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The Nativity Fast: 28 November — 6 January 
The fast becomes stricter with the onset of the Forefeast of the Nativity on January 2 (on which day we also commemorate the Holy Martyr Ignatius the God-bearer), when fish is completely excluded from the table of those who strive to observe the Church rubrics in all strictness.
Nativity Fast in our minds is usually associated with penitence, sorrow, weeping over one’s sins, cleansing the soul in preparation for the forthcoming great event or sacrament. In Christmas Lent, all concepts concerning lent - except for the last one, that is, purification of the soul, - are eclipsed by two dominant characteristics. These are - humbleness and internal joy.
Why does the Church urge us to use this lenten period to bring our souls into a state of complete humility? Because the coming holiday, although so joyous and so great, is completely enveloped in the spirit of humility. The Apostle Paul explains to us that in this holiday “God on high descended upon earth, in order to elevate us into heaven.” But in order to achieve this, the Lord “diminished Himself, taking on the image of a servant, and was likened to man.” We are all servants of God, that is, we have all been created, and in order to become like man, the Lord had to diminish, lessen, exhaust, in other words - humble His Divinity. And all of this the Lord did for us, in order to save us from death and the power of the devil, so that man - the crown of God’s creation - would not perish. In like manner we, too, should honor and thank our Creator and Saviour. We should diminish our pride, lessen our self-extolment, exhaust our selfishness, and only then - through total humility - will we find that ascending road into heaven, into the Heavenly Realm, which the Lord has opened for us in His descent to earth.
Reference:
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/33379.htm
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/43584.htm

Nativity Fast: 28 November – 6 January
The Nativity fast begins on November 28, and lasts forty days. This period of fasting begins directly after the commemoration of the Holy Apostle Philip, on the November 28 according to the Church calendar, and concludes  with the Nativity Feast itself. The Nativity fast is not as strict as Great Lent or the Dormition fast, and can be compared to the Apostle’s fast: fish can be eaten on every Saturday and Sunday, as well as on festal days of the Church calendar that do not fall on Wednesday or Friday. It was instituted by the Church so that we would worthily greet the feast of the Nativity of Christ after having cleansed our hearts by prayer and repentance.
Read here more about the fast, rules and how learn oneself to keep the fast HERE or HERE.


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.

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg: February 6
Troparion, Tone 8
Christ the Lord has shown forth in thee a new mediatress and intercessor for our race;/ thou didst will to endure evil in thy life and didst lovingly serve both God and man./ We zealously run to thee in misfortune and sorrow,/ we hope in thee and cry from our hearts:/ Put not our hope to shame, O blessed Xenia.
Another Troparion, Tone 5
Having lived as a stranger in the world, O Xenia,/ thou didst outwit the deviser of evil/ by thy pretended foolishness./ Thou didst receive from God/ grace to foresee and foretell things to come./ Now thou hast been translated from earth/ and art numbered with the choirs of Angels.
Kontakion, Tone 4
Thou didst give thy wealth to the poor, O Xenia,/ and accept poverty out of love for Christ;/ and having lived in a manner rivaling the Angels/ thou wast counted worthy/ of glory on high.

