Friday, December 17, 2010

One Man's Advent Reflection

From: gregorios20039
Sent: Friday, December 17, 2010
Subject: One Man's Advent Reflection

First, much of this has been said before and better. Second, I write for
myself and for no one else. And finally, I write from the perspective of an
apartment in the cold snow-blanketed American Mid-west, in a country where
Orthodox Christians are an inconspicuous minority. Your country, climate,
customs and calendar may be very different. Indeed, I hope that much of
them are.

Today, feeling truly sick in body as well as a bit in mind and spirit, I was
forced to slow down and reflect on the ancient wisdom of the Church in this
season. The holiday invitations I got in my e-mail did not make me feel any
better. This season is not Christmas, it is Advent. The Church has wisely
designated this time as weeks of fasting and spiritual preparation.
In Holy Tradition, with many local variations, the celebration of the
Christmas season lasts for 12 days, from the Feast of the Holy Nativity
(Christ Mass) until the celebration of the visit of the Three Kings or Wise
Men from the East and the celebration of Christ's baptism in the Jordon,
where a dove descended on Him and a voice cried out from heaven saying, "You
are my beloved Son." Christmas is linked to Epiphany, God's revelation in
the world. The Christmas season and celebration begins on the night of the
Holy Nativity.

In modern America, however, the Christmas decorations go out on store
shelves by Halloween (at the end of October). The next big holiday is
American Thanksgiving, the last Thursday in November (a feast rightly
celebrating God's abundant harvest and true human friendship). The merchants
launch the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving, when shoppers take
off like racers out of the starting gate, requiring special provisions at
some stores to handle the crowds. This is followed by a round of parties
sponsored by nearly every business and organization, secular and religious,
plying us with abundant food and drink, extra-ordinarily high in calories,
sugar, salt, dairy, meat, and alcohol. (This in a society where few of us do
manual labor in the cold and our number one health problem is how we eat-to
the point that average American lifespan is falling--and our doctors are
telling us to reduce calories, sugar, salt, dairy, meat, and alcohol for the
preservation of our physical lives!)

Then by afternoon on Christmas Day, and certainly the day after that, on the
Feast of St. Steven, drivers will start to see Christmas trees, shorn of
their ornaments, dumped forlornly on the street curb. Christmas is done and
over. Then follows the big emotional let down, millions of people depressed
in the darkest coldest days of winter.

And Christmas Day, The Big Day, was never like that in the wonderful sugary
scenes depicted on Christmas cards that Americans exchange in such abundance
it overloads our postal system. Instead, Christmas reminded my father of
the death of the sister who raised him; this Christmas may be my mother's
last on this earth. That is not just my story. That is the true Christmas
story of every household.

So how do we Orthodox Christians in lands that are not predominantly
Orthodox Christian keep ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually
healthy? 1) I am not going to every party I have been invited to. 2) We are
bidden by Holy Scripture to fast in private, going out in good clothes, our
skin oiled. I intend to dress up, put on my skin moisturizer, be the good
guest, accept one little piece offered and eat it with joy and gratitude,
and no more. 3) I am intending to keep my home and business life as simple
as possible-that is an even greater challenge in fasting than in food. If I
do not do that, I become physically ill. 4) I am giving some time to
spiritual reflection and seeking opportunities to assist those who have less
than I do.

And then, 5) during The Great Twelve Days of Christmas, when my friends are
caught in the winter gloom of cold, snow, darkness and emotional let-down,
invite them to celebrate with me the Christmas season as the Holy Church in
its great wisdom as taught us to do, lighting one small candle in the

Let us remember one another in our prayers.
Geoffrey Gyrisco
Member of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission

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    Blogger mathew t.p said...

    It is an inspirational read.Life in the real with the Holy Orthodox vision enriched is the effect on the reader. And this reflects many many other lives,like mine; in this Christmas season around the world.
    Love Of Christmas with prayers.
    Prasad Mathew,
    Abu Dhabi

    10:12 AM  
    Blogger Dn Shaun Mathew said...

    Reading this was very encouraging in that it shows that the ethos of Orthodoxy is alive and well at the Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission. Gave me strength for this last leg of Advent. The Holy Trinity is surely guiding and strengthening you, and may this be much prolonged.
    Sub Dn Shaun Mathew
    St Thomas Orthodox Syrian Church, Detroit
    1st yr MA Syriac,
    SEERI, Kottayam

    11:40 AM  

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