“That virginal quality, which for want of a better term, I call emptiness is the beginning of contemplation. … It is emptiness like the hollow in the cup, shaped to receive water or wine.”—Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic
“Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, Let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”—Song of Songs 2: 13b-14
Christmas Eve is almost here. The Advent pilgrimage has been arduous or easy. We will arrive either “shipwrecked at the stable door” or on bended knee to “carol all most joyously.” But, we will arrive. Now is the time to open our hearts to the honey of that Holy Night.
How will Christmas Eve and Christmas day be spent? The Ukranian Orthodox have a wonderful tradition for Christmas dinner. Before Christmas Eve meal, the family fasts all day. Housecleaning is completed ahead of time. Everyone dresses in their finest. Music, resting, and receiving visitors are the order of the day. As evening approaches, the children are sent outside to spot the rising of the evening star. With its sighting, the meal officially begins. The host takes a bowl of custard and invites all the departed family members to share the Christmas meal and asks God that the household may have food enough to share throughout the coming year.
Another Orthodox table tradition is the communal sharing of bread and honey. The host takes a plate with small pieces of Christmas bread and a dish containing honey and salt. Dipping each piece of bread lightly into the honey, the host approaches each dinner guest, starting with the eldest, and says, “Christ is born.” The guest responds, “Let us adore Him.” If there are two hosts, then the ritual is repeated.
“O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no mortal shutteth, and shutteth and no mortal openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.”
Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.
With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print.