Dearly Beloved,

Before we begin to pray, we should take a moment to bring ourselves into the Presence of God, so that our prayers will come from our hearts, not simply from our lips. This is a mental and spiritual journey, which can take many forms. Here is an example.

Imagine for a moment the world in the darkness of sin. God watches lovingly though sadly over all. He yearns to pour out His grace, compassion, and forgiveness upon all mankind. He knows, however, that in our sin we could not look upon His face and live. His holiness would be a terrible judgment upon us, who are anything but holy. Yet, there is no hope for us apart from Him.

Slowly, deliberately, He prepares us. He gives us the law to restrain us from greater evil. He appoints angels as guardians. He sends the prophets to gradually reveal to us what is to come. He gives us the good example of those in each generation who were pleasing to him.

Then, when all is ready, when all is fulfilled, He takes off His glory and majesty, He leaves His throne, and pours Himself out completely into a tiny child. He will not cast us away. In His infinite love for us He will come to us, teach us, be with us, die for us.

We are standing on the road outside of Bethlehem when some shepherds tell us of a strange and wondrous choir of angels, beautiful beyond our imagination, glorifying the Savior who has been born in this town.

We accompany the shepherds. With them we enter the cave. There, in a Light which seems to have no source, in a manger, lies the Child. He looks towards us, with eyes that are innocent and meek, wise - and infinitely, transcendently loving.

We are filled with many emotions: Joy, a sense that everything last led to this moment, awe at the sight of purity and holiness, sorrow for our sins, happiness at our redemption, unquestionable hope. We realize that God and man have become one, and our mind struggles to grasp the reality that we also are called to this unity; we are called to receive the Divine Flesh and Blood, to become the Body of Christ, brothers and sisters of the Son, children of the Father, bearers of the Holy Spirit.

Nothing else is important. Grudges and animosities fade away. All men are our brothers. We had in common with all mankind the love of the child. This is the place we want to be.

Our heart and soul is in Bethlehem, in the cave. With our bodies we step before our icons and the word pour out from our heart. Glory to Thee our God! Glory to Thee! O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, come and abide in us and cleanse us . . .

We are not fantasizing; we do not seek a vision. We are spending a few moments thinking about God and His love before we begin our prayers. We are bringing ourselves into the presence of God. There are many such meditations. We will find, if we do this consistently - before our prayers at home, before the Vespers and the Divine Liturgy - that gradually these thoughts and feelings, this presence of God, will come to us more often and more readily. It will begin to come almost on its own, simply by stepping before our icons, or quietly entering into the Church.

May God grant us Wisdom!