It is blessed to anticipate the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity. We all are making sacrifices in how we will celebrate this great holy day, but even a deadly virus cannot stop the holiness that flows from this feast into our lives. Holy, Holy, Holy – the only word that is adequate to expressing the mystery of Christmas.
A few days ago a friend gave me two new books published by Alexander Press. It is a wonderful publishing company that was started by some entrepreneurial Greeks several years ago in my old hometown Montréal, Canada. (The Montréal skyline features on the homepage of this website.) Both of the books my friend gave me include an icon by Georgios Kordis which I photographed with my cell phone and reproduce here.
It is an icon of the Ζωοδόχος Πηγή – The Life-Giving Fountain. There is an annual feast day of the Ζωοδόχος Πηγή on the Friday after Pascha. The whole week after Pascha is called Διακαινήσιμος Εβδομάδα – Week of Renewal – in the Orthodox Church. To bring the Week of Renewal to its climax with a celebration of the Life-Giving Fountain makes sense. But the icon can also inspire our thoughts in this week of Christmas.
Mary is shown as she is always shown in the Orthodox tradition, holding Christ. But here she is shown inside a fountain from which water flows out. But look closely: She is not sitting in water; She is the source of water! Or more accurately, it is Christ in her arms who is the source of the life-giving water. He used the image of ‘living water’ in the Gospel of John, when he spoke with the Samaritan woman and then when he stood in the Temple and invited all who are thirsty to come and drink ‘living water’.
Come and drink living water. That is the message given to the world. If you are like me, then perhaps you are asking how to make deeper sense of life and how to see more in Christmas than just gifts and food. Very often it appears like membership in a church is membership in a club called a church. Despite all the cynicism that I have amassed over the years, I continue to be member of a church because I am drawn to Life! Just as Mary becomes a means by which Christ’s living water flows into the world, so also church is a means by which I receive the living water of faith and salvation. We draw from the living water to renew our souls and to renew each other. To be church – that is the blessing and the calling; to be united in faith; to be life-giving fountain!
I’ve included below another icon of the Ζωοδόχος Πηγή; it’s brighter than my photo of the Kordis icon. Take some time to meditate on either or both of these icons and see if you can find yourself in the image.