Daily Meditations

Fifth Day of Christmas Advent: Beginning of Advent and the Forefeast


Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight the paths of our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

EVERY GREAT FEAST of the Orthodox Church is preceded by a period of preparation. One of the longest and richest periods is Advent. But what does it mean to prepare? For many, the preparation for Christmas is hectic— shopping for presents, making decorations, mailing cards, attending Christmas parties, and so forth. But in the midst of this mad rush, where is our spiritual preparation?

The Church invites us to prepare for Christmas through prayer and worship and the hymns of the season. But these hymns are not just songs of praise; they are rich with profound—if it at times, obscure—biblical references.

This is especially true of the hymns that dominate the entire season of Advent: the Katavasias of Christmas. Through them the Church invites us to study the Old Testament, for one theme that unmistakably permeates Advent is how the Nativity of Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecies about the Birth of the Messiah. Thus the Church’s liturgical life fulfills a twofold purpose:

1)      To worship and adore Christ, “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven) and “was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man” (Nicene Creed); and

2)  To rediscover and contemplate the divine revelation in the Old and New Testaments.   

But there is yet more to Advent than this. Our preparation for Christmas with the Old Testament is not an intellectual exercise, not a mere study of Scripture by which we affirm biblical truth. Rather, it is a spiritual preparation that challenges us to change our lives as a result of this divine revelation, to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). We are invited to be changed by our worship and our hearing of the word of God.

~ Adapted from Vassilios Papavassiliou, Meditations for Advent: Preparing for Christ’s Birth