St. Xenia was the wife of Colonel Andrei Feodorovich Petrov, who served as a court chanter. At the age of 26, Xenia was widowed and, appeared to have lost her mind from grief: she distributed her possessions to the poor, dressed herself in the clothes of her reposed husband, and, as if having forgotten her own name, called herself by the name of her reposed husband — Andrei Feodorovich.
These eccentricities were not indicative of a loss of reason, however, but signified a complete disdain for earthly goods and human opinion, which places them at the center of existence. Thus, Xenia of Petersburg took upon herself the difficult podvig of foolishness for Christ's sake.
Having come to know the inconstancy of earthly happiness through the death of her beloved husband, Xenia strove toward God with all her heart, and sought protection and comfort only in Him. Earthly, transitory goods ceased to have any value for her. Xenia had a house; but gave it over to an acquaintance under the condition that it be used to shelter paupers. But Xenia herself, not having a refuge, would wander among the paupers of Petersburg. At night she would go out to a field, where she spent the time in ardent prayer.
When they began to build a church in the Smolensk Cemetery, Xenia, after the onset of darkness, would secretly carry bricks to the top of the construction, and thereby helped the masons erect the walls of the church.
Some of Xenia's relatives wanted to take her in and provide her with all necessities, but the blessed one replied to them: "I do not need anything."
She was glad of her poverty, and when visiting somewhere, would at times remark: "I am all here!" When her reposed husband's clothing wore out, Xenia clothed herself in the poorest clothing, and wore torn shoes without stockings on her feet. She did not dress warmly and forced her body to suffer from the severe cold.
Sensing the greatness of Blessed Xenia's soul, the inhabitants of Petersburg loved her, because she despised the earthly for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. If Xenia entered anyone's home, this was considered a good sign. Mothers rejoiced if she kissed their children. Cab drivers would ask permission of the blessed one to drive her a little, since after this the earnings would be guaranteed for the whole day. Merchants in the bazaars would try to give here kalach [cracknel bread] or some food; if Blessed Xenia took something from what was offered, all the wares of the seller were quickly bought up.
Xenia had the gift of clairvoyance. On the eve of the Nativity of Christ in 1762, she walked about Petersburg and said, "Bake blini! Tomorrow all Russia will bake blini!" The next day, the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, suddenly died [blini is traditionally made at someone’s death]. A few days before the murder of the royal youth, John VI (Antonovich, the great­great­grandson of Tsar Alexis Michailovich), who in infancy had been proclaimed the Russian Emperor, the blessed one wept and repeated, "Blood, blood, blood." Within a few days after Mirovich's unsuccessful conspiracy, the young John was killed.
Once, Xenia came to a home where there was a grown­up daughter. Turning to the girl, she said, "Here you are drinking coffee, while your husband is burying his wife at Okhta." After a certain time, this girl married that very widower who at that moment had been burying his first wife at the Okhta Cemetery.
Blessed Xenia died at the end of the eighteenth century, but tradition has not preserved either the year or day of her decease. She was buried in the Smolensk Cemetery, where she had helped build the church.
Pilgrimages to her grave began shortly after her decease. Blessed Xenia often appeared in visions to people in difficult circumstances, forewarned of dangers and saved them from calamities. The righteous one has not ceased to show compassionate love toward all who with faith have called upon her, and many instances of her help for the suffering and those in desperate situations are known.
A civil servant, Nicholas Selivanovich Golovin, had lived in Grodno approximately until 1907. He often experienced unpleasantness at work. He came to Petersburg to put his affairs in order, but they became even more entangled. Golovin was very poor, caring for his elderly mother and two sisters. In despair, he walked along the streets of Petersburg, and, though he was a man of faith, the thought to throw himself into the Neva stole into his soul. At this moment, some unknown woman stood in front of him. He was struck by her appearance, which was reminiscent of a poor nun. "Why are you so sad?" she asked. "Go to the Smolensk Cemetery, serve a panikhida [a requiem service] for Xenia, and everything will be settled." After these words, the unknown woman disappeared. Golovin fulfilled the advice of the mysterious nun, and his affairs were unexpectedly settled in the best manner possible. He joyfully returned home to Grodno.
Emperor Alexander III, when he was the heir, became ill with a serious form of typhus. The Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna was very alarmed by her spouse's illness. One of the valets, seeing her in the corridor, related to her how Blessed Xenia helps the sick, gave her sand from the cherished grave and added that he himself had been healed from illness by the prayer of the righteous one. The Grand Duchess placed the sand under the pillow of the patient. That same night, while sitting at the head of the bed, she had a vision of Blessed Xenia, who told her that the patient would recover and that a daughter would be born in their family. She should be called Xenia. The prediction of the blessed one was fulfilled exactly.
In the Pskov province, a relative from Petersburg came to stay for a while with a landowner and recounted how they revere Blessed Xenia in the capital. Under the influence of this account, the pious landowner prayed before sleep for the repose of her soul. At night, she dreamed that Xenia was walking round her house and pouring water on it. In the morning, the hay barn on the country estate caught on fire, but the fire did not spread further and the home remained whole.
A colonel's widow arrived in Petersburg to enroll her two sons into the Cadet Corps. She did not succeed in this. The money borrowed for the trip had come to an end, and the widow walked along the street and wept bitterly. Suddenly, some woman of the common people came up to her and said: "Serve a panikhida for Xenia. She helps in sorrows." "Who is this Xenia?" asked the colonel's widow. "The tongue [that asks the way] will lead to Kiev," she answered, quickly vanishing.
Indeed, the colonel's widow easily learned who this Xenia was. She served a panikhida for her at her grave in the Smolensk Cemetery, and shortly after received the unexpected news that both her sons had been accepted into the Cadet Corps.
A multitude of similar instances of Blessed Xenia’s help is known also in our days.

Meeting of the Lord or Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: February 15
Troparion, Tone 1:
Hail, О Virgin, Birth-giver of God, full of grace; for from Thee hath shone forth the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, Who giveth light to those who are in darkness. Rejoice also, thou aged, righteous man, who didst receive in thine arms the Redeemer of our souls, Who bestoweth upon us the resurrection.
Kontakion, tone 1:
Thou, Who by Thy birth didst sanctify the Virgin's womb, and didst bless the arms of Simeon, as was meet, didst preserve and now hast saved us, О Christ our God. But give peace amid the alarm of wars to Thy community, and stablish the Church, which Thou hast adopted into Thy love, О Thou Who alone lovest mankind.

According to the law of Moses, every firstborn male was to be brought into the temple to be dedicated to God on the fortieth day after birth and along with that a sacrifice had to be brought. The Holy Mother of God followed this law, even though She knew that the Child born of her was the Son of God. Holy Mary and Joseph brought the Child Jesus into the temple on the fortieth day along with a humble sacrifice of two young pigeons.
In Jerusalem at that time, writes St. Luke the Evangelist, there lived a man, Simeon, who was just and devout and awaited the consolation of Israel. According to tradition, Simeon was in Alexandria 270 years prior to this date, translating that passage in Holy Scripture where Isiah prophesied that the Messiah was to be born of a Virgin. He wanted to change the word «virgin» with another meaning «young woman», but an angel stopped him and foretold Simeon that he would not see death before seeing the Messiah born of the Virgin.
Led by the Holy Spirit into the temple on the day that the holy family brought the Child Jesus to fulfill the law, Simeon took the Child into his arms and blessed God by saying: «Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bondservant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for my eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all the people; a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel».
Joseph and His Mother marveled at those things that were spoken of the Child. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His Mother: «Behold this Child is appointed for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed; and a sword will pierce through thine own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed».
Anna the prophetess, a widow of 84 years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God day and night by fasting and prayer, was there also. And she having approached at that time, glorified God and spoke of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. And when they performed all things according to the law of God, they returned to Galilee, into their city of Nazareth. (Luke 2: 25-39)

