The Pre-Nativity Season in the Orthodox Christian Tradition was meant to be a quiet time of reflecting on God’s love for humanity revealed in the Father sending His Son into the world. It is a season of repentance to open our hearts to the grace and love of God. It is a time of self denial in order to show charity to others.
The Christmas season in modern American culture is also a time of charity and many make generous donations of money and time to support charitable activities. It is also a time of partying and indulgence. As such, it is a proper time for us Orthodox to reflect on our daily living as Christians. If we are attending parties and engaged in drinking alcohol, we need to think about the temptations and sin involved in these normal and socially accepted activities.
Below is a story from the desert fathers for us to think about as we navigate our way through the American holiday season of parties and socializing:
“They used to say of Abba Isidore the priest that a brother once came to invite him for a meal but the elder refused to go, saying: ‘It was because he was led astray by food that Adam was lodged outside Paradise.’
Said the brother to him: ‘Are you altogether afraid to come out of your cell?’ but he spoke again: ‘I am afraid my son, because “The devil, like a roaring lion, is seeking who he may devour” ’[1 Pet. 5.8]
And he often used to say that if a person gave himself to wine-drinking, he would not escape the onslaught of logismoi (tempting thoughts); for, obliged by his daughters, Lot became drunk with wine and, on account of his drunkenness, the devil made easy work of contriving for him to commit lawless porneia [cf. Gen. 19.31-35].” (Isidore the Priest in Give me a Word: The Alphabetical Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p 156)
Wine was given to us by God to gladden our hearts (Psalm 104:15). So wine is not evil, but like anything in creation it can be over used and misused. As we know there are people who simply cannot control their drinking (for the alcoholic, one drink is too many but two drinks are not enough). Using all things in good measure results in thanksgiving to God. As Fr Isidore notes however, for many the use of alcohol weakens self will and becomes an excuse for committing other sins. As we make our way through the Christmas season, we should think about our relationship to alcohol and food, and how these gifts can lead us to the Creator or away from Him. Merry Christmas!
The empty glass invites us to decide which way am I headed in life?