Please Remember in Your Prayers

Schema-Archimandrite Joachim; Archpriest Vincent Saverino; Archpriest Michael Hatrak; Archpriest John Vass; Deacon Michael Bishop; Mat. Myra Kovalak; Mat. Klavdiya Burbelo; Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green; Nun Elizabeth; Nun Magdalena; Mat. Natalia Kosich; Mat. Diane Winsky; Mat. Catherine Kowalchik; Marie Vass; Charles Snipes; Arthur-Stephen Lisowsky; Yelena Radchenko; Lydia Zorina; Tatiana; Katherine Plaskowitz; Philip Plaskowitz, Michael Stanka; Bernadine Borawick; Julia Aymold; Mary Johnson; Olga Chanat; Lilli Ann Hoffman; Lara Marinich; Oleg Marinich; Ioann and Galina Zernetkin; Monika-Anastasia & Stephanie Handley; Blanche-Julia Stolkovich; Ekaterina Koroleva; Nina Lewis; Maryann Black; Lyudmila, Anton & Aleksander Karnup; John Alexander Bylen; Katherine Garrett; Stephen Kaminitsky; Constantine; John-Thomas Planinshek; Kenneth Pukita; William and Ann Ferkile; Sergei Krektyshev; Irina Kononova; Petr and Lyudmila Borodkin; Anthony Bakie; Svetlana & Aleksey; Nina; Mat. Galina, Alla; Anna; Alla; Raisa, Zinaida; Joseph Germano; Pavel, Vladimir, Valentina, Nina, and Maria; Maria Pappas; Bonnie Duke; Joseph Lacomy; Diana Radchenko; Aleksey Potapov; Oleg and Andrei; Vitaliy, Tatiana, Olena & Nicholas Berchuk; Marian, Irena and Isabella; David, Selina-Sophia, John, Maryann, David, Joseph, Lisa Ann Eichelberger; Cynthia and Bill (Basil) Popomaronis; Katerina Spilio; Ekaterina Gvozdiy.

ru

Bulletin

27th Sunday after Pentecost

Tone 2

 

November 27/December 10, 2017

 

Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos named “Znamenie”. Commemoration of the miracle of the Weeping Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "Of the Sign" at Novgorod in 1170. Great-martyr James the Persian (421); Venerable Palladius of Thessalonica (6th-7th c.); Holy Hierarch James, Bishop and Wonderworker of Rostov (1392); Uncovering of the relics (1192) of Right-Believing. Vsevolod (Gabriel), Prince and Wonderworker of Pskov (1138); Blessed Andrew of Simbirsk; Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Radonezh; 17 Monk-martyrs in India (4th c.); Venerable Romanus the Wonderworker of Cilicia (5th c.); Hieromartyrs Nicholas-Archbishop of Vladimir, Basil, Boris, Theodore, Nicholas, Alexis, John, Sergius, John, Sergius, Nicholas, Dmitriy, Vladimir, John-Priests, Venerable Martyrs Ioasaf, Cronides, Nicholas, Ksenophontius, Alexis, Appolos, Seraphim, Nicholas and Martyr John (1937). Znamenie-Sign Icons of the Mother of God: “Kursk-Root (1295), “Abalatsk"(1637), "Tsarskotsel'sk" and "Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk" (1879).

 

 

Today’s Scriptural Readings:      

Ephesians 6: 10-17   /   Luke 13: 10-17

Hebrews 9: 1-7   /   Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28  (Theotokos)

Fr. John’s Sermons (Video): Click here  

 

 

 

This  Week’s  Liturgical  Calendar

The Nativity Fast (St. Phillip’s Fast) continues until January 7

Saturday, December 16th – 6:00 PM

Vigil Service in Church

Sunday, December 17th – 10:00 AM

Divine Liturgy in Church

Holy Great Martyr Barbara

 

 

Divine Services at Holy Trinity are now live-streamed at

https://www.youtube.com/user/HolyTrinitySermons

 

 

Please Join us for Coffee Hour – Today after Services

Sponsors for today: Yelena Radchenko and Valentina Zernetkina

 

Group Photos

The Parish Council, Cemetery Committee and Altar Servers will have their group pictures taken TODAY.

