St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

December 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord, Christ is in our midst!

"As the memory of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not bring about the illumination of knowledge in the soul." St. Maximus the Confessor

The Nativity fast is about growing in love so that we may make ourselves ready to receive the King of Love on the Great and Holy Feast of Christmas. The beauty of this season is resplendent with warmth and light and peace and love, that is, all of those wonderful things that are revealed to the world when God is born in the flesh.

All of the Christian life is meant to be a progression in love until we become love, just as God is. Of course, He is love by nature, we become love by grace, but the coal in the fire does not distinguish itself from the flame when it is totally united with it. St. Paul said in an explosion of joy, "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me!" The difference disappears although both remain what they are as the Fourth Ecumenical Council said of the hypostatic union, "without mixture or confusion."

So, whatever in us that is not love is not of God and once the light of divinity begins to shine in us, all that is not love must depart. St. Porphyrios speaks of opening a tiny aperture in our souls so that light can enter and when it does all things become light. He calls it the easy and safe path of love, that is, the path to salvation. Our words and deeds are the light that reveals what path we have chosen, the path of light or the path into darkness. By fasting with love we choose the bright path.

Fasting, repentance, and prayer open that little aperture. Negativity and judgment block it. That is why we must not allow ourselves to speak ill of others or denigrate them or to encourage others to do so. How easily we can slip into judgmentalism without even knowing it! We are not called to that kind of life by our Lord, but rather to a life of extreme humility and compassion.

St. John of Kronstadt wrote, "Avoid by every means occasions, causes, and words that produce enmity, and avail yourself of every opportunity to show holy and sincere love."

Such good advice in this Season of Advent from a great pastor and healer of souls!

With much love,

+Fr. Antony Hughes