It’s been a custom to write a “sochelnik” (Christmas Eve) post here on January 6th. I don’t normally do it in December because I don’t celebrate Western Christmas as a religious festival. However, I do celebrate the Russian one. A few years ago I even went to a night service at my local church. This year it is still very cold, so I’m going to connect to an online service at one of Moscow churches.
Christmas Eve is the time when less religious people make wishes and burn candles; the more faithful pray in the solitude of their homes and get ready for a service. I love to watch the long day of the Eve slowly enter the Holy Night of Nativity.
There were many attempts to “see” the Nativity of Jesus Christ. St Brigitte of Sweden, for example, had a vision that the Child miraculously left His Mother’s womb and lay on a spread cloth. The Byzantine tradition believed in a “real” birth, in which Mary remained “untouched”, nonetheless. Yet these are the details that may appear insignificant on the grand scale, whereas the most important thing is that the Creator chose to come and live among people.
To me, this is a metaphor of a person with a mission who comes here to realize it here, on Earth. The mission is not about “saving” anyone; it is about the understanding of God’s plan for your life and following it through. If there is anything truly sad about the story of Jesus Christ and the apostles, it is that the physical martyrdom and death have got strongly associated with God’s will. Naturally, not many people want to leave this life too soon, so they shun away from discovering their mission altogether. As a result, we are deprived of many talented people.
Of course, as we follow the path of our mission, some parts of us will “die”, figuratively speaking, so that our new self can emerge. Nativity, in this sense, is a celebration of the New Life, La Vita Nuova, that promises the new beginning.
I hope those of us who celebrate Nativity on January 7th will spend the Christmas Eve in soulful gratitude for the gift of Life.
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