 

Sunday, December 10th – Soup Luncheon

After Divine Services on Sunday, December 10th, the Sunday School Parents and Teachers will conduct an All-you-can-eat Soup Luncheon, featuring a wide variety of homemade lenten soups – mushroom, bean, lentil, cabbage, just to name a few. Salads and other items will round out the menu for a tasty lunch. Cost: $7/person (child under 12 free). All the proceeds benefit the Sunday School. For more info or if you’d like to donate anything for the luncheon call Larisa Hidar 443-986-0047 larafaza@yahoo.com  

 

 

 

Annual Parish Meeting – December 10, 2017

This is an official announcement that our annual parish meeting will take place after Divine Liturgy on Sunday, December 10, 2017.  Suggestions for New Business items may be given to Victor Marinich. Special items for discussion: Report/update on church restorations and special fundraising.

 

Only “members in good standing” vote at an annual meeting.

According to the By-Laws of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, adopted on December 21, 2003, the following defines a “Member in Good Standing of Holy Trinity Parish” (abridged):

Member in Good Standing is anyone, 18 years or older, that meets all of the following:

a)      Any person who was baptized and chrismated according to the rites of the Orthodox Church or who has been canonically received into the Orthodox Church;

b)      Any person who partakes of the Mysteries of Holy Confession and Holy Communion as frequently as possible, but no less than once a year;

c)      Any person who pledges to support the parish through the application of their personal time and effort and a pledge of financial support;

d)      Any person who meets his/her stewardship obligation;

e)      Any person who demonstrates his/her loyalty to the Orthodox Church and to this parish by laboring to the best of their abilities for its progress;

f)       Any pledging member who abides by the parish by-laws. 

 

Nomination Committee

The Nomination Committee is working to present a complete slate of candidates to run for the various offices on the parish council for the year 2018. Anyone interested to run for office may contact the Nomination Committee members: Victor Marinich 443-512-0985; Dan Walsh 410-435-6164; Michael Mickel 410-666-2870; Albert Blaszak 410-799-3226;   Vadim Radchenko 410-465-6172; or Andrei Burbelo 443-567-6031.

 

 

 

St. Catherine Sisterhood – Congratulations

We congratulate the newly elected Sisterhood officers for the year 2018. Natallia Makarava – President;    Larisa Hidar – Vice President;  Ekaterina Radchenko – Secretary;  Natalie Burbelo – Treasurer. May God bless their work for the Sisterhood, increase their talents and preserve them for many years!

 

Every Sunday –Yolka Practice

Every Sunday after Sunday School classes we will conduct a Yolka rehearsal.

All students need to attend the rehearsals. Our annual Yolka is scheduled for Sunday, January 14th.

Mark your calendars!

 

Next Sunday, December 17th – Time to Decorate

We ask all the children (and children at heart) of the parish to help us decorate our Christmas trees after Divine Services.

We also appreciate donations of any extra lights and ornaments. Thank you very much!

 

 

Amazon Smile  &  Popular Gift Cards

Every time you shop on Amazon go to https://smile.amazon.com/ log in as you usually do, select our church – Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church (Baltimore, MD) – as your targeted charity, and Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase (every purchase) to our church. 

 

Looking for a simple way to contribute to the church restoration? Consider Gift Cards for your holiday shopping and gift giving. This holiday season, when you use gift cards to pay for your purchases and gift giving, you automatically contribute to our church restoration!

 

The holidays present a big fundraising opportunity for our restoration project. You can raise money just by paying for your holiday shopping with gift cards which you purchase from our church! 

 

Just look at the earnings from these popular retailers:

·      Earn 2.5% on gifts from Amazon (remember to purchase at smile.amazon.com)

·      Earn 10% when you shop at Macy's

·      Earn 6% with gift cards from CVS

·      Earn 7% with gift cards from Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Home Goods

·      Earn 14% on your holiday outfits from GAP or Old Navy

·      You can even earn 4% when you’re buying holiday meal supplies at Safeway, Shop Rite or Giant!

 

If you want to start raising easy money in-store, online, on-the-go, or on last-minute gifts, email tania_masiuk@yahoo.com  410-987-4850 or stop by the Gift Kiosk in the parish hall for our enrollment code so you may purchase your gift cards today!   Invite your family and friends to purchase gift cards from Holy Trinity too!

 

 

Pan-Orthodox St. Nicholas Festival – Thank you!