Annunciation: April 7
Troparion, Tone 4:
Today is the beginning of our salvation and the manifestation of the mystery which is from eternity: the Son of God becometh the Son of a Virgin, and Gabriel announceth the glad tidings of grace. Wherefore let us also cry out with him unto the Birth-giver of God: Hail, Thou that art full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.
Kontakion, Tone 8:
We Thy servants, in that we have been delivered from calamities, do offer unto Thee, О Birth-giver of God, Who as victorious Chieftan warrest for us, songs of triumph and thanksgiving: Do thou also, in that Thou hast might invincible, free us from all assaults, that we may cry unto Thee: Hail, О Bride unwedded!
 
When Mary became of age, according to Hebrew custom of the time, she could no longer stay at the Temple, but had to be either returned to her parents or marry. Since Joachim and Anna had died, and Mary had proclaimed her vow of celibacy to the High Priest, it was decided to betroth her to an elderly distant relative to protect and care for her. She, therefore, went to live in Nazareth with the elderly Joseph, who was a carpenter. Here, according to tradition, while Mary was reading from the prophet Isaiah about the birth of the Messiah to a virgin, the angel Gabriel appeared to her.
«And the angel came in unto her and said: Rejoice, thou that are highly favored, the Lord is with Thee; blessed art thou among women. She was troubled by this greeting, ....and the angel said unto her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy 1womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, how shall this be, seeing that I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her: the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God and Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her». (Luke 1: 28-38)
In the Russian language this holy day is called Blagovescheniye - «the announcement of glad tidings», because this was the first time that the glad tidings of the coming of the Saviour were proclaimed to the world.

Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem: April 9, 2017
Troparion, Tone 1:
Giving assurance of the general resurrection before Thy Passion, Thou, О Christ our God, didst raise Lazarus from the dead. Wherefore we also, like unto the children, bearing the symbols of victory, cry out unto Thee, the Conqueror of Death: Hosanna in the highest, Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Kontakion, Tone 6:
On a throne in heaven, borne on a foal upon the earth, О Christ-God, Thou didst accept the praise of the Angels, and the hymn of the children that cried unto Thee: Blessed art Thou that comest to recall Adam.
On the last Sunday of the Great Lent, the Church remembers the triumphant entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. On the day before, on Saturday, is the rememberance of the great miracle which had been wrought not long before in Bethany - the resurrection of Lazarus, who had been dead and buried four days in his tomb. Many of the people, having witnessed this miracle, believed in Christ and were awaiting His coming into Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees wanted to have Jesus killed because they envied Him, and so they gave an order to be told when Jesus would come into Jerusalem.
The time of Christ4 s suffering was nearing. Six days before Passover, when Mary, the sister of the resurrected Lazarus, poured expensive myrrh on the feet of Jesus, some of the disciples were displeased at such waste, thinking that the money from the sale of the myrrh could have been used to help the poor. Knowing what lay in store for Him in Jerusalem, Christ told His disciples that with this anointment His body was being prepared for burial. He also spoke at great length about the suffering that was drawing near for Him. Finally Jesus gathered His disciples to go to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.
As He was nearing Jerusalem, Jesus Christ sent two of His disciples ahead instructing them: «Go to the village ahead of you; there you will find a donkey and a colt, on which no man has yet sat upon; untie them and bring them here. And if anyone says anything to you, answer that it is required by the Lord.».The disciples went and did as theywere told. They covered the young donkey with their cloaks and Jesus sat upon the donkey. Coming near Jerusalem, Jesus wept over the city that was doomed to be destroyed for not accepting its salvation.
Many in Jerusalem found out that Jesus, the Resurrector of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, was approaching. Many of the people who came here for the feast, came out to meet Him and taking off their outer garments spread them on the ground before Him; others cut palm leaves and held them in their hands and threw them in His path. And all the people who were following Him and those that came to meet Him exclaimed: «Hosana, blessed be He, Who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel.»
When Jesus entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into commotion, and those who did not know of Him asked: «Who is Не?» And the people answered: this is Jesus, a prophet from Nazareth of Galilee. Upon entering the temple, Christ once again, just like in the first year of His teaching, drove out those that bought and sold there, saying «it is written in the Scriptures: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the people. But you have made it into a den for thieves.»
The blind and the crippled surrounded Him in the temple and He healed them. The chief priests and the teachers of the Law, seeing these miracles that He wrought, and seeing the children shouting in the temple: Hosana to the son of David! became angry and said to Him: do You hear what they are saying? And Jesus answered: Yes, have you not read: Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
In the next days Jesus Christ taught in the temple, and the nights He spent outside the city. The chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the elders of the people looked for an opportunity to kill Him but could not because all the people were around Him listening to His teachings.

