Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit Orthodox Church
Archpriest Steven C. Kostoff
4285 Ashland Ave, Cincinnati OH 45212 - (513) 351-0907

 

NATIVITY FESTAL SCHEDULE 2016

VESPERS OF THE PREFEAST
Mon. Dec 19 — 7:00pm
Tue.  Dec 20 — 7:00pm
Wed. Dec 21 — 7:00pm
Thu.  Dec 22 — 7:00pm
 
ROYAL HOURS FOR NATIVITY
Fri. Dec 23:
9:00am: First Royal Hour
Noon: Ninth Royal Hour
 
FESTAL MATINS FOR NATIVITY
Sat. Dec 24, 7:00pm

NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Sun. Dec 25, 9:30am, Divine Liturgy

Third Day of the Nativity (Protomartyr Stephen)
Tue. Dec 27, 9:30am, Divine Liturgy
 
St. Basil the Great, Circumcision of Christ, Civil New Year
Sat. Dec 31, 6:00pm, Great Vespers
Sun. Jan 1, 9:30am, Divine Liturgy
 
 
Scroll down for special resources on the Nativity of Christ...
 



NATIVITY of CHRIST

Resources for the Journey to Bethlehem
 

Icon of The Theotokos, 'The Burning Bush'
Icon of The Theotokos, 'The Burning Bush'
Icon of The Theotokos, 'The Burning Bush'
Originally Posted Nov 14, 2011

 

Dear Parish Faithful,

The Nativity Fast is here! Commit yourselves individually and as a family to embrace the “Orthodox Way” of preparing for Christmas. 
 
The “world” has really little to offer or add to our understanding of Christ’s nativity in the flesh.  Rather, it’s the same old tired package of distractions that leave you “hungering and thirsting” for the very thing you may have neglected in frantically and frenetically trying to have a “merry Christmas.”  We are again presented with a gift of forty days that can “profit our souls.”  Fast now to feast then, rather than feast now to fizzle out then.  Let your church calendar guide you into the Scripture readings, saintly commemorations and fasting discipline that lead us to the Winter Pascha of spiritual renewal.

~ Fr Steven

 
* For a good article on the 'Burning Bush' icon shown at right, visit Orthodox-Wiki.
 
 
 
 
 
Fasting in the Orthodox Christian Tradition

 

'Fasting appears gloomy until one steps into its arena. But begin and you will see what light it brings after darkness, what freedom from bonds, what release after a burdensome life.'   ~ St Theophan the Recluse

 

Visit our special section on Fasting for spiritual insights into why we fast, and encouraging articles about this often misunderstood ascetical practice . . .

 

Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is not about keeping a Christian version of kosher. Fasting is about hunger and humility (which is increased as we allow ourselves to become weak). Fasting is about allowing our heart to break.

I have seen greater good accomplished in souls through their failure in the fasting season than in the souls of those who “fasted well.” Publicans enter the kingdom of God before Pharisees pretty much every time.

Why do we fast? Perhaps the more germane question is “why do we eat?” Christ quoted Scripture to the evil one and said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We eat as though our life depended on it and it does not. We fast because our life depends on the word of God.

— from 'Why We Fast', by Fr. Stephen Freeman, on the OCA website.

 

Proceed to Fasting in the Orthodox Christian Tradition . . .

 

Unlocking the Meaning of the Nativity (VIDEO)

NEW for 2013!

 

Fr. Igumen Sergius, Abbot of St. Tikhon's Monastery, presents the Orthodox teaching on the Incarnation, relying heavily on the mystical theology of St Maximus the Confessor, and showing how our destiny and calling is inseparable from the Incarnation. Video in four parts. First part presented below. Follow link at bottom for remainder.





