The Nativity Fast has begun. A forty day journey to the birth of Christ. A time of self-denial, increased prayer, and increased service to others. Pretty much the exact opposite of our culture’s Christmas!
Commercialized Christmas never sat well with me as a Protestant. When I became Orthodox, I was comforted by this time. The Church provides us with a cushion of protection from the never ending Christmas music…every…single…place…you…go, the long lines filled with grumpy shoppers, and the overindulgent decadence of celebrations. It’s so hard to avoid drowning in the ocean of materialism this time of year, but the Church is there with an unwavering anchor of peace and focus. The world is in darkness…but the Light is coming!
Hilary and I worked to change our family icon corners to the rich red of the Nativity season. Life got away from us, and truth be told…we entirely missed the “gold” season. We still had our Dormition blue up…three months too long. Our poor icon corners looked neglected, and with the rush of work and home right now, truth be told…they’ve been neglected in use as well as looks. Too much time has been spent snatching prayers here and there and not keeping the commitment to my prayer rule. The icons and I both needed some polishing up.
Hilary helped wipe down all the icons, as I polished the lamps and censer. The shine of the lampada in the main icon corner made me think about…giant inflatable penguins. The one I saw for sale the other day was dressed as a cowboy. Because every lawn needs a giant, inflatable penguin with a gun and a ten gallon hat. They also sold a matching giant, inflatable cactus. Because every lawn…in Ohio…needs that, too. As I worked, I thought about the differences. Christmas really does mean not much more than a time for penguins to many people. What was I going to teach my family that it meant to me? We polished and brightened our place of prayer. We prepared our kitchen for simple, fasting meals. We put a star on our Advent Calendar. We remembered that it’s our hearts that need a good cleaning. A fresh coat of color. A new shade of peace.
I adore flowers for the icons. It’s a necessity for me. Alas, fresh flowers are not always budget-worthy, so I decided to make an artificial arrangement for the Fast. I made a felt rosebud bouquet, inspired by this. This was a new and fun project for me. Hilary loved tracing circles on felt. It was the disappearing ink marking pen that got her so into it!
I cut the felt circles into spirals, wound them into rosebuds and glued them to a smooth, foam ball.
It was time consuming…a lot more time consuming than I anticipated, but it was easy. I painted the inside of a glass bowl with gold paint for the vase, and topped it off with a bow. Now, we’ll have an entire season of roses…for about $3.00.
It was a dreary, rainy day. The sun seemed unable to get even one ray into the house. But it was warm and inviting here today. The icon corner called to me all afternoon and evening as I passed by. It called to me of the season. It called to me of prayer. It called to me of good tidings of great joy. It called to me of peace. It is a beautiful thing.