In the Church liturgical cycle the Nativity of Christ is the second most important festival after Easter and that is why it is celebrated for whole twelve days. As always, the all-merciful Lord abundantly pours out His grace and light upon us. Hence the Russian name of this season: “Svyatki”, that is, “Holy Days”.
In truth God as a man was born on earth! Why? That we might live through him (1 John 4:9). For without the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, human life is wholly and completely a suicidal absurdity, and death is truly the most outright and horrible absurdity on earth.
In honor of the great feast of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, we present here a collection of Nativity encyclicals from some of our Orthodox primates from around the world, which help to expound upon the depth of meaning of the feast and to draw our hearts and minds to greater attention and devotion to the Lord and His saving will for us.
Joseph became, at this moment, the very first convert to the Christian faith, for he abandoned his own fallen opinion and received with joy the revelation of God that this Child would be for the salvation of not only the people of Israel, but of all mankind.
It is interesting to recall to Non-Believers the words of the Gospel regarding this Flight into Egypt, and how Joseph was commanded to 'take the young child and his mother into Egypt'. We note how the Scriptures clearly do not call Christ, 'Joseph's son', or his mother, 'your wife'. Again the Scriptures say that all this was to fulfil the words of the Scriptures: 'Out of Egypt have I called my son', and not, 'out of Egypt have I called Joseph's son'.
Thus, we are commemorating our Lord’s incarnation in order to experience on the one hand His great love for us and on the other to feel great gratitude for all the wonderful things He has granted us. In addition, this benefits us in a practical way, because we are offered the opportunity to pass judgement on our life.
Whoever desires to be a dwelling place of the Son of God, must have his homeland only in God, and with all his ties to his earthly homeland, however natural and proper they may be, he must not compare it to the heavenly.
Christmas and New Year is a time when many Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian (old) calendar wonder why they do so; or rather, those who follow the Gregorian (new) calendar wonder why the old calendar Churches don’t want to change. Here is another thorough look at this question, from a number of angles.
Just as in Medieval Europe the people gathered to hear the Christmas madrigals, we can also enjoy Christmastime song and watch how different cultures celebrate the birth of Christ. Here is a sampling of Christmas videos from around the world, to make the Christmas spirit linger with our readers.
Christians sing praises to the Lord in all languages, and not only in churches and prayers, but also in their songs, which become especially clear for all to see and hear during the feast of Christ’s Nativity, when all over the baptized world, from snow-covered Europe to green Greece and the waterless deserts of the Arab world. People sing Christmas carols and songs, praising the Infant God and His Most Pure Mother.
God from all eternity, he came as a newborn infant. He who had prepared eternal dwellings lay in a manger, for there was no room for him at the inn. He who was made known by a star came to birth in a cave. He who was offered as a ransom for sin received gifts from the wise men.
A new miracle has occurred! Now, in a brief span of time the cave has been replaced with thousands upon thousands of churches large and magnificent, adorning all corners of the world. The poor manger has turned into a multitude of divine altars. The Infant in swaddling bands awaits us now in the form of the Holy Mysteries.
Here is what I want to share with you from my heart. When the wise men had finished worshipping the Lord Jesus, Being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way (Mt. 2:12). This is very significant. Every time I read this, I am filled with great joy. There is another way, brothers and sisters.
We would listen attentively as he recounted how Jesus birth was synonymous with humility, compassion, love, understanding and peace in the world and that he came here to baptize mankind in the virtues that had vanished after Adam. Perhaps the deepest spiritual meanings were beyond our comprehension but, in our eyes, my father's words, spoken as they were, brought to life the true magic of the event.
One of the many wonderful aspects of the Orthodox-Catholic celebration of the birth of Christ is the traditional season of "Christmastide" or the "12 Days of Christmas." This is one of those rare periods in the life of the Church where all fasting is suspended and where the fulness of Christ's Incarnation is on display in the following days. Thankfully, people have come to understand more and more that the feast of Christmas was not established as a replacement of a "pagan holiday" (as is proposed in popular discussion), but is rather an intentional celebration of the unique birth of our Lord according to the flesh.
Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit,which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! — Charles Dickens, "What Christmas Is as We Grow Older," 1851 As we look back from our perspective of a century-and-a-half, Charles John Huffam Dickens does indeed seem to be what London's Sunday Telegraph for 18 December 1988 proclaimed him, "The Man Who Invented Christmas."
The main religion in Yakutia is Orthodox Christianity, and the feasts of Christmas—the Nativity of Christ, and Theophany, when the Lord’s Baptism is celebrated, are very special in this land that boasts some of the coldest waters in the world. Photographer Marina Yurchenko captured the special mood of Orthodox Yakutia’s winter feasts in 2010.
