Christmas - - To An Eastern Orthodox Christian

 

Let's Not forget to put Jesus Christ back into Christmas whose coming into this world we celebrate!

By Fr. Edward A. Sadvary

“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, translated (God is with us).” Isaiah 7:14.

 

 

On 7 January, Orthodox Christians in Central and Eastern Europe and throughout the world celebrated Christmas. Christians of the Russian and Serbian Churches as well as the monks of Mount Athos in Greece celebrate Christmas according to the old Julian calendar. Other Churches, including those of Greece and Bulgaria, have switched to the Gregorian calendar and celebrate the holiday 13 days earlier, on 25 December.

 

Orthodox Christmas

On Christmas Day, “a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulders; and his name shall he called Wonderful Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace . . . He shall sit upon the “throne of David and upon his kingdom, to establish it and to strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever.” Isaiah 9: 6-7.

When Christ was born in that low and humble place — the world was ready for his coming, the pure womb that was to bear him was prepared. The great and awful event awaited by men since the moment of that first promise may be worthily recorded only in the inspired word of God: “Behold,” says the Angel Gabriel to Mary, “thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shall call his name, Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High

. . . The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most high shall overshadow thee; and therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 10, 31:5.

Centuries before the first Christmas Day, a malignant angel had come to a woman (Eve) upon an errand of death, and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command which had ensued was the beginning of the sin of the world.

The Archangel Gabriel came to Mary with the message of eternal life, and the ready obedience of the second Eve gave us him who is the fountain of all grace.

Now, Mary, who had designed to know no man, had been troubled, at the announcement of the angel, that she should conceive and bear a son. But her fear was groundless: the Holy Ghost was to be her Spouse, and Mary, still clad in the white veil of virginity, was yet to wear the crown of motherhood: And Mary said: ‘‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.”

The obedient submission of Mary gave to the world the Divine Redeemer. Now, “The Word was made flesh.” The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, became man.

Christ, the Son, now Man, came to us in the deepest poverty — in greatest humility to be our Redeemer — Our King. Yes, Christ is King, not only as God, but also as Man. He is King, not only by reason of perfection of his humanity, not only because he has purchased us as His people by redeeming us; he is King because His is the Word incarnate.

“He, Christ, has dominion over all creatures,” says St. Cyril of Alexandria, who was the great Champion of Orthodoxy against Nestorius “a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but by His essence and by nature.” Psalms 23:7.

In this way with these thoughts do the Eastern Christians celebrate the Birth of Christ. The Eastern Christian places the greatest importance upon the religious aspects of this great Feast Day. It is to the Eastern mind — a day for rejoicing, because on this day, he has received his opportunity for Eternal Salvation with God in Heaven.

The feast commemorating the Nativity of Jesus Christ or (Christmas) was introduced in the middle of the 4th century. It is now almost certain that the celebration of Christmas on the 25th of December is of Western origin. The East celebrated Christ’s Nativity on January 6th, now on January 7th. This because the East follows the Julian Calendar, which is about two weeks behind the present calendar. In the liturgy of the Eastern Churches this feast was called Theophany or Epiphany. Three things were commemorated: the Nativity itself: the Adoration of the Magi, and the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.

Later, several of the Eastern Churches began introducing the celebration of Christmas on December 25th. In the meantime, it seems that Western Christians adopted the feast of Epiphany, which soon became very popular — and is very popular today.

In the Eastern Churches, the Nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds are celebrated on Christmas Eve — January 6th, the Adoration of the Magi on Christmas Day.

A period of fasting begins 40 days before Christmas for Eastern Christians. This period does not correspond to the Advent Season of the Roman Church; the Eastern Church does not know Advent.

There are two Sundays which prepare the faithful Eastern Christian for the great feast of Christmas, namely the 2nd Sunday before Christmas, called the Sunday of the Fore-Fathers, and the Sunday immediately preceding Christmas, called the Sunday of the Fathers.

On Christmas Eve the Church Services are rather long, but they are very beautiful and inspiring. The morning of Christmas Eve — the Church Services begin with the Solemn Singing of the Royal Hours — so called because the kings and emperors of old always attended these services.

