8 Jan 2014

Celebrating Orthodox Christmas - UPDATED

The countries that still follow the Julian calendar celebrated Christmas on 7th January. Millions of Orthodox faithful are celebrate the feast of Jesus’ birth. Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on 7 January instead of 25 December because they follow the Julian calendar not the Gregorian one. So 7th January is a day of celebration for those countries and canonical territories that stuck to the Julian calendar: Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia, Jerusalem and Mount Athos.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolomaios I Christmas message highlighted the church's support and concerns for family life as well as the threats against Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.

"Beloved brothers and sisters, children in Christ, 2013 years have passed since the birth of Christ in the flesh.  
2013 years have passed and, like then, Christ continues to be persecuted in the person of the weak by Herod and all kinds of contemporary Herods  
2013 years have passed and Jesus is persecuted in the person of Christians in Syria and elsewhere  
2013 years have passed and Christ still flees like a refugee not only in Egypt, but also in Lebanon, Europe, America and elsewhere, seeking security in an insecure world  
2013 years have passed and the child Jesus remains imprisoned with the two hierarchs in Syria, Paul (Yazigi) and Youhanna (Ibrahim), as well as the Orthodox nuns and many other known and unknown Christians  
2013 years have passed and Christ is crucified with those who are tortured and killed in order not to betray their faith in Him  
2013 years have passed and Jesus is daily put to death in the person of thousands of embryos, whose parents prevent from being born  
2013 years have passed and Christ is mocked and ridiculed in the person of unfortunate children, who experience the crisis of the family, destitution and poverty.  
It is this human pain, sorrow and affliction that our Lord came and once more comes to assume during this Christmas season. After all, He said: “As you have done to one of these, the least of my brothers and sisters,” you have done to me.” (Matt. 25.40-41) It is for these that He was born of a Virgin, for these that He became human, for these that He suffered, was crucified and arose from the dead. That is to say: for all of us. Thus, let each of us lift up our personal cross in order to find grace and mercy when we seek His assistance. Then, the born Emmanuel, our Savior and Lord, will “be with us.” Amen. 
You can read the full message HERE
Patriarch Bartolomaios I is due to meet with Pope Francis during the pontiff's planned visit to the Holy Land at the end of May 2014. The pastoral trip to Amman, Jerusalem and Bethlehem marks the 50th anniversary of the meeting of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras on 5th January 1964. Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartolomaios are due to meet at an ecumenical gathering at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem during the pontiff's trip. This visit will follow on from Bartolomaios attendance at the Mass inaugurating the pontificate of Pope Francis I in April 2013.
The meeting in 1964 was historic as the first meeting between Pope and Patriarch since the Council of Florence in 1439 (and came during the first visit of a pope to the Holy Land since St Peter). It was followed on by a joint Catholic-Orthodox declaration, approved by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople, read simultaneously (Dec. 7 1965) at a public meeting of the second Vatican Council in Rome and at a special ceremony in Istanbul which lifted the mutual  Catholic-Orthodox exchanges of excommunications in 1054.  
Given the turbulent relationships between Rome and Moscow and Constantinople and Moscow it is unlikely that Patriarch Kirill may be in attendance but given that the Ecumenical Patriarch has summoned a surprise preparatory meeting of the patriarchs and archbishops of all the Orthodox Churches at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul this coming March you can never tell. (The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the guidelines and timeframe for the Preparatory Commission of the Pan-Orthodox Synod which is scheduled to take place in 2015). Patriarch Kirill last visited Jerusalem in Novemeber 2012.]
Pope Tawadros
An Egyptian army soldier guards St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, Monday

Coptic Christians in Egypt celebrated Christmas after a summer that was clouded by the violence of Islamist attacks. Tawadros prays that the New Year will bring goodness and peace to the whole of Egypt. Last year was Tawadros’ Christmas: he had just been elected Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Twelve months have passed since then and it has been a tough time for Egypt. The country’s armed forces are back at the helm, many have died during the demonstrations staged by the Muslim Brotherhood and churches across the country have been left scarred by the wave of Islamist attacks last August. So as the Coptic community prepares to celebrate Christmas tomorrow (7 January) it finds itself suspended between the fear of fresh violence and the hope of beginning a new chapter.

Continue reading HERE.

Vatican Insider reports:

Patriarch Kirill

Patriarch Kirill celebrated Midnight Mass in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, which was attended by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. President Putin attended mass at the new Cathedral in Sotchi, where the winter Olympics will be held next month.

“And today we celebrate an event which at its root has changed the entire course of human history. God enters the very depths of human life, he becomes one of us, he takes upon himself the weight of our sins, human infirmities and weaknesses – he brings them to Golgotha in order to free people from this unbearable burden. God henceforth is no longer to be found somewhere in the unattainable heavens, but is here, with us, among us,” Patriarch Kirill said in his Christmas message.

You can read Patriarch Kirill's full Christmas message HERE


A few interesting videos on Rome/Constantinople relationships starting with Pope Benedicts visit to Phanar and some insight into Pope Francis relationship with Orthodox as he was the bishop with responsibility for Eastern Orthodox in communion with Rome in Argentina as archbishop of Argentina.




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