How could the Magi come from the east to a star that they saw in the east? Righteous Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner, is called in the Bible a relative of Mary, and also cited as a daughter of Aaron. Does this mean that Jesus did not come from the tribe of Judah? Are the magi Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar canonized saints? When in history did the use of “BC”—before Christ, and “AD”—Anno Domini come about? Can we pray for the reposed during the Christmas and Theophany period?
Brothers and sisters, on this Sunday after Nativity we hear about the flight into Egypt and the reason for the flight into Egypt: Herod wanted to kill the young child Jesus, and after he could not find Jesus was angry, and killed, according to our tradition, at least 10,000 holy infants. Now there are many events in the world that we cannot understand even in our own lives, minor events, large events that the entire world knows about, and historical events that we cannot understand such as this event.
Glory to Thee, O Lord! Once again we greet the awaited bright days of Christ's Nativity. Let us be glad and rejoice. In order to raise our festivities to a higher level in these days, the Holy Church has intentionally instituted a fast before them—a certain amount of constraint, so that as we enter the festive period we might feel as though we were coming out into freedom.
And the Word became flesh!...in order to make us earthly beings into heavenly ones, in order to make sinners into saints; in order to raise us up from corruption into incorruption, from earth to heaven; from enslavement to sin and the devil – into the glorious freedom of children of God; from death – into immortality, in order to make us sons of God and to seat us together with Him upon the Throne as His royal children.
There is no mystery greater than that of the Incarnation of God. In the quiet majesty of an archangel’s salutation, months before in Nazareth, a wonder beyond description was begun; and here, on this night, that wonder will be fully manifest. The great mystery which the holy Virgin, now holy Mother, had for long days stored up and treasured in her heart, the reality hidden but to a select few, is now to shine forth in all the radiance of a heavenly star.
Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all.
This song to the incarnate God, the Infant Christ, was sung by the angelic hosts on earth at His Nativity. It is a brief song, but its meaning and significance are wise and full of substance. In it is contained and revealed to us the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God for the salvation of the world. This mystery, in the words of the Church, amazed all the angelic powers. But where is this peace on earth, which the angels announced to the Bethlehem shepherds?
Wisdom seekers in the Lord! By the mercy and long-suffering of God we are once again reaching the yearly time of the Feast of Christ's Nativity. Instead of the usual simple greetings with the Feast, I want to say a few words to you about the great Mystery of this glorious Feast.
These hymns are given full voice beneath the monastic church domes and fill all present with their content. Hearing them, the Faithfull’s consciousness breaks away from the earth; not for one day or for a few hours, as in the parish churches—no, it breaks away from the earth long before the feast and remains in the heights of spiritual upliftment, spiritual rapture, for nearly an entire week.
As we draw near to celebrate the Nativity of Christ, we also remember our patron, St. Herman of Alaska on December 25/26. As our neighbors celebrate the coming of Christ on December 25, we in Alaska remember the one who brought us the light of the Gospel, both by his words and deeds.
With thousands of tourists - mostly religious pilgrims - visiting the city, locals are keen to show that it is a safe, welcoming place. Meanwhile, Palestinian officials are using the occasion to highlight the problems caused by nearby Jewish settlements and Israel's separation barrier, which blocks access to Jerusalem.
Next to Pascha, the Nativity of Christ is the most joyous festival, and may justly be called the "Winter Pascha." The celebration of the Nativity of Christ was established very early, possibly already in the first century. But until the end of the fourth century, the Nativity of Christ was celebrated with His Baptism on the 6th of January (the 19th according to the New Style) and was called Theophany. Beginning in the fourth century, the Nativity of Christ began to be celebrated on the 25th of December (on the day of the pagan festival in honor of the "Invincible Sun").
Today, on the second day of Christmas, the Gospel is read in church about how the Mother of God and holy righteous Joseph fled with the Christ Child from Herod to Egypt. But how many pious, good people remained in Israel then! How many innocent victims there were, beginning with the infants of Bethlehem, were slain by the evil wrath of King Herod!
The Star of Bethlehem has been seen by many Christians as a miraculous symbol of the birth of Jesus, but there are also those who see it as an actual astronomical event—a nova, comet or a special conjunction that occurred at the time of the foretold birth. A conclusion about such an event has yet to be reached by most astronomers.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.
Beware, for we know not the hour or the day in which the Lord shall come and require of us a full accounting of our stewardship. When we talk about stewardship we’re not only talking about our worldly possessions and our money, we are talking about the stewardship of our lives. How have we taken care of our lives and what priorities have we established and maintained by which our lives may be ordered. If our first priority is Christ and our commitment to Him then all these things will be added unto you but if our priorities are disorganized and we put shopping and gift giving and feasting before our commitment to Him then Christmas has no meaning whatsoever. It’s just another pagan feast day among the many pagan feasts that we observe, not the least of which, I might add as a post script to this writing, is the feast of New Year’s Eve which we are about to observe.