November 17, 2022

How To Properly Prepare for Christmas (Metr. Athanasios of Limassol)

 By Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol

The period leading up to Christmas is especially blessed by God, because it leads us liturgically and festively to the main day, where the Orthodox Church celebrates the event of Christ's birth. Like all the feasts of our Church, Christmas does not only have a commemorative character, but the main purpose is for man to share in this grace, which God gives through the feasts of our Church.

It has been observed through the experience of the Saints and Fathers of our Church that these days are distinguished for the overflowing grace that is diffused by God and the Holy Spirit to the faithful and are stations in our lives from which we can draw this grace and the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, every day we celebrate the mystery of the birth of the Word of God and we participate in the whole life of the Lord by celebrating the Eucharist.

Our Church has handed us some things which, by observing them, help us to progress spiritually. First she prepares us with a period of fasting. Fasting helps man detach his mind from earthly things, helps his nous in prayer, pushes the heart to seek Divine Grace, moves the heart to prayer and union with the nous, cleanses the body of the impulses towards the passions and sin. In general, as a means, which Christ Himself delivered to us, it is considered by the Fathers that it is one of the first and basic weapons in the spiritual struggle. Of course, fasting is not only about food. It is the fasting from all our desires, expenses, types of clothes, events, and basically in what we hear and in what we see.

Since it is a time of fasting, it is also a time of almsgiving. The early Christians during the fast had the remaining money they had left over from everyday things for almsgiving.

Another spiritual weapon is confession. We come to the mystery of confession in order to cleanse our souls of all that we as human beings have acquired in our daily events and the adventures of our daily life. God does not demand that we become sinless, because this is outside of our nature. In our weakness we are faced with passions, sins, weaknesses and our shortcomings. Sin is not only the violation of God's law, but also the lack of our love for God, the failure of turning our soul towards God. The fact that we are called to love God absolutely and yet we cannot respond is the essence of our sin.

Besides fasting, almsgiving and confession, another spiritual weapon is prayer. During this time, if the Christian fills his time with prayer, especially with the monologue of noetic prayer and the invocation of the name of Christ, he will have continuous communion with God, which prepares the heart for communion with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.