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Thursday, December 15, 2011
Celebrating the Incarnation
I am struck by how so many, including myself, have trivialized the event that has received such popular celebration. Businesses and schools are shutdown, many for a week, gift giving in excess is the norm. Parties are given, often with elaborate decorations and free flowing drinks. Many even string lights outlining the whole house. Streets in many towns are decorated. But why are we all going to all this trouble? Is this the way we are called to celebrate God? Is this how we worship?
Saint Gregory the Theologian writes,
Christ is born, glorify Him! Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him! Sing to the Lord and the whole earth...rejoice with trembling and joy!
So how are we to glorify and meet Him?
Let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own but as belonging to Him who is ours, or rather as our Master's; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation.
And how shall this be? Let us not decorate our porches, nor organize dances, nor adorn our streets. Let us not feast the eye, nor enchant the ear with music... Let us not toast with fragrant wines, the specialties of cooks,... Let us not strive to outdo each other in intemperance...
We, the object of whose adoration is the Word, if we must in some way have luxury, let us seek it in word, and in the divine Law, and in histories, especially those that are the origin of this feast, so that our luxury may be akin to and not far removed from Him Who has called us together.
If Gregory's words make you feel a bit guilty in the way you traditionally celebrate this most miraculous event of the Incarnation of God, so be it. It does me. Remind yourself of the teaching of the Church and how she calls for a fast in preparation. Be reminded that instead of waiting with anticipation for the arrival of Santa, the Church has an all night vigil in prayer climaxed with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and receiving His very Body and Blood into our own bodies to be united with Him, just as he united Himself with us. Following this we have a period of celebration, celebrating God becoming man so we could become gods, become like Him, joining in union with Him for eternal life in His Kingdom.
Let's seek ways to celebrate this spiritual event that is not like the heathen feast of pagans, but as is due the God of infinite mercy who now lives in our hearts because of His Becoming man.
Reference: On The Manifestation of God in the birth of the Christ, oration 38 of St Gregory the Theologian