Monday, December 26, 2005

December 27- First Martyr Steven

Christmas

First Martyr Steven, 3rd Day of Christmas

Tone 2

Epistle- Acts 6:8-15, 7:1-5, 47-60
Gospel- Matt 21:33-42

Upcoming Holy Days

Sun 1/1- Circumcision of Christ, St. Basil the Great, Civil New Year
Fri 1/6- Holy Theophany ** (See Below)
Saturday 1/7- Synaxis of St. John the Baptist
Saturday 1/14- St Sava of Serbia
Tues 1/17- St. Anthony the Great

**Service Schedule for St. Seraphim's (High Point) for 1/6

Holy Theophany Service, Blessing of Holy Water 7pm

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Editorial Commentary- Did I have a Good Christmas?

Did I Have a Good Christmas?

It is December 26th and once again I have been the recipient of the typical deluge of “Did you have a good Christmas” questions.

It’s not that I object to the honest inquiries and concerns of well meaning people, but how can I honestly answer their question when Christmas is not over yet. None of these people would ask a baseball player if he had a good game after only one inning. They wouldn’t ask a college student to summarize his college education less than one semester into his freshman year. Would they rate a work of art before the artist has completed the work? Would they start moving into a new house before the construction is completed?

Well you may ask, isn’t Christmas over? That’s what our materialistic and secular society is telling us. After all won’t we have the After-Christmas sales beginning on December 26th? Didn’t we all go back to work on Monday the 26th?

Sadly too many feel this way. Two thirds of the Christmas lights in our neighborhoods that were on a week ago will not burn past December 25th and many decorations and Christmas trees are already being taken down. Those that are still up will most likely be gone on or before the week is over.

The sad fact is that the observance of Christmas has been corrupted by our materialistic and retail driven culture. Children (and some adults) probably think the twelve days of Christmas are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the five shopping weekends before Christmas.

The truth is that Christmas is not over, and will not be over until the observance of Holy Theophany on the 6th of January. Consider that the reason for the celebration of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas has a set place, time, and length on the liturgical calendar of the Christian Church. While there are many secular symbols and traditions associated with the Christmas season, Christmas is a religious observance. The scheduling of Christmas is not in the hands of the retailers. It is not dictated by your employer. Yes they may have an after-Christmas sale on December 26th, but no one is forcing you to go. Yes it may be business as usual in your place of employment, but that doesn’t mean that at close of business you cannot cast away the business day and set your mind on a full day of Christmas afterwards. And remember that your priority during this season (like it should be all year round) is God and church first, family second, and then and only then other things like your job and recreational activities.

The news reports this year have been filled with reports of outrage over attempts by those who would remove Christ from Christmas. And I share their concerns. But many of these same people would throw away eleven of the twelve days of Christmas. By jettisoning this religious liturgical Christmas season, are they not doing in some part what they are rightly accusing the others of doing? Are they not removing a large part of the religious significance of Christmas?

Perhaps we need to also look at ourselves and make sure we are not falling down on the job on this issue too. After all we can’t expect people to know the truth if no one tells them and that’s our job. Let’s make sure we are not coming across as “do as I say, not as I do”.

So keep those decorations up and don’t take them down until January 7th (or more practically the weekend after). Keep those Christmas songs playing, they may not be on the radio anymore but that’s what CD and MP3 players are for. Attend those church services at your parish unless you are ill. Observe the full Christmas season, and receive the full blessing from doing so.

So to answer that question, I am having a good Christmas. If you wish to know if I had a good Christmas, then by all means ask me on January 7th. I’ll be more than happy to share my Christmas holiday and its joys with you.

December 26, 2005- Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos

Christmas

Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos, 2nd Day of Christmas, Christmas Day Observed-Civil calendar

Tone 2

Epistle- Heb 2:11-18
Gospel- Matt 2:13-23

Tues 12/27- First Martyr Stephen
Sun 1/1- Circumcision of Christ, St. Basil the Great, Civil New Year
Fri 1/6- Holy Theophany ** (See Below)
Saturday 1/7- Synaxis of St. John the Baptist
Saturday 1/14- St Sava of Serbia

**Service Schedule for St. Seraphim's (High Point) for 1/6

Holy Theophany Service, Blessing of Holy Water 7pm

Saturday, December 24, 2005

December 25, 2005- Nativity of Christ

Christmas

Nativity of Christ/Christmas Day

Tone 2

Epistle- Gal 4:4-7
Gospel- Matt 2:1-12

Service Schedule for St. Seraphim's (High Point) on 12/24

Christmas Service and Divine Liturgy 11:30pm

NOTE: No Divine Liturgy at 11am on Sunday 12/25 since service will have been held at midnight.