PASCHA. RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD: APRIL 16, 2017
Troparion:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling Death by death, and to those in the tomb, He hath granted Life.
Kontakion, Tone 8:
Though Thou didst descend into the grave, О Deathless One, yet Thou didst annihilate the power of Hell, and didst rise again as Conqueror, О Christ-God, announcing unto the myrrh-bearing women: Rejoice! and giving peace unto Thine Apostles, and bestowing Resurrection upon the fallen.
 
The word «Pascha» in Hebrew means «passing over, deliverance». The Hebrews, celebrating the Old-Testament Passover, commemorated the miraculous exodus of the Jews out of Egypt, when they crossed the parted Red Sea being led by their great Prophet, the God-beholder Moses. They left the land of slavery, Egypt, to enter into the Promised Land.
Christians, celebrating the New Testament Pascha, exult in the deliverance through Christ of all the people from slavery to the devil and in the granting of Life and everlasting bliss. As sung in the canons: «From death to Life and from the earth to the Heavens hath Christ God brought us».
Pascha is the essence of our faith: for Christ rose from the dead, and we will rise from the dead. Therefore Pascha is the Feast of feasts and the Triumph of triumphs, and therefore the services of this Feast are exceptionally magnificent and especially triumphant.
The Resurrection of Christ was attested to by the apostles and the blood of myriads of martyrs. The spiritual joy of Pascha is expressed in the victorious hymn: «Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life», and is felt by the heart of each believer.
On Friday in the ninth hour (by contemporary calculations about three in the afternoon) Christ Who was crucified on the Cross, gave up His Spirit to God the Father. Only His young disciple John, the Mother of God and several other women followers stood by the Cross weeping at His suffering - all the others ran away in fear a long while back.
Upon the death of Christ «when it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea arrived; his name was Joseph, and he was also was a disciple of Jesus. He went into the presence of Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate gave orders for the body to be given to Joseph. So Joseph took it, wrapped it in a new linen sheet, and placed it in his own grave, which he had just recently dug out of the rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the entrance to the grave and went away. On the next day - that is the day following Friday - the chief priests and the Pharisees met with Pilate and said: Sir, we remember that while that liar was still alive he said«I will be raised to life after three days». Give orders, then, for the grave to be safely guarded until the third day, so that his disciples will not be able to go and steal him, and then tell the people «He was raised from death». This last lie would be even worse than the first one. «Take a guard» Pilate told them; «go and guard the grave as best you can». So they left, and made the grave secure by putting a seal on the stone and leaving the guard on watch. (Matt.27: 57-66).
After midnight from Saturday to the next day after it (now known as Sunday) the greatest and most joyous event in the whole world occurred: the guard was standing at the grave, the large stone with the seal was intact; suddenly the earth shook and our Lord Jesus Christ by the power of His Divinity resurrected from the dead and left the tomb. Soon after this an angel came down from Heaven and rolled away the stone from the entrance to the tomb and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightening and his clothes were white as snow. The soldiers guarding the grave fell to the ground in terror, but then got up and ran to tell the chief priests of what had
occurred. The chief priests gave the guards a large sum of money and said: «You are to say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him and you will have nothing to worry about». The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. To this very day that is the report spread around by the Jews. (Matt. 28:13-15).
Meanwhile, in the early morning, while it was still dark, several pious women were hurrying to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ with aromatic myrrh. They were not aware of the great event that had taken place, nor even of the seal of the Sanhedrin or of the guards. Their worry was about who would roll away the heavy stone from the grave. Mary Magdalene, being ahead of the rest, reached the grave first and seeing the stone rolled away ran to Peter and John saying: «They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we do not know where they have put Him». Hearing this, Peter and John immediately ran to the grave with Mary Magdalene. The rest of the myrrh-bearing women came to the grave and saw that the stone had been rolled away. So they went in; but they did not find the body of the Ixird Jesus. They stood there uncertain about this, when suddenly two men in bright shining clothes stood by them: Full of fear, the women bowed down to the ground, as the men said to them: «Why are you looking among the dead for One Who is alive? He is not here; He has risen. Remember what He has said to you while He was in Galilee: the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, be nailed to the cross and be raised to life on the third day». Then the women remembered His words, returned from the grave, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. (Lk.24: 3-9)

Ascension of Our Lord: May 25, 2017
Troparion, Tone 4: 
Thou hast ascended in glory, О Christ our God, having made joyful Thy disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit, which was announced unto them in the blessing; for Thou art the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.
Kontakion, Tone 6: 
When Thou hast accomplished Thy dispensation concerning us, and united those on the earth with the heavenly, Thou didst ascend in glory, О Christ our God, yet in nowise separating Thyself from us, but abiding ever present and crying out unto those that love Thee: I am with you, and none shall prevail against you.
 
