Dear Parishoners,     December 2010

"The time of our salvation has arrived. Prepare yourself, O Manger, for the Virgin is on her way to give birth".

This festal preparation reaches its peak on the Eve of the Nativity. It is a day of watching, prayer and fasting. The guest from heaven is about to arrive, therefore, it is necessary to prepare for his coming worthily. Our ancestors highly respected and zealously observed the fast on this day until the appearance of the evening star. From earliest times, besides fasting, our ancestors prepared themselves for the feast of the Nativity of our Lord with confession and Holy Communion.

The greatest and most profound mystery of the Christian faith is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. The eternal becomes a little infant and does not cease to be God. "God eternal is born to us" - we sing in our Ukrainian Christmas Carol. Christ's nativity is the cradle of our faith. Only faith is able to accept this profound mystery, understand it and adore it. The Holy Fathers of the Eastern Church accepted the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God with profound faith and great piety. Enraptured by this mystery, they have nothing but words of wonder for the most wondeful love of God, the sacrifice, humility, and poverty of the newly-born Messiah and Savior. Our Christmas services are full of joyful and happy tones. In the Vespers service at Lytiya we sing: "Angels rejoice in heaven and people exult today, and all creatures leap with joy, because of the birth of the Lord Savior in Bethlehem; for all deceit of idolatry has ceased and Christ reigns forever."

We who serve you also wish to express our heartfelt thanks for all your loyal support and generous cooperation during the past year. May the Peace and Joy of the Christ Child be with you always.

Merry Christmas! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Christmas Confessions
In order to prepare us spiritually for the Birth of Jesus, a Visiting Priest has been invited to hear confessions on Sunday December 12, 2010 during Divine Liturgy.

Schedule of Christmas Services

Friday December 24, 2009 – Christmas Eve Today is a Fast Day- No Meat
             3:00 PM – Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great ( First Liturgy of Christmas)

Saturday December 25, 2009 – Christmas – Nativity of Our Lord
             9:00 AM – Great Compline Service
             9:30 – Solemn Divine Liturgy – Mirovannia

SundayDecember 26, 2009 – Sunday After Christmas & Synaxis of the Mother of God
             9:00 & 10:30 – Divine Liturgy

Monday December 27, 2009 – & St. Stephen, First Martyr
             9:00 – Divine Liturgy

The Icon of the Nativity of Our Lord And Saviour Jesus Christ cont...

The third difference between the Orthodox icon of the Nativity and Western art is that the icon depicts as a composite image six difference scenes of the Nativity narrative surrounding the Infant Christ-child and His Mother. Western art usually depicts these scenes separately or in smaller groupings of two or three. Here are the six scenes:

At the top of the icon, on both sides of the mountain, are found two groupings of angels who often are looking downwards, sometimes to the side or upwards. They serve a two-fold role. First, they are the messengers of the spiritual world bringing glad tidings to mankind and secondly, they are the true adorers of Christ’s birth, the “marvel of marvels”. The angelic hosts as such unite heaven and earth and together glorify the “new born King”. The angel of the Lord, found on the top extreme right-hand side of the icon, is depicted looking down upon an amazed shepherd, announcing to him the good news of great joy.

A single shepherd or sometimes several are found on the right-hand middle side of the icon. These are the first of the Israelite people – the Jewish people, to accept and worship the Lord. These shepherds are simple, unsophisticated and ordinary citizens who hear the divine message in the course of their labours and fully accept the Virgin birth. In fact the shepherds are akin to the simple fishermen that Christ will call in the Gospels “to follow Him”.

On the opposite side, the left-hand side of the icon are found three figures of the Magi or wise men. They are depicted following the star, shining above the cave, and brining their royal gifts to a Babe in a poor cave. The wise men represent the humanity that has not been exposed to the Old Testament – often referred to as the Gentiles. Yet they have a mission to find the “King of Kings” and have travelled far for this event. Their search reaches an end, “following the star of Bethlehem”, and they accept of the Son of Righteousness without hesitation. The three wise men are usually depicted in three different age brackets. The one of the extreme left is very young, the middle one is middle-aged and the one on the right is an elderly person. Thus all ages of humanity are called to accept Christ. The wise men were the first fruits of the Gentile world to venerate and worship Christ. In so doing they show that the ultimate sense of human knowledge is in the contemplation and worship of a Living God, “born unto us as a young Child”.

Below, on the left-hand side, is the scene of Joseph and the tempter (already discussed earlier).

To be continued....

The Icon of the Nativity of Our Lord And Saviour Jesus Christ

5. On the lower right-hand side is depicted an important bathing scene. The origin of this scene is not Scriptural or apocryphal. The first mention of the bathing of Christ was made in the travelogue of a late seventh century pilgrim to Palestine, a certain bishop Arnulf. He relates that close to the Nativity cave in Bethlehem, he was shown a stone water basin which was believed to be the one in which the Divine Child had been washed after birth. Early art depictions of the bathing scene are found from as early as the fifth century. This bathing scene illustrates that Christ was truly a human being and had the fullness of human nature while at the same time he also had a divine nature and was the second person of the Trinity. Every young child has to be bathed, washed and cleaned, upon entrance into this world and Jesus was no different. This scene also serves as an argument against those heretics that did not want to acknowledge Christ’s full humanity and placed only emphasis on his divinity (At the IV Ecumenical Council this heresy, know as Monophysitism, was defeated). Thus the two bottom scenes complement each other, showing both the theological teaching of Christ’s full divinity (the pondering of Joseph of the miracle birth-incarnation of God, the second person of the Trinity – Jesus Christ) and His full humanity (the important bathing scene). Christ as such is truly GODMAN – in Ukrainian Bohocholovik, a term coined at the IV Ecumenical Council in 451.

6. The scene at the top center of the icon depicts the three divine rays of the triune God. In so showing this, the icon depicts that the Trinity - Father, the pre-eternal Son and Holy Spirit are at the heart of the event. The Incarnation is not only about the birth of the Son, but also involves the other two members of the Trinity because all three are of one and the same essence (the Greek word for this is “Homoousios”). In another way the rays are referred to also as the divine star of Bethlehem that shone and provided the direction for all the players of the Incarnation event. The divine light thus provides a canopy for the infant birth of the Saviour and lightens the universe for the proper understanding of the truth – that God became man so that man can become potentially God-like.

The icon of the Nativity thereby harmonizes six separate scenes of the festal narrative. Their depiction produces a balanced and well organized theology of the Nativity feast. This icon, except for the bottom part, is truly a pictorial illustration of the KONTAKION (liturgical hymn) of the feast written by St. Romanos the Melodist which proclaims:

“Today the Virgin gives birth to Him Who is above all being and the earth offers a cave to Him whom no man can approach. Angels with shepherds give glory and Magi journey with a star. For unto us is born a young Child, the pre-eternal God.”

To be continued....