nativity photoHave you ever wondered why fasting is necessary before the feast of the Nativity? It is a joyful receiving of our Lord, what we really want to do is build up an excitement day by day leading up to Christ’s birth. It does not have the same feel as Lent with constant repentance and a journey leading you to the cross and then the resurrection. The hymns are not sad but are full of glorifications so why are we fasting? Other churches build the occasion up as a joyful expectation with early gifts and carol songs. But perhaps there is more to the event than an expectation of the Lord, perhaps there is a call on us to also change and be prepared as well.

For their must also be a truly deep mystery to this feast. He who always existed is born; He who was never created grew in the womb of St. Mary.

Part of our problem is that we do not approach this great mystery with wonder and amasement, we have become so accustomed to the story that we almost forget it is a spiritual feast. We have made it all about the children, the nativity story is for them, the plays and presents and the whole atmosphere is about the children feeling the wonder and excitement of Christmas and we have sanitised it of its mystery. As such we often fail to fully grasp the true spiritual depth of this event and its life changing consequences for all mankind.

To counter this superficial approach we fast for 40 days.

We must prepare ourselves for in actual fact this feast is about us. The mistake is to sit back and be joyful that God has come to us. When the reality is that this is a feast to celebrate us being elevated to Him. It is not about His humility, but an unquenchable love that is taking human form to absorb us completely and raise us high above the earth. It is about our nature transforming from one of the earth and corruptible to one of heaven and incorruptible again. Our transformation is just as remarkable as Gods arrival in the flesh. It is the moment that God says to us that we are worth saving; we are worthy of God’s deliverance.

So it is us that must take the spiritual journey, we do not watch and receive joyfully we must prepare. For Christ will not reveal Himself just for the spectacle of it, not as a party trick but so that He can take hold of us and elevate us from death and despair into a state of life and eternity. If we are not ready to hold on to Him than we will get left behind, so we must be ready. Think how many people Christ approached and asked to follow Him? Did they all leave everything and just follow? Most of us are not able to just be ready we are firmly attached to this world, we spend our time thinking of this world with our problems, relationships, commitments and dreams, we build and spend our time preparing for life in this world so we can make the most of it. So when God comes to elevate us beyond it we feel a tug in our hearts that says no. Our hearts say there are too many very important things happening in our lives we are not ready to be absorbed and elevated into a spiritual world were God is our passion and dedication to Him comes before all. A key discipline that combats this selfish thinking is charity. Hence its importance this time of the year; it is not just to provide for the poor it is for us, to train us to freely let go of our time and money without holding back and without reserving things for ourselves. So we give while picturing Christ receiving it as if it was our very own soul that we are sharing out.

Further Articles:

On The Incarnation by St. Athanasius (This is a summary. Click here to view full book.

Contemplations on the Hymn Eparthanos

Questions on the Nativity by HH Pope Shenouda III




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