The Holy Fathers on the Incarnation ~ Audio Podcasts

A Word from the Holy Fathers
    ~ On the Incarnation ~

Here we offer a unique collection of reflections on the Incarnation, the Nativity of Christ our God in the Flesh, from the podcast A Word from the Holy Fathers. These brief and clear talks on the Nativity, by Fr. Deacon Matthew (now Hieromonk Irenaeus) Steenburg of Monachos.net, present the insights and wisdom of the Great Fathers of the Church to aid us in our contemplation of the awesome mystery of the Birth of God.

Stream and play right on your computer, or download and save to your iPod, iPhone or other device, or subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.

Why not set aside a few minutes each day during the celebration of the Nativity for these quiet and profound insights...


The Fathers on the Nativity of Christ - Introduction
What was God to do? - St Athanasius the Great
The Wonder of the Incarnation - St Gregory the Theologian
Glory to God Who has shown Himself to Us - St Ephraim the Syrian and St John Maximovitch
Remembering the Mother of God's Role in the Incarnation - St Cyril of Alexandria
The Coming of the Lord - St Leo the Great, Pope of Rome


Ancient Faith Radio has dozens more podcasts by its many contributors reflecting on the Feast of the Incarnation. You can explore them on this special page.


Saints of the Nativity Season

 

St Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia

 

(Dec 6) The real St Nicholas is venerated by Orthodox faithful in every land and language. Learn about one of our most beloved saints through this classic text by St Dmitri of Rostov. Numerous rare icons included. (MYSTAGOGY Blog)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conception of the Theotokos by Righteous Anna

(Dec 9) Directly linked to the Nativity of Christ is the commemoration of Joachim and Anna (celebrated at every Orthodox divine service as "the Ancestors of God") and the conception of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. (OCA)

 

 

Icon 'Unexpected Joy'

(Dec 9) This unique icon of the Theotokos speaking to a sinful youth (who was yet devoted to her and prayed fervently), and leading him to complete repentance and change of heart, is much beloved, and is celebrated also on Jan 25 and May 1. Read the full story of the icon here.

 

St Herman, Elder and Wonderworker of Alaska

(Dec 13) Also celebrated during the Nativity Fast is our patron saint of Orthodoxy in North America. Visit our special page dedicated to St Herman, which features video, audio, articles, suggested books, and much more.

 

 

 

St John of Kronstadt, Dec 20
St John of Kronstadt, Dec 20
St John of Kronstadt, Dec 20

More Righteous Ones

Many other great saints — including some from the twentieth century! — are commemorated during the Nativity Season, and have much to teach us as we struggle to live God-pleasing lives and grow in Christ. Some of the better known ones who should be known by all Orthodox Christians include:

the Apostle Andrew (11/30), Greatmartyr Barbara and St John of Damascus (12/4), Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer and St John of Kronstadt (12/20), the Virgin Martyr Juliana (12/21), and Greatmartyr Anastasia (12/22).

Several of the Old Testament Prophets and many more saints are commemorated during the Fast, and after the Nativity, there is a festal period leading up to Theophany (the Baptism of Christ, Jan 6) and on to the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple (Feb 2), which includes St Stephen the Protomartyr (12/27), St Basil the Great (Jan 1), St Seraphim of Sarov (Jan 2), and others.

You can use your parish calendar to locate the saints you wish to learn about, and find them by searching the OCA website, which has the lives and icons of all the saints. The saints incarnated Christ in their lives through their faith. May we follow their example and seek their intercessions!

Suggested Books & Gifts for the Nativity

ANCIENT FAITH CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Conciliar Press is now Ancient Faith Ministries! A unique and wide range of Orthodox Nativity cards, ornaments, crosses, and gifts, featuring many imported items from Greece, Russia and Jerusalem.

Ancient Faith Publishing has also released several outstanding new book titles over the last year, including excellent fiction for teens and young adults, as well as new editions of some recent classics, and beautiful calendars. Secure online ordering...

 

THE WINTER PASCHA, by Fr. Thomas Hopko, of blessed memory...
 
Fr. Thomas Hopko's classic book of forty meditations for the season of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, ending with the feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple on the fortieth day after Christ's birth.
 
