To my few loyal readers discouraged by my lack of posts…I’m sorry. I’ve been away from a computer, and am now away from a high speed connection. (I know, I know…there’s always some type of excuse with me, isn’t there?)
Tomorrow marks the end of the Nativity season with the Theophany. My work schedule has taken me from my parish home and will make it impossible to get to a service. (I’m seriously bummed)
It’s been a difficult Nativity season, for probably a number of reasons, but one being that it’s hard enough to be the one of the only Orthodox Christian I know outside my church on a normal Sunday, but it’s harder by far on a major American holiday. My deep thanks to my mom and grandma for traveling with me to my parish on Sunday, Dec. 26. It meant so much.
But I did have a little bit of time to reflect on a few things, and one was how much the Christmas season has always spoken to me spiritually, though it has often been an extremely difficult time personally. One of the things I’d noticed was how reverent the period was for so many Evangelical Christians, not particularly known for their love of tradition and symbol. There’s more candles, more artwork, more somber hymnology (Silent Night, O Come O Come Emmanuel). It almost felt, to me anyway, that Christians seemed to need to reach backward in their history a bit to make the holiday even more meaningful. They talk more about Mary and, occasionally, they use words like “advent” and even “vespers.”
I have a theory about this. I not only think many do reach further back into their history to make the holiday more meaningful, but I think they do it at some kind of subconscious level. In some earlier posts, I have written I believe, truly, God created us with an internal understanding/need for symbol. We understand the meaning of things, even if it is not explained to us outright. It’s something basic, yet beautiful, about our nature. Christmas (and Easter) is one of few days left in the modern Protestant church calendar with any symbolic weight left. And I believe that resonates with those in the pews.
It resonated with me before Orthodoxy. Baptists (particularly fundamentalists) are not known for their Christmas Eve services (too Catholic), so we would often venture to a nearby United Methodist Church to sing Silent Night while holding lighted candles. I LOVED IT! It was the most beautiful thing and I felt it connecting somewhere deep inside me in a way I rarely felt throughout most services. I guess in some ways the earliest steps to Orthodoxy for me led through that Christmas Eve service at that church, along with my Christian college’s insistence on lighting the Advent candles.
What is it they say? “The chief end of man is to glorify God forever.” We are hard-wired for worship. And I believe we know the difference between emotionalism and worship. We know reverence whether we practice it on Sundays or not. That is in part, I think, why Christmas remains so darn-near liturgical. (Prediction: As American Christians try to figure out how to wrestle the day away from the retail establishment and experiment with “emerging church” and other post-modern inventions, Christmas will only get more liturgical in the next few years.)
Yet one more ghost…
That’s it for now, I guess. I’m having more internet troubles. I’ll try to get more up this weekend.