BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery.
My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
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.
According to Orthodox (Byzantine) chronology, rejected by the Western church in the mid 17th century, and by the Russian Church through the reforms of Peter I in the early 18th c., the Birth of Christ took place 5508 years after the creation of “the human race”, or “world”, as Church Slavonic calls it. Professor A. P. Lopukhin in his book The Bible Story of the Old Testament noted the difficulties, but not impossibilty of restoring the chronology of the Old Testament events since Adam.
Throughout the Nativity fast, there are not a few Church feast days on which the typicon allows fish and wine. Christian love and discernment allows an Orthodox Christian to sit at the table with his friends and drink a glass of wine in the normal manner. We always serve a moleben of Thanksgiving on civil New Year's Eve, and that is the proper thing to do. Some people mistakenly believe that Orthodox Christians should not participate in this event. "That has nothing to do with us," they say. "We are on another calendar, and New Year's Day can only come according to the old calendar—that is, on January 14."
There was a time in Russia when New Year's Day was celebrated on September 1, and it coincided with the Church New Year. Even now, we begin the cycle of our Church feasts from that day. However, under Tsar Peter I, the civil New Year was transferred to January 1, as it was in Europe. In general, this date is quite relative, and in the final analysis we could choose any date at all to begin the New Year.
Twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost; Second Sunday before Nativity: Holy Forefathers of the Old Covenant; Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Tremithus; Serbian Mother’s Day
RESURRECTIONAL TROPARION - TONE TWO:
When Thou didst descend to death, O Life Immortal, Thou didst slay hell with the splendor of Thy Godhead! And when from the depths Thou didst raise the dead, all the powers of heaven cried out: O Giver of Life! Christ our God! Glory to Thee!
This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him.
St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion founded by his uncle. Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3).When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: ``Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me.'' Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock.
Commemorated November 23/December 6 and August 30/September 12
St. Alexander Nevsky was Russia’s “knight in shining armor.” His reputation as a man of exceptional valor and surpassing virtue inspired a visit by a German commander who told his people when he returned: “I went through many countries and saw many people, but I have never met such a king among kings, nor such a prince among princes.” The Russians called him their “prince without sin.”
He was born just four years before the fierce Tatars, under the leadership of Ghengis Khan, came galloping across the steppes of Kievan Rus. The once flourishing city state—whose social, cultural and spiritual achievements boasted few rivals in Western Europe—had been weakened by quarrelling princes and attacks of warring tribes, and it was an easy prey for the massacring and pillaging Asiatic aggressors. Fortunately, the Mongol Horde’s primary interest in conquest was financial gain, and although it imposed a heavy tax on its subjects, they were left to govern themselves and retained their traditions and religion intact, Nevertheless, the yoke of foreign sovereignty was burdensome; individual princes were reduced to acting as feudal landlords for their Mongol lords, and inclinations toward s national unity—the dream of Grand Prince Vladimir—were stifled. A strong leader was needed if the land of Rus’ was to have any hope of healing internal strife, of throwing off the Tatar yoke, and establishing its identity as a nation state.