A Saturday Thought before Christmas

On this Saturday, I invite you to contemplate this bit of wisdom from St.Ambrose of Milan:

“He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His. He took it not to overturn it but to fill it.”

If we are to ever escape the constant and consistent gravitational pull of mediocrity and pride, we will have to come to grips with the reality that God became flesh for our sake.

Stop. Take a moment. When you enter the sanctuary of your church, look around. Does it make visible the reality of the enfleshing of God? Is your life filled with constant reminders that God has become flesh? Do you believe in the Incarnation of God to the point that it changes your behavior toward others, toward God, even toward yourself.

This Christmas season is given to us to contemplate that very reality and to go further; to also contemplate the twin reality of the Incarnation, the enfleshing of God – We are called to be “engodded” as He is enfleshed.

Perhaps the times for excuses and half-measures are over in your life. Perhaps it’s time to throw off the mundane and mediocre and actually stand in the face of the glory of the Manger and deal with the implications of that creation-changing event. Perhaps it’s time to re-christianize Christmas in your life.

Just a thought. Do with it what you will.

2 comments:

  1. I recall my second Orthodox celebration of the Nativity in 1993. I had only become Orthodox 18 months earlier, left the world and entered a rustic, remote monastery in northern California. The monastery celebrated according to the Old Calendar, but this recollection has nothing to do with calendar polemics.

    The first year had been a continuous blur of new experiences, celebrating the lives of saints on a daily basis in a rich monastic cycle of services, interspersed with special feast commemorations and the Twelve Great Festal celebrations. This, of course, was complicated (yet, paradoxically simplified) by adjusting to a life with no electricity, no running water, no newspapers and no easy contact with the outside world. By the second year, I began to quietly anticipate the coming fasting and festal seasons.

    I had a dentist appointment in a small town 30 miles away on December 27th … or, December 14th for the monastery. I enjoyed this dentist’s office. All of the staff were dedicated Protestants, always polite and pleasant.

    This visit was quite different. While the staff was not impolite or unpleasant, they were all unusually subdued and quiet. Then, I realized … their Christmas had already passed. All of the celebrations and parties were over. Bills would begin flooding in. Their energy had been drained. Their was no lingering joy for them in the memory of the celebration of the Incarnation of God among us. And, after the fact, these Christians were mildly depressed and deflated.

    As I drove back to the monastery, I found myself entirely overjoyed … almost giddy with a deep happiness, yet struck by the sadness of the staff I had just left. We monks were all still fasting during the Nativity Lent. Our celebrations would come after the feast of the Incarnation, not before. We were all moving steadily toward the commemoration with growing anticipation. I suddenly recognized, I had been celebrating Christmas exactly backwards my entire life.

    In the 5th century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem would speak in special Bright Week sermons to his former catechumens, following their baptism on Holy Saturday. He would remind them that each had come to the Church from a different path and for different reasons. But, having arrived, he encouraged them to look around them and realize into what realm they had come.

    Thank you, Fr. Barnabus, for reminding us that our Orthodox Christian temples surround us with tremendous Divine Mystery. But, it remains up to us to recognize these mysteries and to embrace them for ourselves. We have the ability to push the profane and the secular behind us, but it requires our active involvement and participation with God Incarnate.

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