Yesterday our parish hosted a Pan-Orthodox St. Nicholas Festival for Sunday School students. Young children up through middle school learned about the life of St. Nicholas through various games, cookie making and other fun activities. Afterwards, many of the children sang the responses for Great Vespers. We thank Dr. Pat Disharoon for organizing all the many games and activities. The kids had a great time. And we thank Olga Hansen for coordinating the efforts of many of our Sunday School parents. Approximately 50 children and parents attended. Thank you!

 

Prison Ministry – Toy & Coat Drive

The Maryland Chapter of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry is collecting new and gently used toys (unwrapped) for the children (ages 2-17) of individuals incarcerated at the Baltimore City Detention Center.  OCPM is also collecting winter coats for adults who are released on cold days without coats. All donations must be received by Dec. 11. Contact Fr. Deacon Michael: Deacon@Michael-Bishop.com.

 

2018  Stewardship Coming Soon

Where does my giving to the Church belong? Do I consider it a matter of mere choice? Do I think of it as something obligatory? Is it merely a personal preference? Or do I look upon it as privilege and responsibility? When I plan my budget, where do I place my giving to the Church? Do I place it first because the responsibility is laid on my heart, or do I place it last, after I have discovered if anything is still available? Is my giving to the Church proportionate giving? Do I relate my giving to the Church to what I spend on pleasure and comforts and luxuries and even necessities? Is my giving haphazard? Does it belong in the category of leftovers? In other words, do I find a rightful place for stewardship in my life? Do I treat my giving carelessly or do I treat it as thoughtfully as I want God to treat me and mine? 

 


History Committee Meeting: Saturday, December 16th – 3:00 PM in the Rectory

All members of the History Committee are encouraged to attend this working meeting on

Saturday, Dec. 16th at  3:00 PM in the Rectory. We will sort through documents and various other items.

 

Birthday / Anniversary Celebrations:  December 10-16

We offer our best wishes and birthday congratulations to Ekaterina Patrusheva (12/10), Elena Shultieva (12/11), Craig-Stephen Pearson (12/11); Leo Hansen (12/14), Jennie-Xenia LeGardeur (12/15); and Angel Day congratulations to Drew Pastor (12/13), Andrei Burbelo (12/13) Andrei Shushtov (12/13). May God bless them with health, prosperity and many years. To include your birthdays/anniversaries in the bulletin contact Fr. John.

 

Vigil Candles: On the Altar and near St. Barbara

Dec 10-16 : Candles offered by Olga Mychko and Alexey Shevelkin for the health/salvation of the servants of God:  Ksenia, Anastasia, Alexey and Sergey and for repose of the soul of the servant of God: +Alexey. A $15 donation will keep all three candles lit for one week. Schedule your candle offering with Vadim Radchenko 410-465-6172.  Thank you.

 

Cleaning Group – Group #2 /  Join a Group – Help your brothers and sisters

Group #2 will clean this week Dec. 11-16: Natallia Makarava (captain), Mikhail Merzliakov,

Catalin Frujinoiu,  Anca Frujinoiu and Gabriel Wagner These groups need more members.

 

Please Remember in Your Prayers…

Schema-Archimandrite Joachim; Archpriest Vincent Saverino; Archpriest Michael Hatrak; Archpriest John Vass; Deacon Michael Bishop; Mat. Myra Kovalak; Mat. Klavdiya Burbelo; Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green; Nun Elizabeth; Nun Magdalena; Mat. Natalia Kosich; Mat. Diane Winsky; Mat. Catherine Kowalchik; Marie Vass; Charles Snipes; Arthur-Stephen Lisowsky; Yelena Radchenko; Lydia Zorina; Tatiana; Katherine Plaskowitz; Philip Plaskowitz, Michael Stanka; Bernadine Borawick; Julia Aymold; Mary Johnson; Olga Chanat; Lilli Ann Hoffman; Lara Marinich; Oleg Marinich; Ioann and Galina Zernetkin; Monika-Anastasia & Stephanie Handley; Blanche-Julia Stolkovich; Ekaterina Koroleva; Nina Lewis; Maryann Black; Lyudmila, Anton & Aleksander Karnup; John Alexander Bylen; Katherine Garrett; Stephen Kaminitsky; Constantine; John-Thomas Planinshek; Kenneth Pukita; William and Ann Ferkile; Sergei Krektyshev; Irina Kononova; Petr and Lyudmila Borodkin; Anthony Bakie; Svetlana & Aleksey; Nina; Mat. Galina, Alla; Anna; Alla; Raisa, Zinaida; Joseph Germano; Pavel, Vladimir, Valentina, Nina, and Maria; Maria Pappas; Bonnie Duke; Joseph Lacomy; Diana Radchenko; Aleksey Potapov; Oleg and Andrei; Vitaliy, Tatiana, Olena & Nicholas Berchuk; Marian, Irena and Isabella; David, Selina-Sophia, John, Maryann, David, Joseph, Lisa Ann Eichelberger; Cynthia and Bill (Basil) Popomaronis; Katerina Spilio; Ekaterina Gvozdiy.

