New Announcements 2018

Archive: 2017 Announcements
Archive: 2018 Announcements

The Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: January 7

On this day we remember the birth of our Lord Jesus to His Most Pure and Unwedded Mother, the Virgin Mary, in the year 5508 from the creation of the world, in the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus, in Bethlehem of Judea.
Due to a nation-wide census the Virgin Mary, together with Her betrothed, the aged Joseph, came from Nazareth, where they lived, to their native city of Bethlehem so as to be registered. The Jews were accustomed to be counted in the city from where their family came. The Most Holy Virgin and the Righteous Joseph, since they were descended from the house and lineage of King David, had to go to Bethlehem to be counted and taxed. Since every place in the city was overcrowded, they were compelled to take up their lodging in a cave where shepherds kept their flocks in the winter. Here the Savior of the world was born and laid in a manger.
Having given birth to the divine Infant without travail, the Most Holy Virgin “wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). In the stillness of midnight (Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-15), the proclamation of the birth of the Savior of the world was heard by three shepherds watching their flocks by night.
An angel of the Lord (St Cyprian says this was Gabriel) came before them and said: “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). The humble shepherds were the first to offer worship to Him Who condescended to assume the form of a humble servant for the salvation of mankind. Besides the glad tidings to the Bethlehem shepherds, the Nativity of Christ was revealed to the Magi by a wondrous star. St John Chrysostom and St Theophylactus, commenting on St Matthew’s Gospel, say that this was no ordinary star. Rather, it was “a divine and angelic power that appeared in the form of a star.” St Demetrius of Rostov says it was a “manifestation of divine energy” (Narrative of the Adoration of the Magi). Entering the house where the Infant lay, the Magi “fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Mt. 2:11).
The feast of the Nativity of Chris is the most of important of all of the twelve great feasts, and is second only to the Bright Resurrection of Christ. The faithful prepare for its worthy celebration by means of a forty-day fast. Beginning with the first day of the Nativity of Christ, January 7, and ending with the feast of Theophany, January 19, every day "all things are permitted;" that is, the fast on Wednesdays and Fridays is suspended, as is praying on bended knee in church and in one’s cell.

The Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ and The Commemoration of St. Basil the Great: January 14
On January, eight days after the Holy Nativity of our Lord, we celebrate His Circumcision, one of the Feasts of the Lord, on which—in accordance with Hebrew tradition—He received the name "Jesus" that means "Savior": "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His name was called Jesus, which was so named of the Angel before He was conceived in the womb" (St. Luke 2:21).
The true descendants of the Patriarch Abraham were separated from the other nations by the sign of circumcision (a prefigurement of Baptism: "the circumcision made without hands" [Colossians 2:11ff]) and thereby became members of the God-ruled community of the Old Testament; that is, through circumcision, they entered among the chosen People of God.
Christ was now "made under the law," being conformed to the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law (Galatians 4:4) and "fulfilling" the Law (St. Matthew 3:15), in order to elevate the Church of the Law into a Church of Grace, into a new "Israel of God" (cf. Galatians 6:16), into a The anthropic organism—into His Body.
The Circumcision of our Lord inspired our Holy Church to institute a beautiful and deeply symbolic custom for the newborn children of Christians: at eight days, the Priest reads the "Prayer for the Signing of a Child Who is Receiving a Name on the Eighth Day After His Birth" (see the Small Evchologion); in such a way the first "Seal" of Grace is given to the infant: "Let the light of Thy countenance be signed upon Thy servant (name), and let the Cross of Thine Only-begotten Son be signed in his heart and his thoughts...."

St. Seraphim Wonderworker of Sarov: January 15
St. Seraphim of Sarov was born Prohor Moshnin in 1759 in Kursk, Russia, to a merchant family, and he showed strong spiritual sensitivity from childhood. After recovering from a childhood illness, he entered the monastery at Sarov in 1778. In 1786 he took final vows to become a monk and received the name Seraphim, which means "fire" or "burning," in part because of his zeal at prayer.
After 1793 he moved to a forest hermitage five miles north of the monastery, and began to see people as a starets, Russian for "elder," meaning a spiritual director. People flocked to him over the last decades of his life. Early in this period he sustained a severe beating at the hands of robbers, which left him with a hunchback for the rest of his life. At the trial for these men, who had been captured, Seraphim offered them words of forgiveness.
The animals in the forest especially loved Seraphim, and he fed them even as legend says that they fed him, too. Among his animal friends was a bear often depicted with him on one of the icons that commemorate his life.
St. Seraphim says about faith: "Faith, according to the teachings of St. Antioch, is the beginning of our union with God: the true believers are the stone of the church of God, prepared for the edifice of God the Father, which is raised up to the heights by the power of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Cross and help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). The works of faith (fruits of the Spirit) are love, peace, longsuffering, mercy, humility and bearing one's cross. True faith cannot remain without works. One who truly believes will also surely perform good works."
Central to Seraphim's approach to the faith was the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, which he called the "true goal of the Christian life." He gave his life over to this acquisition through prayer and discipline and he urged the same practice on his visitors. His most remembered saying is, "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved." Prayer, ascetic discipline and acts of mercy achieve this, over a long time. Seraphim said, "Only deeds performed for Christ give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit."

Theophany, or the Baptism of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ: January 19
Troparion, Tone 1:
When in the Jordan Thou wast baptized, О Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest: for the voice of the Parent bare witness unto Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son, and the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the certainty of the word. Thou that hast appeared, О Christ our God, and dost enlighten the world, Glory to Thee.
Kontakion, Tone 4:
Today hast Thou appeared to the universe, and Thy Light, О Lord, hath showed a sign upon us, who with understanding sing unto Thee: Thou art come, and hast revealed thyself, О Light Unapproachable.
When Christ attained the age of thirty, His time to preach had come, and He appeared to the people for the first time at the Jordan, where John the Forerunner had been heralding the coming of the Messiah. He preached baptism and repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Crowds of people came to John from everywhere, and many began to wonder if he was the promised Messiah, but he told them: «I baptize you with water, but One who is much mightier than I is coming, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire».
At one time John saw Jesus, Who approached to be baptized by him. But John, feeling unworthy to baptize Christ said: «I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me! » But Jesus answering said to him: «Let it be this way for now. For in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness».
Then John obeyed, and Jesus entering the Jordan was baptized by John. After being baptized, Jesus came out of the water; and the heaven was opened to Him and the Holy Spirit came down on Him in the form of a dove, and a voice out of the heavens said: «This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased».
Thus, at the baptism of Jesus Christ the Holy Trinity appeared mystically before all the people: the voice of God the Father was heard witnessing to God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon the Savior of the world. That is the reason why this feast day is called Theophany – the manifestation of God to man.

Since during Christening of the Lord the Holy Trinity appeared, this holy day is called Appearance of God (Богоявление).  During the celebration of this Feast of the Lord, in churches, water is blessed using the Great Blessing Rite. This Holy Water is referred to as “Great Agiasma” or “Theophany Water”.
Click here to read more about Holy Water.