In the style of his popular book for the paschal fasting season, The Lenten Spring, the author again draws on the biblical readings and liturgical hymns and verses of the season to illumine the way for believers to follow the Church's days of preparation and celebration for the Coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in human flesh. Only $18, from SVS Press.
 
 
 
 
 
DAILY MEDITATIONS for the Christmas/Advent Fast and Epiphany Season, by Presvytera Emily Harakas and Fr. Anthony Coniaris.
 
Scripture readings for each day along with select hymns from the Matins, Vespers, the Hours of the Nativity, etc. with a brief Scripture verse and a prayer—all selected by Presbytera Emily Harakas. An inspiring meditation by Fr. Anthony Coniaris for each day is included.
 
This book will help make Advent and Epiphany come alive with meaning. Just one of the many book selections for the Nativity Fast offered by ArchangelsBooks.com.
 
 
 

 

ST TIKHON'S MONASTERY BOOKSTORE - Unique gifts including jewelry, music, icons, lacquered eggs and boxes, handmade soaps, prayer ropes, and much, much more. Explore the many gift categories at St Tikhon's Monastery Bookstore.

 

 

 

Orthodox Nativity Gifts - Greeting cards, music, jewelry, crosses, ornaments, children's books, toys, decorations, calendars, and much more. From the special Nativity Gift Section at Archangel Books.

 

 

 

Hermitage of the Holy Cross - Widely known and appreciated for their soaps and bath products, and their unique seasonal gifts, as well as incense, icons, books and more. Proceed to the Hermitage Kiosk for Online Ordering...

 

 
 
 
Handpainted Nativity Icons, Triptychs, and Silk Screened Russian Icons. Archangels Books offers an outstanding selection of these, greeting cards, ornaments, children's books and toys, music, and other gifts for the Nativity Season.

 
 

 

On The Incarnation, by St Athanasius the Great - NEW EDITION - The masterful defense of the Christian Faith, written by one of the great Church Fathers in an easy-to-read style aided by a clear, modern translation. Introduction by C.S. Lewis. Read a classic this Christmas!  Only $16 from SVS Press.

 

 

ST HERMAN of ALASKA ~ His Life and Service - This new, large format publication from St Herman Press (Platina CA) features new information about the life of St Herman (celebrated December 13), and includes the complete Vigil Service for the Saint. 48 pages, with Full-color cover - Only $9.00 from St Herman Press.

 

 

 
PREPARE O BETHLEHEM (hardcover), illustrated by Niko Chocheli
 
The Orthodox Church's hymns of the prefeast and feast of the Nativity of our Lord celebrate and proclaim in word and song the celestial joy of the incarnation.
 
These beloved texts, so wonderfully illustrated by Niko Chocheli, are filled with beauty and power. They tell in a touching way of the all-embracing participation of creatures in the Creator's coming. Only $18 from SVS Press. Nativity Greeting Cards also available.




The Nativity Fast ~ That Christ may be born in you . . . (Gal 4:19)

The Root of Jesse
The Root of Jesse
The Root of Jesse
The Fast of the Nativity is a time of preparation, an ascetical journey — not as rigorous as Great Lent perhaps, but ascetical still — one that is joyously opposed to the frivolous spirit of the world. On this special page we have tried to collect a variety of articles, suggested book titles, and other materials to help us in our journey to Bethlehem.  May your journey be blessed!


From an article on Monachos.net:

We do not tremble when we think of Christmas, we are not always struck with the wonder of the Nativity. Instead, we buy gifts and plan parties, catching a glimpse of the joy of the Feast, but without a heart immersed in its wonder... Read the complete article, plus more patristic sources on the Fast and feast of the Nativity of Christ at Monachos.net.


