It's literally freezing outside, and a hard rain is falling here. Audra and I prayed the Akathist to the Nativity of Christ tonight (found HERE if you'd like to pray it during the feast); the rain made for a fitting background. The One Who is as harsh as the cold rain also uses the rain to bring forth life. The One Who can move the stars from their frozen places can also make them shine with terrible brilliance on a manger and on terrified shepherds.
We sang tonight, and my mind wandered frequently, as it is wont to do. One of the great mercies of Eastern Orthodox services is their sheer repetitiveness. This seems to many western minds to be an odd statement, for this aspect of our services can often seem a tedious, unnecessary annoyance at best, and an unbiblical abomination at worst. Yet I've heard it said that we repeat things 33 times or 100 times because we really only start to pay attention around time number 87 or so. In true form, tonight the lines
of the akathist continued to bring me back:
Glory to Thee Who hast united Thyself with us!Glory to Thee Who Thyself hast saved us!Glory to Thee Who upon us hast shown forth the abyss of Thy love for mankind!Glory to Thee Who hast ineffably loved us!Glory to Thee Who hast sought out the lost sheep!Glory to Thee Who hast taught us to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness!Glory to Thee Who by Thy nativity hast abolished the delusion of polytheism!Glory to Thee Who hast delivered us from everlasting death!Glory to Thee Who has given us a model of humility!Glory to Thee Who didst impoverish Thyself for our sake!
About two thirds of the way through, we prayed, "Glory to Thee, O delight of our hearts," and I had to stop and wonder..."delight." The temptation at times is simply to "get through" the service, to fulfill the requirements so that we can say that we've given God what He wanted.
Keep in mind, however, the fact that these services are sung not solely because a Babe was laid in a cave, but because that Babe would grow up to be laid in yet another cave, one in whom no
one else would ever have been laid. We know that the One from the infinite heavens Who was brought from the Virgin's travail to rest in the finite cave in Bethlehem as the Sun of Righteousness is significant because He would take that same flesh--our flesh--and, having travailed on the Cross, would rest (wrapped yet again in swaddling bands) in a cave to bring forth light forevermore.
There are winds that blow around our lives--winds of economics, of marketability, of nations with borderless, faceless ragings--and our lives can seem small, weak, and poor. We're reminded that a cold rain, or abstinence from significant amounts of protein, or an unforseen delay can remind us of how vulnerable and fickle we are. At times, we project this on our faith, particularly when what is seen is a cooing, pudgy infant in a dirty horse trough who's being hunted by the most powerful man in the region. Yet as we pray the following, something changes:
Jesus all-sweet and most compassionate, our Savior, Creator and Master! Accept this, our meager supplication, thanksgiving and glorification, as Thou didst accept the gifts and worship of the Magi; and preserve us, Thy servants, from all perils. Grant us the forgiveness of sins, and from everlasting torment deliver those who with faith glorify Thy nativity from the pure Virgin, and who cry out to Thee: Alleluia!
The One Who shines forth light from the Bethlehem cave will shine forth from another in Jerusalem; for this He was born, and for this we were created. Our God, who was born of the Virgin for our salvation, effected this salvation through His three-day passage through the Arimathean's cave. If this is true, if He is our Light and our salvation as our youngling Passover, then how can we fear anything else? Death is vanquished by the Babe who is the Conqueror of all things. Would that His light be our life. Would that His life be our delight.
Christ is born.