  This holy day is celebrated on the fortieth day after the Resurrection of Christ, on the Thursday of the sixth week of Pascha. The ascension of Christ into heaven is mentioned in the prophecies of the Scriptures. Christ Himself, upon His Resurrection, said to Mary Magdelene: «I go back up to My Father and your Father and to My God and your God».
  This great event with which Jesus" life on earth concludes is briefly mentioned in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. But in the Acts of the Apostles there is a fuller account: Gathering His disciples, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to await what had been promised by the Father, that is, the descent of the Holy Spirit. «John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be witnesses for Me in Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth. »
  Saying this, He went with His disciples to Bethany and stopped on the mount of Olives. Here He lifted up His hands and blessed them, and as He was blessing them, He was parted from them, and a cloud enveloped Him and He disappeared from their sight. And while they stood looking up into heaven as He was ascending, suddenly two men in white apparel appeared who said: «Ye men of Galilee, why do you stand and gaze up into heaven? This same Jesus Who is ascending up from you into heaven, shall come in the same manner as you have seen Him go into heaven.»
  Then the disciples returned to Jerusalem to where the Mother of God and the myrrh-bearing women were in prayer. In the Gospel  of Mark it is written that upon ascending to heaven, the Lord sat upon the right side of  God the Father, i.e., that the human soul and body of Jesus Christ took on the same glory  as His Divinity.
  Ascending to heaven, Jesus Christ promised to always be on earth invisibly among those who believe in Him.

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker: May 22
Anyone who has ever prayed to St. Nicholas for help knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he not only did exist, but still does exist, for our God is a God of the living (cf. Mt. 22:32).
St Nicholas was born (c. 270) in the the region of Lycia (southern Asia Minor), in the city of Patara. His parents, Theophanes and Nonna, were both pious Christians, and being childless until his arrival, consecrated Nicholas to God at his birth (the name Nicholas meaning 'Conqueror of nations').
Fr Nicholas made pilgrimage of the holy places in Jerusalem, especially Golgotha where Christ was crucified. Icons today continue to recount the miraculous nature of his voyage to Jerusalem there by ship, during which a great storm arose (Nicholas having earlier predicted that it would). Seeing in a vision the devil climbing aboard the ship, Nicholas warned the crew and prayed for the salvation of the craft and its occupants, and the sea shortly calmed.St Nicholas' title 'wonderworker' comes from the multitude of reports of miracles that issued forth at his intercession, both during his life and after. The renown of his miraculous acts was widespread in his own lifetime. As he had secretly delivered gold, many years before, to the father of three destitute daughters, so he secretly delivered gold to an Italian merchent (by some accounts, this gold was left miraculously by an apparition of the saint appearing to the merchant in Italy), convincing him to sail to Myra with a shipment of grain. And so by his prayers and deeds, his city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine.

Pentecost. Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles:
Troparion, Tone 8: 
Blessed art Thou, О Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishers to be most wise, having sent down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them having caught the universe: О Lover of mankind, Glory to Thee.
Kontakion, Tone 8: 
When the Most High descended, He blended the tongues, dividing the nations; but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all into unity; Wherefore, with one accord, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.

The real beginning of the history of the Church, its birth, is the feast of Pentecost. On the tenth day after the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, His disciples with His Mother and some other holy women and with some of those Jews who came to believe in Him, about 120 in all, were gathered in a home on mount Zion. As was usual, they were spending their time in prayer and in awaiting the promised Holy Spirit, when all of a sudden there was a noise from heaven as of rushing wind that filled the whole house where they were. And there appeared tongues as of fire that divided and alit on each person. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to converse in other languages.
This day was the Jewish feast of the Pentecost that commemorated he giving of the Law on the Mountain of Sinai, and because of this there were many people in Jerusalem from different ands. They heard an unusual noise in the air and started gathering near the house where the apostles had been. They were surprised to hear, each in his own tongue, the mighty works of God. In amazement they started asking: «what does this mean?», and others made fun saying:  «they are drunk on sweet wine».
Then apostle Peter came before the people and said: «Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. These men are not drunk, for it is only the third hour of the day (nine in the morning according to our time), but the time of fulfillment of the prophecies has come, when the Spirit of God comes down on the faithful. Listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourself know, this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you took and nailed to a cross by the hands of sinful men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up, putting an end to the bonds of death: because it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.» (Acts 2: 14-15; 22-24)
These words of apostle Peter suggested to him by the Holy Spirit deeply moved many of the people, and on that day about three thousand people were baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such was the beginning of the spreading of the Gospel, that through the apostles and their disciples it first spread throughout Judea, and then throughout the world.
 
Peter and Paul Fast: 
St. Peter’s Fast, or the Apostles’ Fast, begins, which serves for preparation for the great feast in honor of the Holy First-leaders of the Apostles Peter and Paul. The Church calls us to keep this fast according to the example of the holy Apostles, who, having received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, prepared themselves to preach the Gospels to the whole world. Read more about the fast here.

All Saints of Russia. Parish Feast Day. 
According to a resolution of the All-Russian Church Counsel of 1917-1918, on the second Sunday after Pentecost the memory of All Saints who have Shown Forth in the Land of Russia is to be celebrated. Their service is published in a separate booklet, and is combined with the regular resurrectional service of the first tone, in the same manner as the first Sunday, of All Saints; however, a megalynarion is likewise appointed to be sung, which on the Sunday of All Saints is sung only in the case of a parish feast. Read more about the feast here.