Following the Royal Hours, the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is celebrated together with the Vesper Service for the day.

On Christmas Eve the Eastern Christian observes a very strict fast Christmas Day begins with a Solemn and Joyful Divine Liturgy usually celebrated one minute after midnight.

Members of the Parishes then visit individual homes of the Parishioners singing Christmas Carols and greeting one another with the salutation “Christ Is Born.” and answering in response, “Praise You Him.”

Very little importance is given to the exchange of gifts or to any commercial thought. For the Eastern Christian — His Church and His Church Service share the Glory of this Day.

He rejoices this day because Christ is in his midst — a new born Child with outstretched arms begs for his Love and he returns this love in His God, His neighbor, his family and to his country.

To the Eastern Christian the birth of Jesus Christ is of tremendous importance to his own eternal salvation, because through the birth of Jesus, God has given the food of Life Eternal.

This food is the invisible Body and Blood of our Lord in visible forms, of bread and wine.

By the birth of Christ and by the food, the natural Son of God made us children of God by adoption. He gave us Himself as a symbol and example in all these things that we may follow his example and win the eternal gifts — life everlasting and endless bliss — which had been lost to us through Eve’s sin and which had been restored to us through the birth of Christ.

To the Eastern Christian this is the object of Christ’s Incarnation and birth. He has granted to us His Holy Body as food that He may make us, through His Birth, his companions, and through our nourishment by Him, inheritors of His Kingdom.

He commanded us, the living, to be steadfast in our performance of this remembrance of Him, and in remembrance of His benevolence to us until he comes again to judge the world.

This is accomplished through faith by inheritance, and by transmission from the living destined to die, to the dead, who shall live again by re-generation, that salvation may extend to all men.

For this reason, the Church has instituted and celebrates daily the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist — the Divine Liturgy — the Mass — or the Lord’s Supper, which serves as a constant reminder to the faithful of the life of Christ — from His birth of His Virgin Mother to His Ascension — reminding us that from our birth to our death — our food for Salvation must be the food brought to us through the Birth of Jesus — whose feast we commemorate at this time.

Orthodox Christmas Conflicts and celebrations

Christmas = Christ-mass

 

 

On 7 January, Orthodox Christians in Central and Eastern Europe and throughout the world celebrated Christmas. Christians of the Russian and Serbian Churches as well as the monks of Mount Athos in Greece celebrate Christmas according to the old Julian calendar. Other Churches, including those of Greece and Bulgaria, have switched to the Gregorian calendar and celebrate the holiday 13 days earlier, on 25 December.

 

Brian J Požun (2001)

{ Apostle1.com's Note & Opinion: We provide this article because it reminds us that there are some who are unable, incapable or limited in celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior... and thus, our heart, mind, body and soul, on Christmas Day, should be directed to all who, through out the world, are facing deprivation in this august time of year... whether it be on the true date celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox (January 7th), or by the West (13 days before on December 25th)... }

This year's celebrations were muted in many places by conflicts, both open and simmering.

Only one year ago, more than ten thousand flooded Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity in the West Bank to celebrate Christmas, but this year the open conflict between Israelis and Palestinians kept the crowds away.

There were crowds in the Chechen capital of Grozny, however Orthodox Christmas was observed in the city's near-ruined church. Hundreds of people crowded into the church, which was decorated with fir trees from Northern Russia. Fireworks were set off in the evening, and despite the ever-tense atmosphere there, the holiday passed peacefully.

The situation was drastically different elsewhere. In Slovenia, thousands of Orthodox Christians attended Christmas liturgy at Ljubljana's Cathedral of SS Cyril and Methodius. In the Czech Republic, the holiday was also peacefully observed. There are several Orthodox churches in the country, including the Cathedral of SS Cyril and Methodius in Prague and the Cathedral of St Vaclav in Brno.

Estonia: rocky start to the holiday season

The Christmas season in the region got off to a rocky start when the leaders of 15 of the 16 Eastern Orthodox Churches met on 24 December at the headquarters of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul. The only one who did not attend was the Russian Patriarch, Aleksej II.

