With the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple, our initial spiritual preparation for the Nativity of Christ should be taking root. At her nativity, Mary entered the world, she who brings God into union with man. Yet with her entrance into the temple, the first voluntary action is taken that will culminate in our own encounter with Christ. Voluntarily she leaves her parents, runs up the steps, and begins an unsurpassed life of dedication to God. We must imitate her example during the Nativity fast by voluntarily sacrificing our earthly ties and affections in order to prepare our hearts for the Incarnation of Christ. He unites Himself to us that we might be united to Him. And once we grasp this reality, what degree of gratitude are we to express other than that which is voluntary, complete, and unconditional?
As Saint Athanasius the Great expressed this event, “God became man, that man might become God.” Seen clearly in the light of the truth of Christ, is fasting with intention for forty days, attending additional services as much as possible, giving significant alms, and working daily to keep Christ on our mind, heart and lips . . . is all this really even that great a sign of our gratitude? If God has actually invited us to “be by grace everything He is by nature,” what sacrifice of thanks can possibly be sufficient? In practical terms, our acts of thanksgiving should only end when our body, limited as it is in strength and endurance, simply cannot pray, praise, sing, prostrate, fast, serve, give, or keep vigil any more. At which point, the soul then continues ceaselessly to give thanks in stillness and silence. Sound excessive? Or just inconvenient? Yet what a small price to pay for the reward that awaits us: immortality, infinite joy and fulfillment, eternal paradise, endless love, and all that is inherent to an indescribable union with God.
The Holy Trinity loves you and wants to be known by you. The Divinity who brought all things into being from nothingness, shaped the universe, spread out the Milky Way, formed Earth, called forth every plant and animal into existence, formed you in your mother’s womb, set angels about you, and gave His only-begotten Son to the Cross for your redemption from sin loves you and wants to be known by you. Let us cast o” the bonds of sin, beat down the old man under our feet, renounce the philosophies of the world that strip us of faith, hope, and zeal for Christ. “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving . . . redeeming the time” (Col. 4:2).
The Nativity fast is a quarter over already! Stick to the plan and follow through.