Excerpt from the Jerusalem Post:

"Christmas in the capital"
by Adir Glick

('Old Calendarists')



For Archbishop Aristarxos, secretary-general of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, Christmas is rooted in tradition going back to the fourth century. Christmas for the "Old Calendarists" of the Orthodox Church (who follow the Julian Calendar) falls on January 7 and is marked by an age-old procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

For almost half a century, since his early days as a monk, the archbishop has joined that annual procession, which begins at Jaffa Gate. This year too, accompanied by the patriarch and most of the Greek Orthodox clergy, he will set out on the morning of January 6. The first leg of the procession will take the pilgrims to the Convent of Mar Elias in south Jerusalem. The convent is a traditional resting point for the party and is said to be close to the rock where the Virgin Mary rested on her way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The procession there will be met by dignitaries of the Greek Orthodox Church and a mounted police escort. At midday they will arrive in full ceremonial garb in Manger Square in Bethlehem to be greeted by city officials and local Christians.

Later that day, in the Basilica, readings from the Psalms and Prophets will celebrate the expectance of Christ amid the musky smell of incense. Midnight [Liturgy] in the Cave and Grotto is presided over by the patriarch.

Finally, in the early hours of the following morning, the procession returns to Jerusalem, where weeklong festivities and social gatherings will be held. Aristarxos speculates that this tradition echoes the Jewish tradition, in which major holidays are a week long.

As a monk, Aristarxos does not have his own family but Christmas remains a joyous occasion for him to get together with friends. It is also a period for him to engage in religious dialogue [the reporter's usage; really "friendly relations" as Archbishop Aristarchos has said publicly that the we the JP "do not recognize other denominations]. He will meet with Christians from other denominations, as well as officials from the city, the military and the police.
 


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