The Russian Orthodox Church—the world's largest—has been feuding with the Ecumenical Patriarch, the largely-ceremonial head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, throughout the 1990s over jurisdictional claims to the thousands of Orthodox Christians in the former republics of the Soviet Union. The situation has been aggravated in the last several years by events in Estonia.

Hedging a schism between the two Churches that reached its boiling point in 1996, the Moscow Patriarchate reached an agreement with the Ecumenical Patriarch whereby individual parishes in Estonia could choose whether they would answer to the hierarchy of Moscow or Constantinople.

Estonia is home to about 50,000 Orthodox Christians—of these about 30,000 are ethnic Russians.

Moscow viewed a visit by Bartholomew to Estonia in October as a breach of the agreement, and the dispute flared up once again, causing in Aleksej II to boycott the 24 December meeting.

Russia: German leader sees religious revival firsthand

In Moscow, Aleksej II celebrated the Christmas liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Interfax's Russian news bureau reported that more than 700,000 attended Christmas services on 6 and 7 January. The large turnout offered further evidence of a religious revival that has been going on for almost a decade within Russia.

The research group Monitoring.ru released statistics late last week showing that 55 percent of Russians believe in God, while only 33 percent do not. Of those who believe, 91 percent said they are Orthodox Christians. The Moscow Times also reported that 62 percent of Russians throughout the country intended to celebrate Christmas. While this figure is down from 67 percent last year, it is still substantially higher than the 57 percent recorded in 1998.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his wife made a personal visit to the Russian capital to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin for the holiday. Together with their wives, they attended the Christmas services at the Christ the Savior Cathedral. Despite the personal nature of the trip, the two heads of state nevertheless found time to discuss Russian-German relations.

Putin, Schröder and their wives all met with Patriarch Aleksej II at the Holy Trinity-St Serguis Monastery in Sergiev Posad, near Moscow, on Christmas day. Afterwards, the Patriarch told Interfax that the meeting was "very useful," and that Schröder will return to Germany with "a completely new vision of the Russian people, who have revived their spirituality and tradition in this complex time."

Ukraine and Belarus: cultural revival

In Ukraine, numerous traditions dating back to the pagan era, all but extinguished under Communist rule, continue to re-emerge from the shadows. The Kyiv City Council was among the most prominent of those who embraced the old customs, sponsoring a celebration in downtown Kyiv replete with kolyady (caroling) and a vertep (nativity reenactment).

Groups of youths also returned to the old tradition of going door-to-door caroling. The tradition was very strong throughout the old Russian Empire. Beneath the surface, however, all was not well. On 9 January the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv patriarchate) was held in Kyiv. The council reiterated earlier calls for the creation of a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and asked the government and the Ecumenical Patriarch for their assistance.

There are three Orthodox hierarchies in Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church remains strong, though is without the support of the government. The other two, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, enjoy the patronage of the government, which hopes to unite them into a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the country.

In Miensk, Christmas Day was made all the more festive by President Aliaksandar Lukašenka bestowing the Award For Spiritual Renewal and the special Award of the President of Belarus on several major figures from the Belarusian cultural world. Awards went to an architect, a monk, a linguist, a playwright, a choreographer, two folk dance troupes and many others. Filaret, Metropolitan of Miensk and Sluzk and head of the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Belarus, participated in the ceremony.

Later that evening, Lukašenka attended the Christmas liturgy conducted by Metropolitan Filaret at the Miensk Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. The Belarusian State Committee on Affairs of Religions and Nationalities reports that more than 80 percent of believers in Belarus intended to celebrate Christmas this year.

Serbia: Spirit of cooperation and renewal

Pavle, Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, celebrated Christmas liturgy at Belgrade's largest cathedral, St Sava. Many thousands of people crowded churches in Belgrade and across Serbia for holiday services. In tumultuous Southern Serbia, the Christmas celebrations went on peacefully despite the tense situation between Serbs and Albanians in that region.

In his Christmas missive, Patriarch Pavle said that the twentieth century was a time of "tears, destruction and hate," but that the beginning of the new millennium offered a chance for "rebuilding, happiness and love." The Patriarch also stressed the importance of helping one's brothers in hard times.