 

History Committee Meeting: Saturday, December 16th – 3:00 PM in the Rectory

Next Council Meeting: Tuesday, January 16th – 7:00 PM in the Church Hall

 

Fr. John Vass, Pastor  410-997-0802

Fr. Deacon Michael Bishop:                        410-563-0472

Victor Marinich, Council President:          443-512-0985

Vadim Radchenko, Vice President:              410-465-6172

Andrei Burbelo,  Recording Secretary:    443-567-6031

Albert Blaszak, Treasurer:                             410-799-3226

Monika Handley, Stewardship Chair:      410-263-5758

Anna-Zumrat Shkurba, Member-At-Large: 443-857-8541

Natalie Burbelo, Sisterhood President:    443-567-6031

Michael Mickel, Cemetery Manager:             410-666-2870

 

 

The Icon of the Mother of God, named the "Sign" ("Znamenie")

The Icon of the Mother of God, named the "Sign" ("Znamenie"), images the Most Holy Mother of God seated and with prayerfully uplifted hands; at Her bosom, against the background of a circular shield (or sphere) –in blessing is the Divine Infant – the Savior-Emmanuel. Suchlike depiction of the Mother of God is regarded as among the very first of Her iconographic images. In the mausoleum of Saint Agnes at Rome is a depiction of the Mother of God with hands outstretched in prayer with the Infant-Christ sitting upon Her knees. This depiction is ascribed to the IV Century. Moreover, there is known an ancient Byzantine image of the Mother of God "Nikopea" from the VI Century, where the Most Holy Mother of God is depicted sitting upon a throne and holding with both hands before Her an oval shield with the image of the Savior-Emmanuel. Icons of the Mother of God, known under the name "Znamenie-Sign", appeared in Rus' during the XI-XII Centuries, and were called such after a miraculous "Sign" from the Novgorod Icon, which occurred in the year 1170.

 

In that year the allied forces of Russian appanage princes, headed by a son of the Suzdal' prince Andrei Bogoliubsky, marched to beneath the very walls of Great Novgorod. For the Novgorod people the only hope remaining was in the help of God. Day and night, they prayed, beseeching the Lord not to forsake them. On the third night the Novgorod bishop Ilia heard a wondrous voice, commanding to be taken out from the church of the Savior–Transfiguration on Il'ina street the image of the Most Holy Mother of God, and to carry it about on the city walls. When they carried about the icon – the enemy let loose at the church procession a hail of arrows, and one of them pierced the iconographic countenance of the Mother of God. From Her eyes trickled tears, and the icon turned its face towards the city. After such a Divine Sign there suddenly fell upon the enemy an inexpressible terror, they began to strike at one another, and taking encouragement from the Lord the Novgorodians fearlessly gave battle and gained the victory. 

 

In remembrance of the miraculous intercession of the Queen of Heaven, archbishop Ilia thereupon established a feast day in honor of the Znamenie-Sign of the Mother of God, which down through the present all the Russian Church celebrates. The Athos priestmonk Pakhomios the Logothete, present at the festal celebration to the Icon in Russia, wrote two canons for this feast. On certain of the Novgorod Icons of the Znamenie-Sign, besides the Mother of God with the Praeternal Divine-Infant, there were depicted the miraculous occurrences of the year 1170. For 186 years afterwards, the wonderworking icon remained situated in the selfsame Savior-Transfiguration church on Il'ina street. But in 1356 there was constructed for it in Novgorod a temple in honor of the Znamenie-Sign of the Most Holy Mother of God, serving as cathedral for the Znamenie-Sign monastery.

