“O people, let us celebrate the Forefeast of Christ’s Nativity! Let us raise our minds on high, as we go up to Bethlehem in spirit! With spiritual thoughts, let us contemplate the Virgin as she hastens to the cave to give birth to the Lord and God of all...” (Stichera-hymn of Byzantine Vespers, December 20)
Today is the second day of the “Forefeast” (Προεόρτια, Предпразднство) of the Nativity, for those on the “New” Calendar. The five days of the Nativity-Forefeast are traditionally a time of intensified fasting and intensified focus on the “vision” of the upcoming feast. As we can see in the above-quoted hymn, we are invited to “raise our minds on high” and place ourselves in the midst of the world-changing Event, unfolding in and through the lives of the Virgin and Joseph; to “go up to Bethlehem in spirit,” and to “contemplate the Virgin as she hastens to the cave…”
This year, even as we contemplate the Virgin “hastening” to the cave, many of us will not be able to “hasten” to our churches.We will be greeting the Lord as did the shepherds, from the place we both live and work now, our homes. Let me not be discouraged, but rather blessed, by these circumstances, letting myself come to the One Who comes to us, wherever and however we are. “Let us raise our minds on high, as we go up to Bethlehem in spirit,” I say in my “cave” today, as I light a cinammon-scented Christmas candle and start my day.