The Patriarch, however, did not mention any of the other various and complicated problems facing his Church. Among the foremost were those relating to the breakaway Montenegrin and Macedonian Orthodox Churches, and the disputes within the Serbian Orthodox Church in Italy. These issues came to a head, however, in the affected regions over the Christmas holiday.

Montenegro: A broken home

The Christmas season in Montenegro was marked by a boiling feud. The Church in Montenegro has been split between the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the breakaway Montenegrin Autocephalous Church since the latter's creation in 1993. With the recent increase in tensions between Belgrade and Podgorica, the problem has escalated.

In Cetinje, the spiritual center of Montenegro and its medieval capital, the Montenegrin Church has about 30 churches under its jurisdiction. The Serbian Church holds only 11 churches there. The Montenegrin Church has considerably more adherents throughout the region, but the Serbian Church maintains strongholds in the cities, such as Kotor, Nikšić and Herceg-Novi.

For the holiday, the Metropolitanate banned state media, including the major daily Pobjeda and RTV Montenegro, from covering its Christmas observances, accusing them of sympathizing with the cause of the Montenegrin Autocephalous Church. Pobjeda nevertheless did run fairly impartial coverage of both churches.

During the Christmas celebrations, Metropolitan Amfilohije, head of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, conducted liturgy at a monastery near Cetinje. Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić was among the roughly 1000 in attendance.

Despite several public denouncements of the Montenegrin Church and demands that the government put a stop to its activities, Amfilohije's Christmas missive curiously made no reference to the issue.

The supporters of the Montenegrin Autocephalous Church gathered only a few dozen meters away, at the Court of King Nikola. The service was conducted by Metropolitan Mihajlo, who was joined by Bulgarian Metropolitan Jakov and more than ten thousand believers, demonstrating the numerical superiority of the Montenegrin Church.

In his Christmas missive, Metropolitan Mihajlo addressed the issues directly. "Let us pray for a solution for Montenegro and for the forgiveness of those who desire the elimination of Montenegro and the Montenegrins," he told his followers.

Despite the tension and the close quarters, both of the services, along with the traditional firing of guns afterwards, went off without incident. Hundreds of police officers were sent in to maintain order in the area by the Ministry of the Interior.

The Christmas greeting of Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović addressed the need to heal the region's deep divisions. He called on all politicians and spiritual leaders to lead the healing process.

"Unity, mutual respect and understanding, respect for ethnic differences and human rights opens the way to new freedoms, leads us to achievements for our civilization and are forebearers of the brightest future of Montenegro at the beginning of the new millennium," he stated.

Like last year, Đukanović made official greetings to both the leader of the Serbian Church as well as the Montenegrin one.

Macedonia: at long last, a resolution?

Archbishop Stefan of the disputed Macedonian Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas liturgy in the capital, Skopje, at the Cathedral of St Kliment of Ohrid.

The Serbian Orthodox Church still maintains that clerics in Macedonia are under the authority of the Serbian Patriarch, though there has been a separate Macedonian hierarchy since 1967. Independence was not done according to Orthodox protocol, however, and the Church remains unrecognized by the rest of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

When Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1992, the movement for an independent Macedonian Orthodox Church got a major shot in the arm, and today the Church is striving to make itself a proper, canonical Orthodox Church independent of the Serbian Patriarchate.

In January 2000, President of the Government of Macedonia, Ljubcho Georgievski, took the major step of asking the Ecumenical Patriarch for his assistance in establishing the Macedonian Orthodox Church on the firm foundation of Church canons. Georgievski also asked that the Macedonian Church be made autocephalous and put under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

The dispute has been simmering for years, but a resolution could be on the horizon. On 16 and 17 January, representatives of the Serbian and Macedonian Churches will meet to discuss the Macedonian claims to independence. This will be the third such meeting, after the previous two, held last year, failed to produce an agreement.

Italy: more problems

In Trieste (Trst), about six thousand Serbs are registered. In reality, there are more than 15,000, making the Adriatic city home to one of the largest Orthodox populations in Western Europe.

