Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
It seems every year, as we approach the Christmas Holiday, we find it less and less a celebration of the coming of our Savior and more a commercial enterprise. This is not to say that I have a “bah, humbug!” attitude, not at all, but I seek a Spiritual meaning for this time of year.
Aye, there’s the rub! I want to be “Spiritual”, but not religious. But what do I mean by being Spiritual and not being religious? How can I say such a thing, when I am the leader of the largest body of (Orthodox) Christians in Alaska? Aren’t we supposed to be “religious”? Again, it depends on what you mean by religious. Meriam Webster defines it basically as “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.” If that is all I was seeking, that is easily completed by attending services, and at Christmas time, there are many. There are Christmas Cantatas, Live Nativity Scenes, Candlelight Vigils, roaming carolers and singers; there’s Midnight Mass for some Faiths, Christmas Eve Vigils and Divine Liturgy for others (I still can’t get over the fact that some churches don’t even have services on Christmas Day unless it falls on a Sunday, but I digress). So, if I want to “satisfy” my religious experience, lots of things will fill the bill. Once done, I can go on with my other “needs” at shopping malls, and all.
There are many people today who say they are “Spiritual” but not “religious”. I want to say here that while I agree with what they are thinking, I disagree that it is something I can fulfill on my own. For me, there is always the need for “the Other” in a spiritual equation. So, whether I am talking about Christmas, or any other major celebration of an event related to Christ, I am always seeking my involvement with the Other.
Let me offer a few reasons why this is so important to me. First, very few religions have ever even allowed that God could become a human being, he is simply God qua God, above and beyond everything and anything else that is involved with matter, with “stuff” that exists in our world. It is incomprehensible to those who hold to such an idea (ancient Greek philosophers, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, even some Jewish sects, etc.) that we could associate God with our world because it is a perishing world, finite, and surely God could not be a part of that. But in Christianity, not only to we believe this, we celebrate it and say our Salvation depends on it!
Second, related to the first Christian notion, we Orthodox Christians have no less than four Major and three minor Feasts spread throughout the calendar year related to the Incarnation of Christ, not to mention Christmas, itself. In other words, we are preparing for the coming of Christ throughout the year, not just on December 25/January 7. We gather together in prayer and Liturgy at each event, knowing we are making ready our hearts for the coming Incarnation.
Third, while many others celebrate the preparatory fasting season before Christmas as a “Four-Sunday Advent” event, this fast for we Orthodox is a full forty days. Beginning on November 28, Julian calendar with Jan. 7 being Christmas, we practice fasting from certain foods, pleasures and entertainment, and increase our prayer life accordingly. This also helps us direct our attention to the contemplation of the coming of Christ and of His Theophany as well.
All this is not to find any inadequacy with anyone else’s enjoyment of Christmas, but it is to say that “I need all of these things to enter into my own “Spiritual” celebration of Christmas.” A Spiritual Joy only possible when I join into this celebration with others who share similar love for the Incarnation of our Lord, and are thankful for His love for us.
I wish all those who are celebrating this Holy Season the Peace of Christ and the Joy of the Lord!
We continue to live through aftershocks (the latest one being this morning about 7:00 AM 4.6 magnitude, and three more after that near 4 in magnitude. Some people are suffering from PTSD due to the continued quaking. Some schools are not yet reopened, and some businesses are still not fully operational. Some schools may not be open at all this year and will have to find substitute buildings for classes.
When you consider the magnitude of this quake, we can clearly see how our prayers to the Alaskan Saints, Herman, Juvenaly and His Companion, Peter the Aleut, Yakov, Innocent, Tikhon and Matushka Olga, were at work in helping to save so many lives from destruction. We remain vigilant and in prayer so that our Good Lord, the Holy Virgin Mary and all the saints will continue to protect and guide us.
There are parishioners who lost many personal items in their homes. Dinnerware, glasses, keepsakes, bowls, and photos were broken or smashed during the tremor as well as some minor appliances. St Innocent Cathedral has sustained damage to the Iconostas and some Icons that were mounted on the walls, along with plaster cracking throughout the building. In most cases the losses are not sufficient for a major insurance claim, with deductibles at a threshold that may not be met in the damages. [If anyone wants to contribute to aide our faithful in purchasing these items, I would suggest they send it directly to the Diocese Chancery and we can distribute the funds on an as-needed basis.]
2018 Diocesan Assembly Awards
2018 All American Council Diocesan Video