Mon 12/26- Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos
Tues 12/27- First Martyr Stephen
Sun 1/1- Circumcision of Christ, St. Basil the Great, Civil New Year
Fri 1/6- Holy Theophany ** (See Below)
Saturday 1/7- Synaxis of St. John the Baptist

** Service Schedule for St. Seraphim's (High Point)

Holy Theophany Service, Blessing of Holy Water 7pm

Friday, December 23, 2005

December 24. 2005- Nativity Vigil/Christmas Eve

Nativity Lent/Advent

Nativity Vigil/Christmas Eve

Tone 1

Epistle- Heb 1:1-12
Gospel- Luke 2:1-20

Service Schedule for St. Seraphim's (High Point) on 12/24

Christmas Service and Divine Liturgy 11:30pm

NOTE: No Divine Liturgy at 11am on Sunday 12/25 since service will have been held at midnight.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

December 18, 2005- Sunday Before Nativity

Nativity Lent/Advent

Sunday Before Nativity

Tone 1

Epistle- Heb 11:9-10, 17-23
Gospel- Matt 1:1-25

Upcoming Holy Days and Diocese Events

Sat 12/24- Nativity Vigil/Christmas Eve* (See Below)
Sun 12/25- Nativity of Christ/Christmas
Mon 12/26- Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos
Tues 12/27- First Martyr Stephen
Sun 1/1- Circumcision of Christ, St. Basil the Great, Civil New Year

* Service Schedule for St. Seraphim's (High Point) on 12/24

Christmas Service and Divine Liturgy 11:30pm

NOTE: No Divine Liturgy at 11am on Sunday 12/25 since service will have been held at midnight.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

December 11, 2005- 25th Sunday After Pentecost, Sunday of the Forefathers

Nativity Lent/Advent

Sunday of the Forefathers

Tone 8

Epistle- Col 3:4-11
Gospel- Luke 14:16-24

Upcoming Holy Days and Diocese Events

Mon 12/12- St. Spyridon, Wonderworker
Sat 12/24- Nativity Vigil/Christmas Eve** (See Below)
Sun 12/25- Nativity of Christ/Christmas
Mon 12/26- Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos
Tues 12/27- First Martyr Stephen

** Service Schedule for St. Seraphim's (High Point) on 12/24

Christmas Service and Divine Liturgy 11:30pm

NOTE: No Divine Liturgy at 11am on Sunday 12/25 since service will have been held at midnight.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

December 6, 2005- St. Nicholas of Myra

Tone 7

Epistle- Heb 13:17-21
Gospel- Luke 6:17-23

Vespers and Healing Service 7pm (St. Seraphim's, High Point)

THE REAL SAINT NICHOLAS:

I thought you might like to know who the real "Santa Claus" is. Our children are often done a disservice by associating Saint Nicholas with receiving anonymous gifts on Christmas morning, while never knowing whom the real Saint Nicholas was. The mythical "Santa Claus" from the "Night before Christmas" while it's become an American tradition, is hardly factual.

Above, you will see an Icon of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was an Archbishop of Myra in Lycia in the fourth century, and yes, he did deliver gifts in the night as I will explain later. St. Nicholas was extremely generous, especially to needy children. In the Icon shown above you will see St. Nicholas wearing a Bishop's vestments, holding a Gospel Book. His right hand is shown in the "Ionic Blessing" posture, which is used to this day in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church when the Priest or Bishop blesses the congregation. The Priest or Bishop holds their right hand so that it forms the Greek letters IC, which stand for "Isous" "Christos", or in English, Jesus Christ. On this Icon, to the right you see Jesus Christ holding a Gospel Book , and on the left, you see the Virgin Mary holding a Bishop's Omophore. You will notice the Omophore as the white cloth with crosses on it draped across his shoulders and over his left arm.

The reason Jesus and Mary are depicted on this Icon is to teach the people about how he was re-instated as Bishop after he was temporarily deposed after striking a Bishop named Arius at the first Ecumenical Council. Arius was trying to introduce a heresy to the teachings of the Church which denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ. St. Nicholas who strongly supported the Divinity of Jesus Christ was provoked to anger by Arius' false claims. The Council disapproved of St. Nicholas' actions and expelled him from his station as Bishop. That evening several of the members of the Council had this vision: They saw Jesus Christ handing St. Nicholas a Gospel Book, and the Virgin Mary placing an Omophore on him. When a Bishop is consecrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church he is given a Gospel book, and an Omophore is placed on him. This vision clearly communicated to the Council members that Jesus Christ wanted St. Nicholas to remain a Bishop in His Holy Church. They re-instated St. Nicholas as Bishop immediately the very next day. The heretic Arius was expelled from the Council and the Divinity of Jesus Christ was affirmed.