Metropolitan Jovan is the spiritual leader of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Trieste, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, however it was unclear if he would serve Christmas liturgy at Trieste's Cathedral of St Spiriodion due to a smouldering conflict among the local Church leadership.

A major conflict between the Church, led by Metropolitan Jovan, and Dušan Šajin, of the Council of Orthodox Groups in Trieste has been brewing for some time. At stake is control of the material wealth of the Council of Orthodox Groups. The Metropolitan excommunicated Šajin and the members of the Council for not respecting the Church's authority.

The fractured Orthodox world

Overall, the holiday season passed peacefully throughout the region. Despite the jurisdictional conflicts tearing apart the Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches in many countries and regions, there were no major acts of violence reported.

The peaceful atmosphere in Slovenia and the Czech Republic was virtually recreated in such war-torn places as Palestine, Chechnya and Southern Serbia, even if only for a single day.

The New Year and the new millennium offer the Orthodox Church a chance for a fresh start. Nonetheless, a speedy resolution to the jurisdictional issues in Estonia, Ukraine, Montenegro and Macedonia (among many, many others worldwide) is the only chance for the Church to ensure that next Christmas, the holiday will pass in peace and stability, both for the national Churches and their respective nations.

 

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Daily News is very important to those who are true Orthodox Catholic Christians.  For without knowing or gaining information for understanding about what is happening in one's local area and around the world, you could  find yourself faced with denied services in the secular area, lack of income, even (although it sounds far-fetched) ability to worship openly for the time is not far off when all will have to decide if they wish to follow the Anti-Christ through the One World Church and One World Government as prophesied by the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation of St. John or follow the faith delivered once and for all which will cause for many to be denied the abilities to survive under those kind of conditions, causing for one to consider other options. 

 

Many of those who subscribe to, and some who have caused or are the cause for, these things to happen are involved in or with the Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church (which is not the seat of all things "Catholic") as well as its protestant daughters such as the cultic Jehovah's Witnesses, the Pentecostal Churches, the Church of Latter Day Saints also known as the Mormon Church and far too many more to list. 

 

Yet, at this web site we do provide some of the reasons about why they are opined to be the harbingers of that which is prophesied in Holy Scripture for the bringing about of the End Times which we have already entered.  It is not necessarily their individual members or parishioners that should be blamed since they are only the "Sheep" and not the Shepherds... So do not think we castigate individual people of themselves as we castigate those "money changers" who Jesus Christ chased out of His Father's House as the Bible Describes; for they exist in these present times too.

 

Events are already rushing toward that time in which this is beginning to happen and will become more fully wide-spread. In these present times all you need to really do is look around both your local and larger areas as to what is really on-going through.  Things so very little or miniscule that they are barely noticeable except to the more informed observer may become apparent. 

Those little things are the laws of the land, economics, politics, the degrading and erosion of those rights and liberties afforded by the Constitution of these United States of America and many other things such as the manner with which entertainments have taken over much of the populace, entering into and becoming a major focus in worship, and more. 

We ask you, if you don't want to believe us... Have you heard, seen or found what is termed (of the many terms being used) that there are "holding areas" or "camps" or "Closed/Fenced communities" being built by GOVERNMENT? 

Here in North America, especially in the United States of America, we must admit that what Russia has come out of (a communistic, atheist country) we are entering into.  And one last thing that needs also to be understood... Something very important to those of you who are "Catholic" in the Roman sense of its jurisdiction....   And, we believe this also holds true for many who are "Orthodox" whether "Eastern" or "Western"....

"Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies."

- Blessed St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco

 

So, as said, Daily News is very important to the true Orthodox Catholic Christian.

 

 

AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

and the

NORTH AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

VISITORS BY APPOINTMENT ONLY

Mailing Address Only: 412 So. Copper St., Deming, NM 88030

(575) 546-9923

Institutions include, but are not limited to the following:

 

Catholic Christian Church, Orthodox Benedictine,

Holy Order and Society of St. Jude Thaddeus

Brotherhood of St. John Maximovitch & the Holy Theotokos

 

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