 

Numerous copies of the Znamenie-Sign Icon are known of throughout all Russia. Many of them subsequently also were glorified by miracles in their local churches, and were then named for the place of the appearance of the miracle. Suchlike copies of the Znamenie-Sign Icon are the icons of Dionysievo-Glushitsk, Abalatsk, Kursk, the Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk and others.    © 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

 

The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called

(November 30/December 13)

The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he afterwards brought to Christ his own brother the holy Apostle Peter (Jn. 1: 35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from the time of his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and together with his brother he worked as a fisherman. When upon Israel thundered the voice of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord John, Saint Andrew became his closest disciple. Saint John the Baptist himself sent off to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God. 

 

After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, Saint Andrew set off preaching the Word of God to the Eastern lands. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached along the River Dunaj (Danube), went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea Region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place, where now stands the city of Kiev. He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: "See ye these hills? Upon these hills will shine forth the beneficence of God, and there wilt be here a great city, and God shalt raise up many churches". The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium – the future mighty Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew connects the mother – the Church of Constantinople, together with the daughter – the Russian Church.

 

On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out from their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persevering disciple of Christ continued to preaching about the Savior to people. Through the prayers of the apostle, the Lord worked miracles. From the labors of the holy Apostle Andrew there emerged Christian Churches, for which he established bishops and clergy. The final city to which the First-Called Apostle came, and where it was allotted him to accept a martyr's end, was the city of Patra.

 

The Lord manifested many a miracle through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the apostle, the illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness; by the placing on of apostolic hands was healed Maximilla, wife of the governor of Patra, and his brother Stratokles. The miracles accomplished by the apostle and his fiery speech enlightened with the true faith almost all the citizens of the city of Patra. Few pagans remained at Patra, but among them was the governor of the city, Aegeatos. The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of Good-News [meaning of Evangelium, or Gospel]. But even the miracles of the apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy apostle with love and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought to undo the preaching of Saint Andrew, if he were to give him over to death on the cross, which however the apostle glorified. Saint Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the governor with joy and with prayer to the Lord he himself went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail down the hands and feet of the saint, but to tie them to the cross. From up on the cross for two days the apostle taught the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take the holy apostle down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, uttered: "Lord Jesus Christ, receive Thou my spirit". Then a blazing ray of Divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the shining ceased, the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called had already given up his holy soul to the Lord (+ 62). Maximilla, wife of the governor, had the body of the Apostle taken down from the cross, and buried him with honor.

 

A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles alongside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and Apostle Paul's disciple – the Disciple Timothy.  © 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

 

The world tells us to feast when the Church instructs us to fast…

Then the world encourages us to diet, when the Church calls us to feast…

Which do we follow?

 

On the Nativity Fast

The Preparation of the Soul

 

The Fast of the Nativity is the Church's wise solace and aid to human infirmity. We are a forgetful people, but our forgetfulness is not unknown to God; and our hearts with all their misconceptions and weakened understandings are not unfamiliar to the Holy Spirit who guides and sustains this Church. We, who fall far from God through the magnitude of our sin, are called nonetheless to be close to Him. We who run afar off are called to return. Through the fast that precedes the great Feast of the Incarnation -- which itself is the heart and substance of our calling -- the Church helps draw us into the full mystery of what that call entails. 

 

Like Great Lent, the fast of the Nativity is a journey. 'Come, O ye faithful, and let us behold where Christ is born. Let us join the Magi, kings from the east, and follow the guiding star' (Sessional Hymn of the Nativity Matins). Let us 'join the Magi', let us 'follow' and 'behold'. On the fifteenth of November, the Church joins together in a journey toward that salvation first promised to Adam in God's curse laid upon the serpent (Gen 3.14-15). The One who will crush the head of the serpent, of sin and the devil and all that is counter to the life God offers, is Him to whom the star leads us. The fast of the Nativity is our journey into the new and marvelous life of the Holy Trinity, which is offered by God but which we must approach of our own volition. In this act, we are joined to the story of our fathers. The gift of a new land and great blessings was freely given by God to Abraham, but in order to obtain it, 'Abram went, as the Lord had told him' (Gen 12.4). 