St. Nicholas started out as a monk at the Monastery of New Zion which was founded by his uncle. St. Nicholas originally wanted to live a life of solitude devoted exclusively to Jesus Christ. This is most likely where the seclusion at the North Pole came from in the modern "Santa Claus". Jesus Christ appeared to St. Nicholas in a vision and told him that he must work among the people instead of secluding himself if he wanted to receive a crown in Heaven. St. Nicholas obeyed Jesus Christ and went our into the world to work as a Priest, and eventually as a Bishop.

The legend of "Santa Claus" delivering gifts to children at night who were sound asleep comes from the real St. Nicholas' method of doing good deeds as Christ tells us in secret. There was a very poor gentleman in the town that St. Nicholas lived in that had daughters. This family was so poor and deeply in debt that the father decided to sell his three daughters into prostitution. St. Nicholas was so deeply hurt by this man's decision he immediately began to think of ways he could help him without him every knowing about it. St. Nicholas wanted his assistance to be totally anonymous as Jesus Christ taught, so he decided to wait until evening when everyone was asleep, then he would quickly walk by the home of this family and toss a bag of gold through an open window.

After the first sack of gold, the man decided to give his daughter to marriage and used the gold as a dowry. St. Nicholas after learning of this started preparing another sack of gold, and delivered it in the same manner to the family. The father then was able to give his second daughter in marriage and provide a dowry for her as well. The third time that St. Nicholas delivered a bag of gold to the home, the father heard the clink of the gold and ran after St. Nicholas, when he caught up with him he fell at his feet and thanked him for saving his daughters from the evils of prostitution.

Once when there was a great famine in the land of Lycia. St. Nicholas, feeling pity for the unfortunate people who were perishing from hunger, appeared in a dream to a merchant who happened to be in Italy. This merchant has loaded his entire ship with grain and intended to sail to another land. In the dream St. Nicholas promised the merchant three gold coins if he would sail to Myra and sell his grain there. When the merchant woke up, the three coins that St. Nicholas promised him in the dream were in his hand. The merchant decided to sail to Myra and sold the grain to the people, halting the famine.

St. Nicholas was always remembered as a humble, meek and forgiving man. His clothing was simple, he only ate one meal per day, and to orphans he was a father and provider. He often wept for the people he loved and cared for. Truly St. Nicholas was a loving and caring servant of God. I've always been distressed that someone that lived the principles that Jesus Christ taught would be made into such a materialistic being.

It's okay for children to have the experience of "Santa Claus"; however, when they're old enough, they should be taught about the real St. Nicholas and how he loved to give anonymously to the poor and needy. We need to teach our children the value of giving instead of expecting more and more. By allowing our children to grow up materialistic instead of philanthropic, we're not really teaching them the true meaning of Christmas!

St. Nicholas knew the true meaning of Christmas - He gave generously to others of himself, expecting nothing in return! He lived the message that the birth of Christ offered us: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward mankind!" May Jesus Christ touch your hearts in a special way this Christmas. May His Holy Birth remind you of the precious gift God gave us - His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

December 4, 2005- 24th Sunday After Pentecost

Nativity Lent/Advent

Tone 7

Epistle- Eph 2:14-22
Gospel- Luke 17:12-19

Upcoming Holy Days and Diocese Events

Tues 12/6- St Nicholas Archbishop of Myra * (See Below)
Fri 12/9- Conception of the Holy Theotokos by Rightous Anna
Sat 12/24- Nativity Vigil/Christmas Eve** (See Below)
Sun 12/25- Nativity of Christ/Christmas
Mon 12/26- Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos

*Special Events at St. Seraphim's (High Point) on Dec 6

Vespers and Healing Service for the Feast of St. Nicholas 7pm
13th Anniversary of founding of St. Seraphim's (High Point)
13th Anniversary of the ordination of Bishop Michael to the Priesthood

** Service Schedule for St. Seraphim's (High Point) on 12/24

Christmas Service and Divine Liturgy 11:30pm

NOTE: No Divine Liturgy at 11am on Sunday 12/25 since service will have been held at midnight.