MORE ARTICLES FROM MONACHOS.NET

ON FASTING, AND ADVENT TRADITIONS:


Collections of Nativity Articles on Orthodox Blogs

Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi

Orthodox Way of Life Blog:
Joseph and Mary's Journey to Bethlehem (An Orthodox Reflection using the saints and hymns of the Church)
God Becomes Man! The Greatest Day of All Time (with St Justin Popovich)
The Season to Secure Peace With God (with St Leo the Great, Pope of Rome)
Why All the Fuss About Christmas? (with St Athanasius the Great)
Christmas To A Traditional Eastern Orthodox Christian (with a good history of how the Feast came to be celebrated the way it is today).
Fighting for Christ at Christmas - Combating Secularism (with Fr George Morelli)
How Did Jesus Change Our Way of Life? (with Metropolitan Anthony Bloom)
His Mercy Reigns! (with St John of Kronstadt)
How to Celebrate the Nativity (with St Gregory the Theologian)
The Nativity Story According to Orthodox Tradition

MYSTAGOGY Blog:
Nativity Epistle by St Justin Popovich
1962 Nativity Epistle of St John Maximovitch the Wonderworker
The Patristic Understanding of the Birth of Christ (St John of Damascus, St Ambrose of Milan, and others)
Reflections on the Nativity Fast (adapted from an article on Monachos.net)
Why the Nativity Fast has been Established
The Nativity Fast
The Christmas Tree and Orthodox Tradition (with Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos)
25 Worthwhile Quotes from Charles Dickens

MYSTAGOGY NATIVITY RESOURCE PAGE - Click here for almost sixty articles covering every aspect of Orthodox — and cultural — celebrations of Christmas around the world. Also numerous challenging theological articles, and many wondrous photographs!

Featured Article: The Question Raised by the Nativity of Christ

Christ, Angel of Great Counsel
Christ, Angel of Great Counsel

 

THE QUESTION RAISED by the NATIVITY of CHRIST

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Featured in our 2013 Nativity Calendar, available at church.

When we look at this image of the new-born child, lying on an altar of stones, ready for a sacrifice, brought as an offering, we can well ask ourselves, "Who is he who sacrifices this child?" – and we have an answer: it is the Father who gives us His Son that through His death we may live. We see here incarnate, clearly expressed, divine Love, and the measure of this love divine. The Only-Begotten Son is given unto death, delivered unto death for our sakes...

Let us then look at this crib not as we do when we are small children, seeing only an image of a child’s birth, miraculous, wonderful; let us look at it with an earnest and adult gaze, and see that this crib is an altar of sacrifice, that this cave where He was born is an image of that cave in which He will be deposited, a young man, killed for God’s sake after the agony of the Garden and the agony of the Cross, and let us ask ourselves, "Are we, each of us, a response to love revealed in such a way, revealed to such degree?"  Will we find in ourselves a response, or shall we only say, "It was His choice, I have chosen against Him. He has chosen life for me, I have chosen death for Him"...  Or are we going to respond to this revelation of love in which the frailty of love is made visible, perceptible to us in the frailty of this little human body deposited on the straw of a crib, respond to the frailty of God by a mature love?

This is the question which, and we now the day of Christmas sets before us have days and months of liturgical unfolding of the year, to grow through it towards a definitive and final answer when we will see love sacrificed on Calvary. We have got this liturgical year to follow step by step, in this year we will discover how the saints of God have responded, and at every step the question will stand before us: “And what about you, what about thee personally, what about us in our togetherness, what is our answer to love?”  Amen

Read the full article, with more profound insights, here...




Journey to Bethlehem, 11th c. Mosaic, Constantinople
Journey to Bethlehem, 11th c. Mosaic, Constantinople
Journey to Bethlehem, 11th c. Mosaic, Constantinople
New for 2013!
 

MAKE READY O BETHLEHEM!

'Let Us be Active in Spiritual Preparation!'