Holy Apostles Peter and Paul
The Holy Glorious and All-praised First-leaders of the Apostles Peter and Paul. The holy Church particularly reveres these two apostles and sets them apart from the rest — Peter, as the foremost of the apostles, that is, the one who first began his apostolic service, and Paul, as one who labored more than the rest, who worked more than others for the spreading of the Gospel. Both of these great apostles departed this life on the same day, June 29 (July 12 new calendar, through a martyric death in Rome under the emperor Nero. St. Peter was crucified upside-down upon a cross, and St. Paul, being a Roman citizen, was beheaded with the sword. The faithful prepare for the feast of the holy apostles Peter and Paul by means of a special fast, called the Apostles’ Fast, or St. Peter’s Fast.
Read more about the feast here




Transfiguration of Our Lord: August 19
Troparion, Tone 7:
Thou wast transfigured on the mount, О Christ our God, revealing unto Thy disciples Thy glory in so far as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting Light shine also upon us sinners, through the prayers of the Birth-giver of God. О Light-giver, glory to Thee.
Kontakion, Tone 7:
Upon the mount wast Thou transfigured, and Thy disciples, in so far as they were capable, beheld Thy glory, О Christ our God; that when they should see Thee crucified, they might comprehend that Thy suffering was voluntary and proclaim to the world that Thou verily art the effulgence of the Father.
 
Jesus Christ, in speaking to His disciples, often told them that He was to go to Jerusalem to receive suffering at the hands of the Highpriests and the teachers of the Law, and to be killed and to be resurrected on the third day.
The apostles believed that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, but they were deeply distressed at the thought of His suffering and would not hear of the fact that He, the Son of God and the Messiah would be degraded, would suffer and would die.
The disciples still had earthly hopes about the glory of the Saviour. They hoped that Jesus would free Judea from the yoke of the Roman Empire and would restore the Kingdom of Israel. To strengthen their faith for the time when they would see Him suffering and to take their minds off earthly thoughts, Jesus Christ showed His disciples His Divine glory.
Not too long before His suffering, Jesus took three of His disciples - Peter, James and John - and led them up a high mountain, Tabor, to pray. Walking a little distance from them, He began to pray while the exhausted disciples fell asleep. When they awoke, they saw that their Teacher was transfigured: His face shone like the sun, and His clothing was white as snow and glittering like light. And standing with Jesus were two prophets - Moses and Elijah - who appeared in their heavenly glory to talk with Jesus about the suffering and death that He was going to endure in Jerusalem.Seeing that Moses and Elijah were leaving Jesus, «Peter said to Him: Master, it is good for us to be here. We will make three tents - one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah, - not realizing what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they became frightened as it came over them. And a voice spoke from the cloud: this is My Beloved Son, Whom I have chosen - listen to Him». (Luke 9: 33-35)
The disciples fell to the ground in fear. Jesus came to them, touched them and said: Arise, do not be afraid.
The disciples arose and saw Jesus as He always was. When they were descending from the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to speak of what they had seen until He had arisen from the dead.After such proof of His Divine glory, the faith of the apostles in Christ as the Son of God could no longer be swayed.

Dormition of the Ever-Holy Mother of God: August 28
Troparion, Tone 1: 
In Birth-giving Thou didst preserve Thy virginity; in Thy Falling-asleep Thou hast not forsaken the world, О Birth-giver of God: Thou hast passed away into life, Thou Who art the Mother of Life, and by Thy prayers Thou deliverest our souls from death.
Kontakion, Tone 2: 
The Theotokos sleepeth not in Her intercessions and She is the unfailing hope of protection. The grave and death could not retain Her; for, He that dwelt in Her Ever-Virginal womb, hath presented Her, as the Mother of Life, unto life.
 
