December 22, 2014

Elder Paisios the Athonite on Christmas

Christ, in His great love and great delight that causes the souls of the faithful to jump for joy for all His holy feasts, resurrects us truly since He raises us up to spiritual heights. It is sufficient that we participate and have a spiritual appetite to celebrate spiritually; then we spiritually party and spiritually get drunk from the heavenly wine the saints bring us at their expense.

To live the feasts we must have our mind on the holy days and not on the work we have to do for the holy days. Let us think about the events of each holy day and say the Prayer while glorifying God. In this way we will celebrate each feast with much reverence.

Contemplate and live the divine events continuously. When someone contemplates the events of each feast, physiologically they will be moved with a special reverence to pray. Then during the Services the mind will be on the events we are celebrating and we will follow the hymns that are chanted with reverence. When the mind is on divine meanings, a person lives the events, and so it is altered.

- Elder, after the Christmas vigil we do not sleep.

Sleep on Christmas?! My mother would say to me: "Tonight only the Jews sleep." You see, the night Christ was born the rulers were in a deep sleep, and the shepherds remained in the fields. They guarded their sheep at night while playing the flute. Do you understand? The shepherds who kept vigil saw Christ.

- What was the cave like, Elder?

It was a cave in a cliff that had a manger; nothing else was there. Some poor people would go there and leave their animals. The Panagia and Joseph, because all the inns were full and they had no place to stay, ended up in this cave. Inside were a donkey and an ox, who warmed Christ with their breath! Doesn't the Prophet Isaiah say: "The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger" (Is. 1:3)?

- It is said in a hymn, Elder, that the Most Holy Theotokos, when she saw the newborn Christ "rejoiced and together with tears" wondered: "Shall I give you food, You Who nourish the universe, or shall I hymn You as my Son and my God? How shall I address You?"

These are the mysteries of God, the very great condescension of God, which we are unable to comprehend.

- Elder, how can we live the event of the Nativity, that Christ "Today is born of a Virgin"?

To live these divine events, our minds must be on the divine meanings. Then a person is altered. We chant: "A great and paradoxical miracle is accomplished today." If our mind is there, on the "paradoxical", then we will live the great mystery of the Nativity of Christ.

I will pray that your hearts become a Holy Manger and that the Most Holy Child of Bethlehem give you all his blessings.

Source: From the book Elder Paisios the Athonite "On Prayer", 6th Discourse. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.