More Contemplation of the Mystery of Christmas
Christ is Born!
On the Evang-Ortho Forum, my brother Silouan is engaged in trying explain some aspects of Orthodox apophatic and mystical theology. He writes the following:
Mystikos literally means secret. It's used to speak of things that don't
happen in the "marketplace" of Christian discourse and fellowship but in the
"closet with the door shut." Makes me think of the line in the Revelation
about Christ giving us a stone on which is written a name only He and we
know; or the psalm that says "the Lord confides in those who fear Him."
Intimacy with God can be compared to the shared secrets and intimacies of a
marriage union (another use of the word "to know") but that's a metaphor
that needs to be used with care.
Some of our saints have become frustrated trying to wrap up in language
their encounter with the Godhead. It's a little like Lao-Tzu's comment that
"The Dao which can be described in words is not the true Dao." Aside from
divine Scripture-writing inspiration, language is not always a good tool to
communicate something that only one of the parties involved has experienced.
So we tend to learn the metaphors and do the praxis the saints give us and
assume that when we get where they are - Theoria - we'll also know what they
This icon speaks to me as I still find my heart (and less so my mind) drawn to the contemplation of the mystery of our Lord's Nativity and specifically the Mystery (Mystikos = secret) of the relationship between our Lord and His mother, the Theotokos. As a Protestant AND a single childless man I would dismiss this "relationship" as simply a neccesary aspect of getting Jesus born, raised, and finally at last to His ministry where the REAL work begins of teaching us how to live and then finally the cross wherein lies our salvation. But now that I am Orthodox and a father, I feel compelled to look deeper into these things. How so, you might ask?
As a father, I have seen the power of the relationship between a mother and child which I believe is particularly enunciated through the feeding of said child. In the peace and quiet of breastfeeding, there is a very powerful bond between the child and mother. Indeed, during this time a mother is literally giving a portion of her life to her child. Furthermore I cannot negate the special bond all of my children seem to have with my wife, an intense bond I sense and yet apparently do not share...I can only speculate as to the origin and reality of it. My heart aches at the thought of Mary and her Jesus, mother and Son - yet servant and her God. These words (some of which I know to exist in Orthodox hymnology, but I haven't the where-with-all to find them at the moment) come to mind:
How is it that I give life to the Life-Giver?
How is it that I nourish the nourisher of all the universe?
How is it that I hold in my hands, the One who holds the universe in His?
How is it that I swaddle in cloth the One whom swaddles all the earth with the heavens?
How is it that I witness the first breath of the One who breathed Life into Lifelessness?
On and on the Mystikos can go...there is no end to this marvel which has happened, is happening, and will happen. By witnessesing the relationship my wife has with her children and vice versa, I am forced to understand that Mary cannot just ignore the relationship with the One who is eternally her Son and Savior. I can no more explain all of this than I can explain the person of Christ being FULLY human and FULLY Divine...it is Mystikos! And I am also reminded of a brief and yet most lovely passage from the words of Saint Luke:
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
And I truly truly believe that these things she kept she handed down to the Living Tradition of the Church...and here is where my being Orthodox has compelled me to also ponder "these things" in my heart. Our Liturgy, our Calender, our Hymnns, and indeed all the life of the Church preserves and makes alive "these things" which I in the past ignorantly deemed irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth....thanks be to God!
May we all be inundated with the power of the Christmas Mystery, that Christ - our God - is truly born of a Virign Mother thus taking upon Himself human nature and thereby restoring us!
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 1:58 PM [+]