The feast of the Dormition is the last great feast in the Church calendar year. It is preceded by a two week fast.
The glorious lot of the ever-blessed Virgin in the role od God's salvation of the world made all Her life wonderful and exemplary. After the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God was taken to live in the household of her adopted son, the Apostle John, who had stood by Her as She suffering at the Cross. Apostle John did not leave Her until Her Dormition, treating Her as his own mother. Tradition notes that even after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, the Mother of God remained in Jerusalem, visiting those places where the Saviour of the world preached, suffered and died. She did not want to leave the country that was dear and holy to Her. When Caesar Herod Agrippa began to persecute the Church, and both the pagans and the Jews, indignant of the respect that the Mother of God was receiving from the Christians, wanted to kill Her, then She travelled with Apostle John to Ephesus. Church tradition has this as the time of her visit to Cyprus to Bishop Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead after four days, and to the Mountain of Athos. When the persecution ended, the Mother of God returned to the home of Apostle John at Zion in Jerusalem.
Once when She went to the Mount of Olives to pray, Archangel Gabriel appeared before Her and announced Her approaching passing on. Upon returning home. She told Apostle John of all that occurred and what the Archangel spoke of and started preparing Herself for Her final day on earth. Friends and relatives gathered, and all the apostles (except Apostle Thomas) were miraculously transported from various parts of the world to the house of the Mother of God. They were all amazed seeing each other there, and only when Apostle John explained that the Mother of God would soon be departing this world they understood why God had brought them together in such a manner and became sad. But She comforted them saying: «Do not cry and darken My happiness with your sadness. I am going to My Son and your God, and you will bury my body and return each to your work».
As the time of her death neared, the room shone with a divine light, the roof disappeared and a wonderous sight appeared before the faithful. The Lord Jesus Christ descended from heaven surrounded by many angels. All looked upon this wonderous sight with awe and reverence, and when they approached her bed, the face of the Mother of God was radiant, and a smell of incense pervaded the room.
The apostles carried the body of the Mother of God throgh the city to Gethsemane to be buried at her request in the tomb of her family and Joseph. They buried her body, closed the tomb with a stone and remained there at the site in prayer for three days. On the third day Apostle
Thomas arrived and was very saddened that he was not able to take his parting of her when She had been alive. To console him, the other apostles rolled away the stone to let him pay his respects to the body. But upon entering the tomb, they found it empty and that on the place where the body was – only the wrapping sheet remained. They returned home to partake of a communal meal at which they always left a place for the Resurrected Lord. After the meal, they raised the bread left for Christ aloft and exclaimed: «Lord, Jesus Christ, help us!» And they heard a choir of angels, and when they looked up they saw the EverVirgin surrounded by angels. She hailed them, saying: «Rejoice, for I am with you through all the days». Then the apostles were filled with joy and instead of saying the usual words, they exclaimed: «Most holy Mother of God, help us».
And now they understood and believed that upon the third day after her dormition, the Mothet of God had been resurrected. Thus, the dormition of the Mother of God is not a sad event, but a joyous one. Her death is but a short sleep, after which follows her resurrection and ascension to heaven. From the very beginning, the Church saw in the Mother of God one who would pray for all of mankind. She is the haven of the mothers of the world. She teaches how to live in total faithfulness to the will of God. She, who kept in her heart the divine words throughout her ordeal, is an example of faithfulness, love and service.

Nativity of the Holy Virgin: September 21
Troparion, Tone 4: 
Thy nativity, О Mother of God and Virgin, hath proclaimed joy unto all the universe; for from Thee is risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, and having destroyed the curse, He hath bestowed a blessing, and having brought death to naught, He hath granted us Life eternal.
Kontakion, Tone 4: 
Joachim and Anna were delivered from the reproach of childnessness, and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death, in Thy holy Nativity, О All-pure One. This do Thy people celebrate, being redeemed from the guilt of transgressions, when they cry unto Thee: The barren giveth birth to the Birth-giver of God and the Nourisher of our Life.
 
In the city of Nazareth dwelled a God-fearing elderly couple - Joachim, from the house of David, and Anna, from the priestly tribe of Aaron. They were childless.
In those days Hebrews, awaiting the Messiah, believed that any one who did not have children had in some way offended God and was being punished by having no descendants to be part of the kingdom of the Messiah.
Despite the ridicule and reproaches that Joachim and Anna received from their neighbors, they did not lose hope but continually prayed that God might grant them a child, which they promised to dedicate to the service of God. For their patience, their faith and love of God and each other, the Lord heard their prayers and a daughter was born to them in their old age. An angel directed them to name the child Mary, which means in Hebrew – Lady and Hope. The one who was to be the Mother of God was born into a righteous family, known more for its humility and goodness than for its royal blood.
The importance of this feast, the first in the Church calendar year (which begins September 14/1) is that with the birth of the Holy Virgin begins the great task of saving mankind from enslavement to sin as promised to the first man.

Exaltation of the Cross - 27 September
Troparion, Tone 1: 
О Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance, granting victories to the Orthodox Christians over their enemies and by Thy Cross preserving Thy community.
Kontakion, Tone 1: 
Do Thou, Who wast of Thine own will lifted upon the cross, grant Thy bounties upon the new State which is called by Thy Name, О Christ our God; lift up in Thy power, the Orthodox Christians, granting them victories over their adversaries, having Thy assistance, the armament of peace, an invincible victory.
 
The feast of the Elevation is in honor of the Cross of Christ. In rememberance of the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross, the day is one of strict fasting. If the birth of the Holy Virgin is the anticipation of the mystery of the Incarnation, then the Cross announces the expiatory sacrifice of Christ. For this reason the feast is celebrated in the beginning of the Church calendar year.
The sign of the cross - in Roman times an instrument of shameful death, after Golgotha becomes the symbol of salvation and victory. Through suffering to joy, through death to victory, through sacrificial giving to fulfillment of the will of God – such is the way of the Expiator of the world, such is the way of His followers. «Whosoever wants to follow Me, take up your cross and go after Me». This is not just difficulties and suffering, for on their own they do not become the Cross. «To take up one's Cross» is to reject one’s self, defeat self-love, learn to live for   others, learn courage, patience, and full faithfulness to Christ.
The origin of the feast is found in the glorious reign of Constantine the Great (fourth century), who erected the church of the Resurrection on the sites where the Tomb and Golgotha were.  This place had drawn Christian pilgrims from the very beginning of the existence of the Church. However, in the beginning of the second century, Emperor Hadrian, who was equally opposed to both Judaism and Christianity, decided to destroy traces of both religions. He rebuilt and renamed Jerusalem, leveled Golgotha, filled the Tomb and built a temple to Venus in its place. When Emperor Constantine proclaimed Christianity the predominant religion, he, at the urging of his Christian mother - St. Helen, ordered the pagan temple to be destroyed and excavation on this holy site to be begun. «Layer after layer was removed and all of a sudden in the depths of the earth, against all hopes, an empty space appeared and then the true and holy sign of our salvation» - writes Evsebius, a contemporary of the events. There in the ground three crosses were found – but the sign which had been placed on Christ's cross had fallen off, and it was impossible to decide which was His cross. Only after miracles occurred at one cross, such as the healing of a sick woman and the resurrection of one who was dead, did it become known which was the True Cross. Then the crowds of people milling about the site where the holy Cross was found wished to bow to the Life-giving Cross and started begging the Patriarch to raise it so all could see. The Patriarch stood upon an elevated place and raised the Cross, and from this action comes the name for the feast.
On the site where the Cross was found, St. Helen built a church to the glory of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and the True Cross was kept in it. The main part of the Life-giving Cross is even at present kept in Jerusalem, in the Greek church. The other parts of it were carried all over the Christian world.
The hymns to this feast speak of the Cross that is raised above the world as «the beauty of the Church», as «the confirmation of the believers». The Cross is the sign of God's love for man, the harbinger of the coming transfiguration of nature.


