Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor… ~ St. Nicholas of Myra (From the Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Vol. 4: by St. Demetrius of Rostov)
Today we’re alsohalf way through the joyousNativity Fast, in anticipation and preparation for the Birth of Christ!
Sung by the GG’s after Liturgy, on a past St. Nicholas Day… before heading home and tucking into a slice of our family’s traditional lenten St. Nicholas Day Pie recipe!
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!
There is no need to make long prayers, but extend your hands and say, ‘Lord, as you will and as you desire, lead me.’ If the conflict us urgent within you, say, ‘Lord help.’ He knows what is good for us, and He acts with mercy toward us. ~ St. Macarius the Great
Read often and insatiably the books of the teachers of the Church on divine providence, for they lead the mind to discern the order in God’s creatures and His actions, give it strength, and by their subtleness they prepare it to acquire luminous intuitions and guide it in purity toward the understanding of God’s creatures. Read also the Gospels, which God ordained for knowledge for the whole world, that you may find provisions for your journey in the might of God’s providence for every generation, and that your intellect may plunge deeply into wonder at Him. Such reading furthers your aim. Let your reading be done in a stillness which nothing disturbs… Reading assists the soul when she stands in prayer… From reading the soul is enlightened in prayer… Whenever it happens to you that your soul is shrouded by thick darkness from within and… for a brief time is deprived of spiritual comfort and the light of grace on account of the cloud of passions that overshadows her; and further, that the joy-producing power in your soul is curtailed for a little, and your mind is overshadowed by an unwonted mist: then do not be troubled in mind, do not lend a hand to despondency. But be patient, be engaged in reading the books of the Doctors of the Church, compel yourself in prayer, and expect to receive help. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian
The various patristic texts, which thank God are available by the thousands today, are very helpful. One can find whatever one needs and desires in these books. They are authentic spiritual nourishment and a sure guide on the spiritual path. However, in order to be of benefit to us, they have to be read with humility and prayer… We do not need great knowledge to be devout. If we concentrate and ponder on the few things we know, our heart will be spiritually embroidered. One may be profoundly affected by a single hymn, while another may feel nothing, even though he may know all the hymns by heart, as he has not entered into the spiritual reality. So, read the Fathers, even one or two lines a day. They are very strengthening vitamins for the soul. ~Elder Paisios the Athonite
Rear view of family housing in Bari, Italy – 2017. This is near St. Nicholas the Wonderworker Basilica, which houses his myrrh-streaming relics. They were moved in the 11th century from his original shrine in Myra, Turkey, to Bari, Italy- for protection, when Myra came under Saracen rule.