Archive for December, 2005

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

FYI, the Orthodox commemoration of the Nativity continues through Saturday, New Year’s Eve, known as the Leavetaking of the Nativity!

It’s not 12, but then, we had the Gospel of the Magi already, in the Liturgy of Christmas!

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5th century AD. From his Sermon 21, from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers:

Our dearly beloved Savior was born today. Let us be glad! For there isn’t a proper place for sadness when we celebrate the birthday of…Life. For this Life destroys our fear of death and brings us the joy of promised eternity. Everyone can share in this happiness. There is the same amount of joy for everyone. For our Lord destroys sin and death and finds everyone guilty, but has come to free us all. Let saints rejoice at their nearness to victory. Let sinners be glad that they are invited to be pardoned…. Let us, then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit. Because of “His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us,” He had pity on us. And “when we were dead in sins, [He] has quickened us together in Christ,” so that we can be new creations in Him. So then, let us put off the old self with its deeds and, sharing in Christ’s birth, let us defy fleshly works. Christians, acknowledge your dignity. As you become a partner in God’s nature, refuse to return to the old, wicked behavior. Remember the Head and the body [of] which you are members. Remember that you were rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God’s light and kingdom.

You’ll hear some Orthodox say the Christmas star was an Angel. But I’m most impressed by those who say it was a vision of the Uncreated Divine Energies – Uncreated Light – that guided the magoi from the East to the Savior.

(This is the traditional Orthodox greeting and response, respectively, at the time of the Great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ in the Flesh.)

Much is being made of Protestant churches that aren’t having services this morning, a Sunday but Christmas. Many have had services this evening, Christmas Eve. For Orthodox (as for Judaism and other old religions), every liturgical day has always begun at sundown, not at midnight or dawn. Nevertheless, we usually have the day’s Eucharistic Divine Liturgy in the morning. But for Feasts like Pascha (“Easter”) and Nativity, the day’s Eucharist is or may be the evening before. And we can’t have more than one Eucharist on an altar in a day (unlike other churches), so an evening Eucharist is “it,” unless there’s a special, different kind of service the next day, like the Pascha Agape service.

Ironically, the Protestant practice mimics Orthodoxy somewhat, in marking the Feast the previous evening!

…is a big deal in the Orthodox Church. Many OCs have Liturgies on his feast, December 6 (and its Eve, Dec. 5), and also lighten-up a little on the Nativity Fast rules for this celebration. This website isn’t Orthodox-affiliated that I know of, but mentions Orthodoxy prominently. Then, of course, there are all those Orthodox named Nicholas, Nikolai, Nicolae, and variants!