Steps of Advent in the Eastern Rite
by Dessi Jackson
The sound of the frozen ground.
The dark days and the cold nights.
The pot of beans simmering on the stove.
St. Phillip’s day heralding the Nativity Fast. The quiet of this Winter Pascha (Lent) is a calming balm for my soul. The physical realities of abstaining from meat and dairy only heighten my senses and my need for God.
In the chaos of commercialized holiness I find peace and anchor from the secular storm. There are no Christmas lights or trees in my home – not yet – and we do not miss them. The sacredness of this time of want fills us with undying warmth.
In the midst of the bowls of beans we see the want for the food that fill us all, the only begotten Son of God!!! In the quiet of our domestic monastery we make the steps of faith, by daily examining our souls and making sure they are ready to be filled by the presence of the tiny babe, the Creator of us all!!!
Unless your heart is empty of the noise and the stuff there will be no room for the Giver of life!!! Through repentance and fasting we clean our hearts and make them ready for the uncontainable joy!!! We walk in the quiet of the fast but in our tears of repentance we find the fountain of joy.
There are no Christmas carols sung in my house – not yet – but we do have the quiet and in it the clear whisper of God’s voice. There we are in the darkness of the Winter, yet we are kept in the light by the Giver of Light!!! As I trace the lifesaving sign of the cross over myself and whisper the prayer of the heart ("Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner") I am brought back to the dark manger when Light entered the world and covered us in the mercy of His love and forgiveness. It is a time to pray, repent, prepare.
There are no cookie baking swaps here, yet we do not walk in gloom. How can we, when we walk in this journey following our All Pure Lady Theotokos? We walk with her, pray with her, and await the moment when the Savior of us all will be born. The cold of the nights, the quiet hum of beans cooking in the pot are the comfort upon we look for at this Liturgical Season. The simplicity of the prayers, the quiet of a time deprived of the noise that swallows a man whole soul and body, the lack of the blinking lights replaced by the soft glow of our vigil lamp is made for us to refresh our souls and weary bodies.
This so we can be prepared to receive Him born as a babe in the darkness of the night. We cannot enjoy the company of loved ones if they are not with us but we can anticipate their coming. The Nativity fast is here and we are prayerfully, repentantly making our steps toward the Nativity.
My name is Dessi, and it’s no coincidence that my name rhymes with "messy." My life is full of beautiful messes. I have 6 beautiful children: the oldest is 11 and our baby is 8 months old. Every day is full of books, toys, food, pets, our garden, chickens, and ourselves. To anyone else, it might look like a mess, but to me it is a beautiful mess. I’m a 31-year old immigrant from Bulgaria, in Eastern Europe, who now lives in the countryside of Maryland. We are Byzantine Catholics. I enjoy the homeschooling lifestyle because it keeps us together between school and play. I like knitting, cooking, reading, gardening, and sewing. (As I was dictating to my husband who is typing this, my son said, "Then why don’t you sew the holes in my pants?" I’ll get to that soon.) Best of all, I like occupying my home. All these things are done quite comically and imperfectly in my large family life. My children tell me that I should write a book. It’s been on my to-do list, right after patching up Peter’s pants. You can find Dessi on her blog here: