From the Parish Priest – Fr. Romey Rosco
Christmas in the Orthodox Church is better known as the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.¬† And although we really don’t know the exact date of His Birth, we do know that censuses were taken in those days around this time of year.¬† And the Bible makes it clear that Christ was born in Bethlehem, where Joseph and Mary went to be counted for the census of that year.
Until the 4th century, the Orthodox Church celebrated the Birth and Baptism of Christ together on January 6 (Epiphany).¬† And the ancient pagans celebrated December 25th honoring the sun, believing that the sun played an important part in the creation of the world.¬† But when Christianity became recognized and accepted in the Empire, the Church decided to “christianize” the old pagan holiday, recognizing Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Light of the world who enlightens all who seek Him.
Thus we have the popular Twelve Days of Christmas between December 25 and January 6.¬† The three major holy days in this period are the Nativity (Dec. 25), the Circumcision (Jan. 1) and the Baptism of our Lord (Jan. 6).
The last of these is often called “Epiphany,” but that word is not completely accurate in describing what happened at the Baptism of Christ.¬† The word means “a manifestation” and can be applied to any kind of manifestation (of a saint, or even an idea).¬† But the word “Theophany,” often used, clearly means “a manifestation of God” (Theos means God in Greek).¬† And that’s what took place at the Baptism of Christ.¬† God manifested Himself in all of His Three Persons: Father (the voice from heaven), the Son (being baptized) and the Holy Spirit (the dove).
Although we are only 4 days away from Christmas, let us not forget that we were called upon to participate in a 40-day fasting period that began on November 15.¬† It is a time of prayer, fasting and acts of charity.
The important thing is that we welcome the Nativity in the Orthodox fashion.¬† Not simply with a string of parties and a shopping spree, but making ourselves spiritually prepared and deserving of the One Who was born among us to save us from sin and from death.¬† Christmas Lent (or Advent) is most definitely a time of reconciliation with our fellow man and with God.
Are you ready for the Feast?¬† If not, you still have four days!
From The Weekly Bulletin, Vol. XXX No. 50, 21 December 2003
Sts. Peter & Paul Romanian Orthodox Church, Dearborn Heights MI