2013 Nativity Message of St Gregory Palamas Monastery, Hayesville OH:

. . . Any important great work must be prepared and even our daily activities must be prepared if they are to come to a good conclusion. A skilled painter once told me that the secret to a good paint job is preparation!, preparation!, preparation!. The difference between a good paint job and a bad paint job is preparation. Walls and woodwork must be sanded and scraped, furniture and carpeting must be removed or covered up, taping around the windows and walls or woodwork that should not receive paint must be done so that we have good clean crisp borders. A sloppy paint job is the result of inadequate preparation of the surfaces. There is a principle here that also applies to any human undertaking and is especially applicable to the spiritual life . . .

Probably the first and most basic preparation for participation in the Holy Mysteries is facing the challenge to live lives that are consistent with the prayer of the Church. This is the fundamental preparation for receiving the feasts and the Holy Communion. It is not enough to merely mouth the words. Unless heart and soul and all the powers of mind and body are applied to the keeping of the Gospel commandments, our prayer is empty and we run the risk of having only the Pharisee’s empty feeling of self satisfaction.

The fasts of the Church are times for us to focus on the basics of Christian life, to ponder the commandments and do them and live lives that are consistent with what the Church is praying. On December 25th the Church celebrates the Nativity of Christ and a forty-day fast is given to us that begins on November 15. This fast is a gift given to us that we might enter the feast with clear minds and clean hearts, with a correct understanding of what it is that we are actually celebrating and prayer that is bold and focused. We will not celebrate the feast with maximal joy if our behavior and our prayer are conflicted. The fast reminds us that those who truly live a Christian life have made the Kingdom of God their number one priority.

In the world many families will go to great lengths to prepare for the secular aspects of the feast, but if these preparations do not flow out of the faith and love for the Savior Christ, they will have nothing at all to do with Christ and His Nativity. Parishes will have craft shows, Nativity programs, caroling, and the sale of cherished baked goods. In the home cookies and sweets will be baked, gifts will be purchased, Christmas decorating will be done, remodeling and redecorating will happen, cards will be sent, plans will be made for the meals and parties. If we are expecting guests from out of town, the preparations will be many, depending on how important our visitors are to us. The greater the love the more we will make every effort to make our guests welcomed, comfortable and well fed. In the end the purpose is to show our love and respect and maybe even gratitude (Oh, that we would make as much effort to welcome Christ the Bread of Life into our hearts!).

Read the full text, with specific suggestions to enter into the spirit of the Nativity Fast...


More Nativity Homilies from Archimandrite Joseph Morris, Abbot of St Gregory Palamas Monastery:



The Icon of the Nativity Explained

Click to Launch the Slide Show
Click to Launch the Slide Show
The Nativity Icon Explained

To aid us in contemplating the Awesome Mystery and Great Feast of the Nativity,
we offer here a media presentation illuminating the iconographic tradition of the Church.

The Nativity icon is one of the richest in the Orthodox Church, depicting the many historical events surrounding the Birth of the God-Man Jesus Christ, as well as symbolic images filled with spiritual meaning. Angels watch over the scene, announcing the Good News to the shepherds and guiding the Magi who bring their gifts. The Virgin Mary reclines in the cave beside her Divine Son, who is depicted as light in darkness among the animals of the manger. Midwives prepare to bathe the new-born Christ-child, and Joseph is troubled by temptations from the devil (depicted as an old man). And over it all, the wondrous star shines...


Click here for a Media Presentation explaining the Nativity icon (4:55, from the OCA website).


Troparion - Tone 4
Your Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!
For by it, those who worshiped the stars,
Were taught by a Star to adore You,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know You, the Orient from on High.
O Lord, glory to You!

Kontakion - Tone 3
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels with shepherds glorify Him!
The wise men journey with a star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!


Special Reflection: Rachel Continues Weeping for Her Children . . .

