WHAT’S THE POINT OF NATIVITY FAST and ADVENT?
(Saturday, December 2)
“O Lord, I have heard Your report, and was afraid: I considered Your works, and was amazed: You shall be known between the two living creatures, You shall be acknowledged when the years draw nigh; You shall be manifested when the time is come; when my soul is troubled, You will in wrath remember mercy. God shall come from Thaeman, and the Holy One from the shady mount Pharan…” (Habbakuk/Avvakum 3:2-3, LXX)
Today, my friends, NC-people celebrate the above-quoted Prophet Avvakum/Habbakuk (whose prophecy I’ll discuss at our zoom-meeting today); OC-people celebrate another of the Minor Prophets, Abdias (Obadiah); we on both the OC and NC continue our journey through Nativity Fast; and Western Christian traditions approach the first Sunday of Advent. All-of-the-above is part of our preparation for the upcoming feast of the Lord’s Nativity. How and why are we meant to be *prepared* for Christmas? I decided to reflect on the purposes of this pre-Christmas (fasting) season, so that my own journey through it be more consciously purposeful.
1. THEOPTIA. The first thing our church-traditions are helping us work on right now is our *vision*. More specifically, our capacity for “Theoptia,” which means “seeing God.” In order to behold or “see God” being born to us in Bethlehem, my heart, mind, and body need a bit of a house-cleaning. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The fasting-discipline, including some extra attentiveness and tender-loving-care of my spiritual and physical health, helps me to re-focus on the presence of a tender-loving-and-caring God in my life. 2. WAKING UP. I’m being awakened from the indifference and complacency to the Advent or coming of Christ into my world, which may have settled into my heart amidst the concerns and fears that creep into the heart when I lose focus, lose God-reliance, and get self-reliant and self-centered. This spiritual awakening to God, others, and myself is helped through 3. HUNGER & THIRST of a healthy kind. The kind of hunger and thirst that the Holy Prophets had, for the coming of the Messiah, is one I re-embrace when we celebrate them and immerse ourselves in their prophecies this season. I turn away from not-healthy desires and aspirations, either physical or spiritual, which infect me with the “More” Disease: they always demand “more” and are never satisfied. This season I let myself join the blessed, those who *are* satisfied: “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” 4. JOY & PEACE. Ultimately, the bit of daily, consistent “work” on my spiritual and physical health this season liberates me to experience true joy and peace, coming to all of us from an unexpected, unassuming place, a little cave in Bethlehem.
Joy takes work. Peace takes work. And as far as I’m concerned, it begins in my own little “cave.” Let me take up this dignifying work today, as I clean house, that I may see more clearly the abundant light pouring out on all of us from the most unexpected places.