and giving gifts and overindulging at parties with food and drink and overspending without any correlation with or thought of the Birth of Christ. This is a major “disconnect” with what the Feast is all about! In fasting, we seek to see the Nativity for what it truly is, which is the ultimate expression of God’s Immeasurable Love for us which is so far beyond what we humans can possibly grasp!
How could we not but glorify God for stooping so low, in His Love for humankind, by taking on our human flesh (Incarnation)? This love God has for us should never become old or “commonplace” in our lives. Focus on God’s Glory and Love, always! As we go through life’s journeys, let us never cease to forget God’s Glory and His Boundless Love for us! I wish all of you True and Everlasting Joy, not fleeting happiness, in celebrating our Lord’s Holy Birth.
With Love in Christ,
Agrippina the Martyr of Rome; Holy Martyrs Aristocleus the Priest, Demetrius the Deacon and Athanasius the Reader; The Holy New Archpriest Martyrs Gerasimus of Crete, Neophytos of Knossos, Joachim of Cherronisos, Hierotheos of Lampi, Zachariah of Sitia, Joachim of Petra, Gerasimos of Rethymno, Kallinikos of Kydonia, Melchizedek of Kissamos, Kallinikos of Diopolos, and those Martyred with Them (1821-1822); Mark, Bishop of Ephesus; Etheldreda the Queen