Christ is Born!

Dear brothers and sisters,

    The Christmas-Theophany season will come to an end on February 2nd, exactly 40 days after Christmas, with the celebration of the feast of the Encounter of our Lord, also know as the Presentation of our Lord.

At the very moment when Mary and Joseph entered the Temple, carrying the Lord Jesus, they were met by the old man Simeon and the old woman Anna. It is from this meeting in the Temple that the feast gets its name in the Eastern Church.

According to the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus was brought to the Temple on the 40th day after His birth in obedience to the Old Testament Law, which He as the Messiah had come to fulfill.

This meeting is spiritually and theologically significant. It tells us that the Old is over and that the New has come. It tells us that the two covenants have now met: Israel has accomplished its God-given task in bringing forth the Messiah. The promises made by God to Abraham are being fulfilled. Jesus is now encountered in the world as the “light of revelation to the Gentiles.” In Him, the whole world is illuminated and saved. The New Testament has come.

The old man and the old woman who meet Jesus in the Temple and recognize Him for who He is symbolize in their oldness the passing away of the ancient laws, rituals and customs, which were “but a shadow of the good things to come” (Heb 10:1).

So, when and where did the celebration of this feast begin? There is good evidence indicating that the feast originated in Jerusalem in the second half of the fourth century. From Jerusalem the feast spread throughout the entire East and was officially adopted as a major feast in the Byzantine Empire in the sixth century, under the rule of Emperor Justinian (527-565).

From the East, the feast eventually spread to Rome in the fifth century, and from there to France and Spain in the seventh century, and then to Germany in the eighth century.

In his inspired hymn, St. Simeon referred to Jesus as the “Light to the Gentiles.” This prompted Christians to carry a lighted candle or lamp in the procession on the day of the feast, to symbolize the mystical presence of the “True Light,” Jesus. The solemn procession itself symbolized the journey of Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem in fulfillment of the Law.

There is good evidence that the custom of carrying lit candles in procession at the feast was introduced and practiced in the fifth century in Alexandria (Egypt), and in Ancyra (Asia Minor).

In time, this custom was introduced in Rome, and from Rome, spread to Jerusalem and other cities in Palestine. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius (c. 641), speaks of this custom in his sermon on the feast of the Encounter.

Blessing candles on the day of the feast became a custom only after the tenth century. It was introduced in the Kyivan Church sometime in the seventeenth century.

Christ is Born!

Christ is Baptized!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

    Last Sunday, we solemnly celebrated the Feast of Holy Theophany. The post-feast continues for eight days, ending on Monday, January 14th.

    For the first time this year at the Cathedral, we celebrated the full vigil on the eve of the feast: Vespers, with 13 Old Testament readings; followed by Divine Liturgy and the first Blessing of Water. We were blessed with a special gift of peace, a pervading spirit of prayer, and the gentle anointing of the Holy Spirit. The loving presence of God was felt not only at the service, but also at the Holy Supper that followed. It was well attended, and a genuine atmosphere of family, friendship and fellowship was experienced by all.

    On the day of the feast, at 9:30 am we celebrated the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which gave us an opportunity to pray more fervently in thanksgiving to God for everything, and to intercede in a deeper way for the needs of all His people. The second Divine Liturgy at 11 am gave us the opportunity to experience the Great Blessing of Water a second time.

    Every year, the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan leaves us with so much to reflect upon.

    First of all, the Lord God, for the first time in salvation history, reveals to us that He is One, yet three in Persons. God the Son, having become incarnate, stands in the river Jordan. The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends upon Him. The heavens are opened and the voice of God the Father is heard: “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” By reason and intuition, we could come to know that God is One, but never that He is three in Persons. Only God, in His infinite goodness, has revealed this mystery to us.

    Secondly, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan summarizes everything that He will do for us! People came to the Jordan to confess their sins, to symbolically leave them behind “in the waters” into which they were immersed, as a sign of their repentance. However, Jesus comes to the Jordan without sin. He comes not to confess sins, but to take upon Himself all the sins of the world, which He will carry to the Cross. His immersion into the waters of the Jordan foretells His freely willed immersion into death upon the cross. His burial into water points to His burial in a tomb. His rising up from the water foretells His Resurrection from the dead on the third day. The heavens are opened, foretelling His Ascension into heaven and His sitting at the right hand of the Father. The descent of the Holy Spirit foreshadows the feast of Pentecost and the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church – the Body of Christ. The voice of the Father proclaims that the Church (The Body of Christ) is His Beloved Son, and that all those who are baptized in Him are His beloved sons and daughters.

    Finally, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan confirms that He is truly the “Anointed One,” the “Messiah,” who was promised in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15), and whose coming was reaffirmed by the Prophets of old. He comes to re-create and to save us, both body and soul, and to bring all creation to its final transfiguration and perfection.

    In conclusion, His Baptism is also our Baptism. In our Baptism we share His Baptism, not only into the very same waters of the Jordan, but also into the waters of Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension to the Father, with heaven open to receive us.

Fr. Peter Babej


Christmas – Theophany Schedule

More information on the Christmas – Theophany Schedules are avaliable in PDF form here: 
Ukrainian: 2018-2019 CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE (UKR)
English: 2018-2019 CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE (ENG)
Monday December 24

Christmas Eve (Vigil)
9:00 am Royal Hours (Bilingual)
8:00 pm Great Compline and Lytia (Bilingual)
9:00 pm Hierarchical Divine Liturgy (English)
10:30 pm Christmas Carols
11:00 pm Hierarchical Divine Liturgy (Ukrainian)

Tuesday December 25
Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
10:30 am Festal Divine Liturgy (Bilingual)

Wednesday December 26
Synaxis of the Mother of God
10:30 am Festal Divine Liturgy (Bilingual)

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