In Preparation for the Nativity of Christ
Christmas in the Orthodox Church
A key aspect of how Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate any liturgical feast is in our preparation for the feast. In preparation for the Nativity of Christ, Orthodox Christians fast, according to their capabilities, for the forty days leading up to the feast. We do this to prepare the lowly caves (mangers) of our hearts – which are home to the irrational beasts of passion – to receive Christ during the Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day.
Fasting in the Orthodox Church is not just an exercise in food selection or portion control but includes almsgiving, mindful abstention from potentially harmful words, deeds, and actions, as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s Incarnation. But the Church never forces the individual. While Church stresses participation in this cycle of preparation and fulfillment (because it can be life-giving!), Orthodox Christians are free to do as they like to prepare (or not prepare) in this manner.
Small “t” traditions vary in local Orthodox communities – such as the time of Liturgy, what the community does afterward, how people celebrate with family, and so on – but the means of preparation is the same. But one thing is for certain: the primary reason we celebrate Christmas is because Christ is come, in the flesh, to heal the human person.
And so the Church beckons us to taste and see that the Lord is good.
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