The Massacre of 14,000 Holy Innocent Infants, In Bethlehem And Its Borders, The Memory Of Which The Holy Church Celebrates On The 29th Of December
by Father Demetrios Serfes

... How precious is the child within the womb of a mother who spiritually prepares herself for the birth, who knows that the birth will be blessed within our Holy Orthodox Church as is the custom after forty days. Both the mother and the new-born child are brought to the Holy Orthodox Church, and prayers are read over both of them on their entrance into the Holy Church. After this entrance, the days ahead are a time of preparation for the Holy Baptism of the newly-born child, a child so precious to our Lord God, and to the Holy Orthodox Christian community, that a Godfather and Godmother are provided to be the witnesses of this Holy Baptism, and to help assist in teaching the child the Holy Orthodox Faith throughout his or her life.

Every women who bears a child always exults in the joy of the birth, as well as in the joy of having a living mind, heart, and soul within their womb. We must realize that within the Holy Orthodox Church and its teachings there is a clear direction against abortion. This teaching is not something new in the Eastern Orthodox Church, as it evident that in the first three centuries of the early Church, the Orthodox holy Fathers spoke frequently against abortion.

The Holy Rachel wept unceasingly when King Herod had ordered his soldiers in both Bethlehem and Judea to have all the children massacred, from the newly born up to the age of two years old. Ever since this appalling, unlawful act of the massacre of the 14,000 Holy Innocent Infants, it seems that the loving Holy Rachel has not stopped weeping to this very hour, as we continue to see abortions being performed in America and in other countries around the world, often with the approval of local governments. The Orthodox Church cries out against this act of abortion. But is it not true that our ears often remain closed as we are afraid of the truth? We are allowing death to happen, murder, before our eyes! Death of an innocent child!

The weeping for all martyred children by Rachel has not ceased today! It seems that this holy mother and woman continues to weep! Every time we hear about another abortion Rachel weeps again! ...

Read the full text here...

Icons of the Nativity Season

Entrance of the Theotkos into the Temple, Nov 21

An iconographic slide show . . .

The Nativity Icon is rich in its depiction of the mystical events surrounding the Birth of Christ, but the Orthodox iconographic tradition portrays just as powerfully other events detailed in the Gospel accounts. Also shown here are some of the great saints commemorated during the Nativity Fast, and profound icons of mystical realities.

(53 images)

Entrance of the Theotkos into the Temple, Nov 21
St Andrew the First-Called, Nov 30
St Nicholas, Dec 6
Conception of the Theotokos by Joachim and Anna, Dec 9
Icon, "Unexpected Joy", Dec 9
Holy Forefathers, 2nd Sunday before Nativity
St Herman of Alaska, Dec 13
St Herman (By Fr Andrew Tregubov)
St Herman of Alaska
Hieromartyr Ignatius, the God-Bearer, Dec 20
St John of Kronstadt, Dec 20
Greatmartyr Anastasia, Dec 22
Icons of the Nativity...
Russian style...
15th century, Greek
Synaxis of the Most-Holy Theotokos, Dec 26
St Stephen the Protomartyr, Dec 27
Rachel Weeping for Her Children
Holy Forefathers Abraham and Isaac
Adoration of the Magi
Veneration of the Theotokos
Greatmartyr Barbara, Dec 4
Theotokos, the Burning Bush
Christ as a youth
The Flight to Egypt
Christ Child Reclining
The Flight to Egypt
The Angel Reassures Joseph
The Flight into Egypt
The 14,000 Holy Innocents, Dec 29
St John of Damascus, Dec 4
Approaching Bethlehem
Nativity Closeup of Christ and His Most-Pure Mother
Adoration of the Magi
Nativity Icon, Theophanes the Cretan
The Nativity, by St Andrei Rublev
Greatmartyr Catherine, Nov 24
St Symeon the God-Receiver
St Nicholas
Icon of the Root of Jesse
Russian Christmas Card
St Nicholas
Christ being tempted in the wilderness
Baptism of Christ
Baptism of Christ
Synaxis of the Theotokos
Christ, 'Angel of Great Counsel'
The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan (Theophany), Jan 6
The Meeting of the Lord in the Temple, Feb 2



Articles Relating to the Nativity Fast in Scripture, Tradition and Worship