PREPARING OUR “BETHLEHEM”

Friday, December 21, 2018

     “Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all! / Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the tree of life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave! / Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the Divine Fruit: / If we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam. / Christ is coming/being born (γεννᾶται) to restore (ἀναστήσων) the image/icon (εἰκόνα) which He made in the beginning!” (Troparion-hymn, Forefeast of Nativity)

 

     Christ comes into our world to turn things around; to transfigure the previously death-bringing into the life-bringing. He comes and creates in us a new “spiritual paradise,” gifting us a new kind of productivity, by His grace, in which His word “blossoms forth” from us in ever-new ways. As He promises anyone who believes in Him, “the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4: 14)

 

     In the above-quoted hymn, the Church calls each of us to identify with “Beth-le-hem,” meaning “House of Bread” in Hebrew (and interestingly, “House of Meat” in Arabic), preparing our own “house,” as unseemly as it may be, to receive the Bread of Life, now “opened to all.” This doesn’t mean mustering up “the Christmas spirit” by my own, Christmas-related efforts, but rather opening my heart to Christ, in a bit more stillness, gratitude and humility before the Mystery of the upcoming feast. “Christ is coming to restore the image which He made in the beginning.“

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