He who has the Kingdom of God within himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others. People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us; they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of Heaven will gradually pass on to them. It is not even necessary to speak to people about this. The atmosphere of Heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about ordinary things. ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica
One blustery afternoon, we returned to the chilly cabin from a seaside hike, and quickly lit the fire. It was soothing to hear the kindling crackle and smell the woodsmoke. Pretty soon the stove was ablaze and we sat in companionable silence soaking in its warmth… completely mesmerized by the light-show of its dancing, vermillion embers. As we drank in the peaceful atmosphere, it was amazing to think of how simply being in the presence of a cozy fire could bring such a gift of quiet joy. With gratitude, it’s reminded me that in my life, I’ve been blessed with knowing people who emit this exact refreshing radiance and spiritual peace to others – simply by being in their presence! For, they are imbued with the Gladsome Light of Jesus Christ… our Salvific, and Divine – Comfort and Joy.
Faithfully fixing our eyes on the Joyous, Inspiring Destination ahead, we trim our wicks as it were, and proceed with continued efforts (that, speaking personally… may feel huge, but in reality are mostly quite small) to greet the Shining Feast of The Nativity of Christ.
Beginning with this month’s earlier Feast Day of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, the Katavasia Christ is Born is sung encouragingly at all vigil services… combining aspects of both the Journey and the upcoming Festal Destination. The hymns brim with Old Testament prophecies and exude mysterious prefigurements of His coming.
The Heavenly Babe calls each one of us to come to Him, with childlike faith… and fasting is a spiritual aid to do this. While there are also many celebratory fast-free periods throughout the church calendar year, half the church year is literally spent in fasting together.
Besides the Church’s usual weekly Wednesdays and Friday fast days, there are other Lenten times during the church calendar year. The most lengthy and strictest fast is the Great Lent before Pascha. Depending on the individual of course, practical health considerations (such as age, pregnancy, diabetes, etc.) may exclude full physical fasting… but there are countless other ways to spiritually fast.
Fasting of the body is food for the soul… Do you fast? Then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, do not forget the imprisoned, have pity on the tortured, comfort those who grieve and who weep, be merciful, humble, kind, calm, patient, sympathetic, forgiving, reverent, truthful and pious, so that God might accept your fasting and might plentifully grant you the fruits of repentance. ~ St. John Chrysostom
Of course, it would be easier to get to paradise with a full stomach, all snuggled up in a soft feather-bed, but what is required is to carry one’s cross along the way, for the kingdom of God is not attained by enduring one or two troubles, but many! ~ St. Anthony of Optina
Christ comes from heaven, meet ye Him! And so, like little children… let our souls fly and cling to the Heavenly Babe, and praise Him, for He is a God is Love. Let us spiritually reap the rays of His Light that illumines the world’s darkness… For He is the Sun of Righteousness, which knows no rising or setting, and He Shines ceaselessly!
The Lily symbolizes the unfading flower of virginity and purity of the Mother of God. The six anthers with amber pollen splaying out from the flower’s centre, represent the golden radiance of her soul.
The Father is Light, His Son is Light, and the Spirit, the Comforter, is Light: for, shining forth as from one sun, the Trinity divinely illuminates and preserves our souls… The prophets proclaimed thee in ages past, speaking of thee as the ark of holiness, golden censer, candlestick, and table; and we sing thy praises as the Tabernacle that held God. ~ Second Canon at the Festal Matins
The Theotokos is sometimes referred to as the Golden Candlestick; for within her, she contained the Light that Illumines the whole world.
With joy in spirit, let us go before her today, bearing the bright lamps of faith… into the temple of our hearts!
Festal Troparion, Tone 4 Today is the prelude of God’s good will / and the heralding of the salvation of mankind. / In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly, / and she proclaimeth Christ unto all. / To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud: / Rejoice, O thou fulfillment // of the Creator’s dispensation.
Festal Kontakion, Tone 4 The most pure temple of the Saviour, / the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, / the sacred treasury of the glory of God, / is on this day brought into the house of the Lord, / bringing with her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit. / And the angels of God chant praise unto her: // she is the heavenly tabernacle.
When the Mother of God entered into the Holy of Holies, the time of preparation and testing of the old Covenant came to an end, and today we keep the feast of the betrothal of God to human nature. When the Church rejoices and exhorts all the friends of God for their part to enter into the temple of their heart, there to make ready for the coming of the Lord by silence and prayer, withdrawing from the pleasures and cares of this world.