And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. —Luke 2:6–7
In his reflection for today, Fr. Stavros talks a bit about the Icon of the Nativity of Christ. He uses this discussion as a starting point to talk about purpose, both of the Nativity and in our lives. We will come back to that idea shortly...but I would like to delve a little further into the Icon of the Nativity.
One of the unique things about Icons is that they are not "pictures" or "paintings". In fact, it is understood that Icons are drawn or written. So why is this? It is because Icons depict a sanctified reality. Feet are large because they walk the path of salvation, eyes are large because they see the arch angels around the throne of Christ, hands are large because they are lifted in prayer to God. There is no hyper-reality or sensuality in Iconography, as we see in other religious art.
Fr. Stavros points out that the traditional "crib" that we associate with the Nativity is depicted as a tomb in the Nativity Icon. The Christ child is shown in burial bands and not the traditional swaddling clothes. This is because the Icon points to the "purpose" of the Nativity: The Death and Resurrection of our Lord.
To continue the examination:
The animals are show closest to the Christ child recognizing Him. This is seen to fulfill the OT prophecy that: “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.” (Isiah 1:3)
On the left. Joseph is shown being confronted by an old man...the image of satan... tempting him to ignore this miraculous event.
On the right, we see a bathing scene. Tradition holds that there was a stone wash basin near where Christ was born, It was here that he was washed after birth. This shows the human side of His nature.
So we can see that Icons are a type of written theology, explaining to us the Divine Truths of our Faith.
So, lets return to the main point of Fr. Stavros reflection: Purpose. The Icon of the Nativity shows us clearly that the purpose of the Nativity was so that Christ could die for our sins, for our salvation. Our life has to also have a purpose: Not one in this life, but the purpose of salvation, of eternal life. Our time on this earth, however long or short, is to prepare us for salvation.
What have you done during this Nativity Fast to prepare for salvation?