 

A journey is, by its nature, naturally ascetic. Unless my life is already very humble, I cannot take the whole of my possessions on a journey. I cannot transport social and political ties along a journey's path. I can never be too reliant on the plans I have made for my journey: a control lying beyond the self must be admitted and accepted. This is the spirit to which the fast calls us. 

 

A journey is, by its nature, an act of movement, of transportation, of growth. What is old is left behind, newness is perceived and embraced, and growth of understanding takes place. And even if the journey comes to a close in the same physical location from which it began, that place is transformed for us by the journey through which we have re-approached it. The aid shelter on a street corner in London is no different after a journey to the Middle East; but after witnessing there first-hand the struggles and torments of poverty, of suffering, of sorrow, the meaning and importance of that small shelter is indeed different for me. 

 

Here the importance of the fast. As the Nativity approaches, that great feast of cosmic significance and eternal, abounding joy for which heaven and earth together rejoice, the fast calls me to consider: do I rejoice? Why do I rejoice? The hymnography of the Church makes it clear that this is a feast for all the world, for all creation; and the fast calls me to take my place in that creation, to realize that, despite all my infinite unworthiness, Christmas is a miracle for my soul too. 

 

Make ready, O Bethlehem: let the manger be prepared, let the cave show its welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away; born of a Virgin, God has appeared to men, formed as we are and making godlike the garment He has put on. Therefore Adam is renewed with Eve, and they call out: 'Thy good pleasure has appeared on earth to save our kind'. 

 

Adam and Eve, all of humankind, are renewed and made alive in the Incarnation of God in Christ, who 'appeared on earth to save our kind'. Fallen flesh, so long bound to death, so long yearning in for growth and maturation into the fullness of life, is sewn into the garment of Christ and at last made fully alive. There is a pleasing old saying, with perhaps more than a touch of truth to it, that humankind drew its first full breath at the infant Christ's first cry. 

 

We are called, then, to approach this great mystery as God's condescension into our own lives, personally and collectively. The Canon of Matins for the Nativity lays it out clearly: 'He establishes a path for us, whereby we may mount up to heaven' (Irmos of Canticle Two, from the Iambic (second) Canon of the Nativity Matins). The Nativity is not only about God's coming down to us, but about our rising up to Him, just as sinful humanity was lifted up into the person of Christ in the Incarnation itself. 

 

We are called to arise, then, during the fast that is the journey into this Feast. 'O blessed Lord who seest all, raise us up far above sin, and establish Thy singers firm and unshaken upon the foundation of the faith'. The faithful take up this call through the abandonment of those things which bind, rather than free, in order that a focus on God as 'all in all' might become ever more real and central to daily life. 

 

Meals are lessened and regimented, that a constant, lingering hunger may remind us of the great need we each have for spiritual food that goes beyond our daily bread. The number of Church services is gradually increased, that we might know whence comes that true food. Sweets and drink are set aside, that we might never feel content with the trivial and temporal joys of this world. Parties and social engagements are reduced, that we might realize that all is not so well with us as we often take it to be. Anything which holds the slightest power over us, whether cigarettes or television, travel or recreation, is minimized or -- better -- cast wholly aside, that we might bring ourselves to be possessed and governed only by God. 

 

The fast is an ascetic time, designed by the Church to strip away common stumbling blocks into sin, to provide us with the means of self-perception that we lack in our typical indulgence, and to begin to grow the seeds of virtue. All these are necessary if we are ever to know even partially, or appreciate even menially, the 'depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God'. We must take up the task of our own purification, gifted by God and achieved only through His grace, that we might approach Him on Christmas Day as did the Magi and the shepherds in Bethlehem: 

 

Come, O ye faithful, inspired by God let us arise and behold the divine condescension from on high that is made manifest to us in Bethlehem. Cleansing our minds, let us offer through our lives virtues instead of myrrh, preparing with faith our entry into the feast of the Nativity, storing up treasure in our souls and crying: Glory in the highest to God in Trinity, whose good pleasure is now revealed to men, that in His love for mankind He may set Adam free from the ancestral curse.  (Sticheron of the Sixth Hour, Christmas Eve)   http://www.monachos.net/content/liturgics/liturgical-reflections/97#footnotes_97

 

O Most Holy Trinity, Our God, Glory to Thee!