Everyone is invited to join us at Mid-night on Friday, January 6th, for a Christmas Mid-night Mass, followed by a Christmas Party in our parish hall. Visitors are always welcome!
Why are we celebrating the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on January 7th, rather than December 25th, with most Americans? And why are we asking everyone to stay up so late and to come to church at midnight? These are good questions!
CHRISTMAS ON JANUARY 7th?
We actually are celebrating the Nativity of our Blessed Lord on December 25th according to the ancient Church Calendar. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem the Julian Calendar was in use. All Christians everywhere used the Julian Calendar until late in the 16th century. Even after the Great Schism of 1054, all Christians - Orthodox and Roman Catholics - used the same Julian Calendar until October 1582.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII of Rome unilaterally adopted a New Calendar. This New Calendar was named after him — the Gregorian Calendar - and tragically it furthered the division among Christians. The calendar change was not all that popular in the West, and the New, or Gregorian, Calendar was only adopted gradually. For instance, Denmark, Germany and Norway did not adopt the New Calendar until the year 1700; the British Empire and her American Colonies until 1752, and Sweden until 1753. When the New Calendar was finally adopted in England and America there were riots.
To summarize, all Christians everywhere were on the same Calendar until 1582. In October of that year Pope Gregory XIII furthered the division among Christians by unilaterally adopting a New Calendar. From 1582 until 1752 Orthodox Christians and Anglicans continued to use the Old Calendar.
The New Calendar is often referred to as the Civil Calendar while the Old Calendar is often called the Ecclesiastical Calendar. At Holy Cross parish we returned to the Old Calendar when we became an Orthodox parish in 2013. In our English tradition, the word Calendar is often spelled Kalendar.
We still celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but the Old Calendar and the New Calendar differ by thirteen (13) days. So December 25th on the Old Calendar is January 7th on the New Calendar. The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ falls on Saturday, January 7th. So we will gather for a Christmas Midnight Mass on Friday night, January 6th.
Vast numbers of Christians world-wide will be celebrating Christmas with us this week, including the indigenous Christians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the Russian Federation, geographically the largest country in the world, Egypt where the Holy Family fled after the slaughter of the Holy Innocents by Herod, and Ethiopia which was brought the Gospel by the Ethiopian Eunuch whose conversion is recorded in the Book of Acts. Many countries will be celebrating Christmas this week, as well as Orthodox Christians in nations all around the world.
While it is sad that Christians are divided as to when they celebrate this important Feast, we do have a spiritual advantage in using the Old Calendar. Christmas has become very commercialized and secularized in the West. It has become more of a civil holiday than a Holy Day. We can celebrate the holiday with our non-Orthodox family and friends, and then we still have two weeks of Advent remaining in which we can focus on Jesus Who is the Reason for the Season, and then celebrate Christ’s Nativity without the commercialism that has long troubled so many serious Christians. We are truly blessed to have returned to the ancient and once universal Christian Calendar.
WHY A MID-NIGHT MASS?
Although Scripturally the day begins in the evening (Gen. 1:5), Mid-night Mass is a special Christmas Mass. The Gospel according to St. Luke tells us that Jesus was born during the night watch (Luke 2:8); and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is a beautiful Christmas Carol reflecting the tradition that our Lord was born at mid-night.
Mid-night is the hour traditionally regarded as the time that Jesus was born; and so we gather at mid-night, not because it is the beginning of the day, Scripturally and ecclesiastically it is not, but because it is the time traditionally regarded as the hour of our Lord’s birth.
Being on the Old Calendar we often cannot have a Christmas Mid-night Mass because Old Calendar Christmas is not a civil holiday in America and most people have to get up in the morning and go to work. However, we are blessed that Old Calendar Christmas falls on a Saturday this year so we are able to keep the beautiful tradition of gathering for the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at Mid-night.
Please be sure to invite family and friends to join us this Friday night, January 6th, at Mid-night for a beautiful Christmas Mass, and invite them to remain afterward for a birthday party in our parish hall. Members of our parish family are asked to bring festive food and drink for the Christmas party. Visitors are our guests and do not have to bring a thing.
Christmas is the best time of the year, and as Orthodox Christians we are blessed to be able to celebrate both the civil holiday and the great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Who can get enough of Christmas??? Just think how we could change the world if we each lived as though every day was Christmas!
CHRISTMAS MID-NIGHT MASS, FRIDAY NIGHT, JANUARY 6th
Our church is beautifully decorated, and the smell of pine fills the air. Prayer in this holy place will fill you with the spirit of peace on earth, and good will toward men. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary some 2,000 years ago, but that will do us little good unless He is also conceived within our hearts. Do you have room in the Inn of your heart for the Christ-child?
I’ll be looking forward to seeing you at Mid-night on Friday, January 6th, for the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. It will be a beautiful sung Mass. Our Processional Hymn is the beloved, O Come All Ye Faithful and our Recessional Hymn is another beloved hymn, Angels We Have Heard On High. A Christmas Mid-night Mass is a deeply moving experience for kids of all ages, from one to one hundred and one! Come and worship our New Born King and then remain to celebrate the birth of our Redeemer with a party in our parish hall. To truly keep Christ in Christmas we must also keep the Mass in Christmas.
Until then, continue to focus on Jesus who is the Reason for the Season. As I write this I am listening to Christmas music and our Christmas tree is glowing with bright coloured lights. At this moment the beautiful carol, What Child is this? is playing. Last night Matushka and I watched one of our favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. The Christmas celebration will last for twelve beautiful days after the Feast of the Nativity, taking us all the way to the Feast of Epiphany (Theophany). This is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, and I confess that I can’t get enough of the Advent and Christmas seasons!
For God so loved the world that he gave His only-begotten Son. O Holy Night! O come all ye faithful!
Everyone is invited. There are no outcasts. The Orthodox Church welcomes everyone. Come to the stable! We’ll be looking forward to seeing you soon.
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
A Western Rite parish of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127