“…prepare Him room…”

Nativity Icon AntiochanI love to read, and I think because I read so much, I enjoy writing and words, in and of themselves.  The genre I seem to gravitate to, and this is a recent development for me, is a battle of good versus evil.  I read many stories of fallen angels who are here protecting us.  I also read stories with fantastical creatures in them, such as sprites, and wisps, and daemons, and faeries.  I love being able to leave my family room chair (my family calls it “THE THRONE”) and travel the world while sipping my hot “cuppa,” saving the innocent and “fighting the good fight.”  I have 4 books on my side table, with three more on hold and waiting at the library.  I am a consummate reader.

The interesting thing for me is that I realize some books just cannot hold my interest for too long because I am not invested in the characters and I am not embroiled in a mad dash to save the world!  For a homeschooling mom who is home pretty much 24/7, getting to save the world is pretty exciting stuff.  My sons are happy that I have moved on from all my Templar-themed books! Ha-Ha!  That was a long fascination and lasted until I pretty much drained the world of its fictional and non-fictional accounts of the Knights Templar.  And now I am caught up in this constant battle of good versus evil.  And I started to think about it.  And I think what holds my interest is that it is an exciting escape into a surreal world, and yet it also mirrors my life…it mirrors all our lives.  If you believe in Heaven and in God, then its opposite is also true – Evil and Satan.  And all our lives are a battle between the two.  As I spoke to in an earlier blog, of the Byzantine definition of sin, every decision you make, no matter how inconsequential, either helps you walk closer towards God and Heaven, or it leads you away from God….which is towards Evil and Satan.  There is that saying, “The road to hell is easy and simple, and paved with good intentions.”  Something along those lines. I think the original was by St. Bernard Clairvaux and went something like, “Hell is full of good wishes and desires.”  Before him, Virgil is quoted as saying, “It is easy to go to Hell.”  But you get the idea.  We struggle each and every day with small decisions.  I try to share that with my children.  Did you wake up, get out of bed, make your bed, get dressed, and come down stairs all ready to start your schooling?  Or did you wake up, drag yourself down, and plop on the couch, complaining all the while about hunger and lack of sleep?  It’s a lot of pressure to put on a child, but even how we start and end our days determine where our steps take us, and we all need to be aware of it, and start it young.

During Christmas, the ugly monster known as GREED, and sometimes even AVARICE, seems to take over even the sweetest people.  Especially children, when commercialism is all around them, brightly showing off the latest gadget or toy they “must” have.  People buy new cars just to drive them to a friend’s or family member’s house for the Christmas party, so they can show how well they are doing.  Craziness!  Gluttony is another one; I often feel that sloth and gluttony sit, one on each shoulder, pulling me off my pathway to Heaven.  Being an overweight person, eating habits are one of the weak links for me.  Obviously.  In his book, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” St. John Climacus says, “Gluttony is hypocrisy of the stomach.  Filled, it moans about scarcity; stuffed and cramped, it wails about its hunger. Gluttony has a deceptive appearance; it eats moderately, but wants to gobble everything at the same time.”  He goes on to say, “Gluttony feeds your passions, fasting takes them away.  Fasting takes away their nourishment.  The nature of the spiritual life is that they are all interconnected. We cannot allow even one passion to be unrestrained.  This is especially true of gluttony.” And at this time of year, there is so much temptation to be gluttonous – and we can use that word to apply to things, as well as food and drink.  And if we also apply that to our other passions, it can get us completely off our cycle of prayer and fasting.

  St Theophan the Recluse 2I believe that as we prepare our hearts for the Newborn Child, we need to be sure we are clean and pure of heart.  He comes as a “babe in a manger,” full of quiet, sweet love for us. If our hearts are cluttered and noisy, His Gift may go unnoticed in amongst the world’s inputs and sounds. We also need to give thanks for what we have that keeps us sustained and not what pampers us.  Pampering our senses tends to get all of them out of whack, as St. John Climacus described above.

St Maximos the Confessor 2As we continue to prepare for Our Lord’s birth, let us also think of the words of a wonderful Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World” –

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Prayer and fasting…we Byzantines are in the midst of our “pre-Christmas” fast and I can honestly tell you that in my life, fasting makes feasting even more enjoyable.  It is amazing what reigning in our passions can do for the celebration of a holy day.  Having that Christmas Feast with our families is especially joyous, as we fast in preparation for it, and we reign in our passions and focus on the Gift of the Christ Child.  I will still worry over that Turkey, but with an eye focused on the manger.



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