Tenth Day of Christmas Advent: Bethlehem Prepare!

The Church’s exhortation to get ready for Christmas is conveyed in poetic language. Our hymns command Bethlehem to prepare and make ready for the Nativity of our Lord: Behold, the time of our salvation has drawn near: O Cave, make ready! The Virgin is drawing near to give birth. O Bethlehem, land of Judah, be glad and rejoice, for from you our Lord has dawned. Listen, mountains and hills, and lands around Judea, for Christ

Fifth Day of Christmas Advent: Beginning of Advent and the Forefeast

BEGINNING OF ADVENT AND THE FOREFEAST Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight the paths of our God. (Isaiah 40:3) EVERY GREAT FEAST of the Orthodox Church is preceded by a period of preparation. One of the longest and richest periods is Advent. But what does it mean to prepare? For many, the preparation for Christmas is hectic— shopping for presents, making decorations, mailing cards, attending Christmas parties, and so forth. But in the

Fourth Day of Christmas Advent: Preparing for Christ’s Birth

ORTHODOX WORSHIP As with Great Lent, so too with the Nativity Fast, the approaching feast is prepared for not only by abstinence, but also through the profound meaning of the biblical readings and the hymns (contained in the hymnbooks known as the Menaia for November and December) that we hear in church during this season. Because the main focus of Advent is our preparation for the Nativity-the Incarnation of the Son of God-the hymns for

Pentecost: Receiving the Power from on High

The Old Testament feast of Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover—the commemoration of the Exodus of the Israelites from captivity and slavery in Egypt—in celebration of God’s gift of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. In the New Covenant of the Messiah, the Passover event takes on its new meaning—the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, the “passing over” from death to life and from earth to heaven, the “exodus” of God’s People from this

Seventh Friday after Pascha

Pentecost: The Descent of the Holy Spirit In the Old Testament Pentecost was the feast which occurred fifty days after Passover. As the Passover feast celebrated the exodus of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt, so Pentecost celebrated God’s gift of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. In the new covenant of the Messiah, the Passover event takes on its new meaning as the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, the “exodus”

The Saturday of Lazarus

The solemnities of Great Week are preceded by a two-day festival commemorating the resurrection of Lazaros and the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. These two events punctuate Christ’s ministry in a most dramatic way (Jn 11:1 – 12:19). By causing the final eruption of the unrelenting hostility of His enemies, who had been plotting to kill him, these two events precipitate Christ’s death. At the very same time, however, these same events emphasize His

The Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist: The Greatest Born of Woman

The second day of the feast of the Epiphany is called the Synaxis of Saint John, the prophet, forerunner and Baptist of the Lord. It is a day of liturgical celebration in honor of the one who prepared the way for the Messiah and baptized Him in the Jordan river. According to Jesus himself, there is no one greater than John the Baptist. “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women, there has

The Seventh Day of Christmas: The Sun of Righteousness

One of the titles of the Messiah in the prophetic writings of the Bible is the Sun of Righteousness. It is found in the prophet Malachi. For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name,

The Second Day of Christmas: The Synaxis of the Ever-Virgin Mary (Part I)

The gospels teach and the liturgy proclaims that Jesus Christ was born on earth from the Virgin Mary. According to the “mind of Christ” which is given to believers by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor 2), it is evident that it could not be otherwise. The reason is simple. Jesus is the Son of God. God is His Father from all eternity. If there is anything unique, original, totally unprecedented in

Thirty-Ninth Day of Christmas Advent: Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men

When the angel of the Lord brought the “glad tidings of great joy” of Christ’s birth to the shepherds in the fields, there appeared also “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk 2:13-14, KJV). The songs of the Orthodox Church services, like those of the Christian West, put this doxology of the angelic choir in the mouths