There are a few authors out there who have a special way of writing, a way that touches the reader's heart. They paint a picture with their words and shine new light onto subjects we have been statically observing our whole life. Vassilios Papavassiliou is such a writer. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of reviewing his book Meditations for Great Lent and it deepened my appreciation for the season of Lent. Today, I am again blessed with the opportunity to review one of his books, Meditations for Advent.
In Meditations for Advent, Fr. Papavassiliou begins by distinguishing Catholic Advent from Orthodox "Advent." I put Advent in quotations here because it is a Western term and not widely used in Orthodoxy. The three differences are start date (November 15th for Orthodox vs. 4th Sunday Before Christmas for Catholics), focus (Incarnation/First Coming for Orthodox vs. First and Second Comings of Jesus for Catholics), and the fact that it marks the beginning of the Church Year for Catholics, whereas September 1 is the start date for Orthodox Christians. After Fr. Papavassiliou makes these distinctions, we embark on a four part journey which focuses on Spiritual Preparation, the Scriptures, the Icon of the Nativity, and the Incarnation. The careful reader will notice that Fasting is missing, and that is because it was so thoroughly covered in Meditations for Great Lent that Fr. Papavassiliou didn't want to re-hash the same information in this book.
The first section of the book, Spiritual Preparation, is a quick stroll through the season and important feasts on the calendar. Each chapter in this section is chock full of hymns that will help expand your knowledge and deepen your appreciation of the beauty of Christmas. Section Two, which addresses the Scriptures, references Christological foreshadowing in Old Testament stories such as Jonah and the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace. We FINALLY arrive at the section I was itching to read, a discussion of the Icon of the Nativity. I would have loved if Fr. Papavassiliou had addressed all aspects of the icon, but instead he focuses on the manger, the animals, and the star. The explanation from St. John Chrysostom on the star was mind-blowing to me and I will never view the star the same way again. The last section deals with Christ as the New Adam and coming into world as the Light that shines in the darkness of the world.
If you are an Orthodox Christian, then this is an essential book for your library. Even if you're not, reading this book will increase your understanding of Advent and, more importantly, increase your appreciation of what Christmas really is about. I would like to close with a quote from the book. "The Feast of the Nativity is a celebration of divine weakness overpowering human strength, of good conquering evil, of the light of divine knowledge dispelling the darkness of ignorance. This is not just a cause for an annual celebration, but is the strength of our Christian faith and the joy of divine Light which the darkness of evil can never extinguish."
I received this book for free from Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!