NATIVITY FESTAL SCHEDULE 2017
VESPERS OF THE PREFEAST
Tue. Dec 19 — 7:00pm
Wed. Dec 20 — 7:00pm
Thu. Dec 21 — 7:00pm
Fri. Dec 22 — 7:00pm
ROYAL HOURS FOR NATIVITY
Sat. Dec 23:
9:00am: First Royal Hour
Noon: Ninth Royal Hour
PRE-FEAST OF THE NATIVITY
Sat. Dec 23:
6:00pm - Great Vespers
Sun. Dec 24:
9:10am - Hours
9:30am - Divine Liturgy
FESTAL MATINS FOR NATIVITY
Sun. Dec 24, 7:00pm
NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Mon. Dec 25, 9:30am, Divine Liturgy
Third Day of the Nativity (Protomartyr Stephen)
Wed. Dec 27, 9:30am, Divine Liturgy
St. Basil the Great, Circumcision of Christ, Civil New Year
Sun. Dec 31, 7:00pm, Great Vespers
Mon. 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
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
Visit our special section on Fasting for spiritual insights into why we fast, and encouraging articles about this often misunderstood ascetical practice . . .
Fr. Steven's Meditations on the Nativity of Christ
Unlocking the Meaning of the Nativity (VIDEO)
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
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...
Saints of the Nativity Season
Suggested Books & Gifts for the Nativity
The Nativity Fast ~ That Christ may be born in you . . . (Gal 4:19)
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
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
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
THE QUESTION RAISED by the NATIVITY of CHRIST
by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
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...
MAKE READY O BETHLEHEM!
'Let Us be Active in Spiritual Preparation!'
. . . 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...
The Icon of the Nativity Explained
The Nativity Icon Explained
To aid us in contemplating the Awesome Mystery and Great Feast of the Nativity, we offer here a description from the iconographic tradition of the Church, perfect for young adults, from the OCA's Wonder Blog.
"Whether the iconographer places Jesus in a manger or on an altar, Christ is always depicted in a cave. Poetically this isn’t just a cave, but rather the empty tomb in which he lay after his crucifixion. Jesus is depicted lying here wrapped in swaddling clothes, clothes that now become his burial shroud..."
Continue this exploration of the Nativity icon by an iconographer, from the OCA Wonder Blog.
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
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.
Articles Relating to the Nativity Fast in Scripture, Tradition and Worship