The Protection of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary
The feast was established in commemoration of when, in 936, St. Andrew, a fool for Christ, and his disciple, Epiphanius, during the All-night Vigil in the temple at Blachernae, saw the Most Holy Mother of God praying for people present in the temple and overshadowing them with Her omophorion. This feast is of Greek origin, but only in Russia did it attain the significance of a great feast, albeit one not included with the twelve great feasts. 
Read more about the feast here.







Read article “The Joyous Feast of the Pumpkin” here.








Entrance of the Holy Virgin into the Temple: December 4
Troparion, Tone 4: 
Today is the prefiguration of the beneficence of God, and the heralding of the salvation of man: the Virgin brightly appears in the temple of God, and predicts Christ to all. Unto Her let us, also,  cry out aloud: Hail,  Thou Who art the fulfillment of the Creator's providence.
Kontakion, Tone 4: 
The Most-pure Temple of the Saviour, the Most precious Bridal-chamber and Virgin, the Sacred Treasury of the Glory of God, today is led into the House of the Lord, She that bringeth the grace which is in the Divine Spirit; Whom the Angels of God hymn: This is She Who is the Heavenly Abode.
 
When the Virgin Mary attained the age of three years, her God-fearing parents got ready to fulfill their promise. They called together relatives and young girls, friends of Mary, and followed by many people with lighted tapers walked with her to the Jerusalem Temple to be dedicated to God.
The child Mary was led to the steps of the Temple, and she walked up to the very top by herself. There she was met by the High Priest, as he met other children dedicated to the service of God. Then moved by the Holy Spirit, the High Priest led Mary into the Holy of Holies   of the Temple, where he himself was allowed to enter but once a year.
Thus, the child Mary was dedicated to a higher service and a higher calling than any other. After her dedication she remained to live in the Temple for twelve years. She read and studied the Holy Scriptures and learned needlework along with other young girls. She prayed and fasted strictly, deciding to dedicate the rest of her life to God and vowed to   remain forever a virgin.
This holy day serves to remind parents that children are a gift to us from God. We, as parents must remember that it is our duty to bring them up according to God's commandments, ie. to love God and obey Him.

St. Nicholas the WonderworkerDecember 19
The question, "Is there a Santa Claus?" has led by association to the question, "Was there a St. Nicholas?" among secular historians. The issue seems to revive every December before Christmas, although everyone knows that St. Nicholas's feast day does not fall on Christmas, and he is only associated with the Nativity of Christ by the proximity of his own feast day. Well, and because he always gave people gifts.
Holy Hierarch Nicholas of Myra and Lycia is commemorated by the Church on December (6) 19. Anyone who has ever prayed to St. Nicholas for help knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he not only did exist, but still does exist, for our God is a God of the living (cf. Mt. 22:32).
St Nicholas was born (c. 270) in the the region of Lycia (southern Asia Minor), in the city of Patara. His parents, Theophanes and Nonna, were both pious Christians, and being childless until his arrival, consecrated Nicholas to God at his birth (the name Nicholas meaning 'Conqueror of nations').
Fr Nicholas made pilgrimage of the holy places in Jerusalem, especially Golgotha where Christ was crucified. Icons today continue to recount the miraculous nature of his voyage to Jerusalem there by ship, during which a great storm arose (Nicholas having earlier predicted that it would). Seeing in a vision the devil climbing aboard the ship, Nicholas warned the crew and prayed for the salvation of the craft and its occupants, and the sea shortly calmed.St Nicholas' title 'wonderworker' comes from the multitude of reports of miracles that issued forth at his intercession, both during his life and after. The renown of his miraculous acts was widespread in his own lifetime. As he had secretly delivered gold, many years before, to the father of three destitute daughters, so he secretly delivered gold to an Italian merchent (by some accounts, this gold was left miraculously by an apparition of the saint appearing to the merchant in Italy), convincing him to sail to Myra with a shipment of grain. And so by his prayers and deeds, his city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine.