He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it had cost a fortune.
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Our yearly visits to friends during the 12 days of Old Style Christmas always bring us to the apartment of some dear parishioners whom our children have nicknamed stari babushka and dedushka (older grandma and grandpa). They are both emigres from Russia and at least one is nearing his last days on this earth. In our society that tends to exile the elderly and idolize youth, it is easy to forget such precious people who live in subsidized senior housing and hardly possess enough resources to exist. Yet, as St. Paul says, “Out of their deep poverty wells up rich generosity.”
O Come, Thou king of David bind In one the hearts of all mankind. Bid Thou our sad divisions cease And be thyself our king of peace.
The wise men are by far my favorite characters in the Nativity narrative. From the East they arrive at the auspicious moment and place, guided by the help of a single prophecy and a single bright star. The Jews, the Lord’s own people by contrast, had centuries worth of prophecies, volumes of laws, and a revealed faith that should have prepared them for the greatest moment of human history: God come in the flesh. Yet when that moment arrived, “… his own received him not,” and the winning touchdown, the 49-yard field goal, and the extra point all went to some exotic, pagan kings that paid attention to the heavens. In that moment of the Magi’s visitation, all reason for one nation’s elite condescension over all the others came to an end and the universal Kingdom was revealed. Continue reading →
To all our friends, please come on Columbus Day weekend if you are local to New York City to hear us in concert at the 50th anniversary of St. Vladimir’s Seminary’s Ed Day. We will be debuting much of the music soon to be released off of our upcoming Christmas CD. Stay tuned….
That most wonderful time of the year is again upon us, but what truly makes it sparkle with wonder? As millions of refugees worldwide flee their homelands looking for a place to lay their heads, it is important for us to remember the humble and destitute circumstances chosen by the Lord of Glory for His first Advent into the world. For this reason and many others pertaining to our salvation, the Church has designed these several weeks leading up to our Lord’s Nativity in human flesh to be a time of fasting and increased prayer. But in the rush to hunt down gifts for every person on the planet and attend every holiday party offered, it is easy to forget our eternal destiny and the place where true life can be found. So where can a weary shopper go, besides church, to pray more, shop less, and truly wonder at the condescension of our God? Continue reading →
Several years ago for seminary, I composed the following sermon for a class on the exegesis of the Gospel of St. Matthew. I share it here with all in honor of the Old Style celebration of Christmas. Stay tuned also for an announcement of our Best of the Best in 2014. Happy Christmas to all and blessed and Happy New Year! Continue reading →
It happens to us every year as we approach the eve of December 25th. A certain Christmas euphoria overtakes the family, and we simply cannot resist gorging ourselves on the rich liturgical offerings of so many Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches. Since we celebrate Orthodox Nativity on the Old Calendar (January 7), this affords us the opportunity to visit other churches on one of the holiest Christian holidays of the year. And I cannot think of a single holiday on the Western liturgical cycle in which services are offered throughout the entire evening, even as late as 10:00pm! Continue reading →
The secret is out or at least it should be. Those of us celebrating Christmas on the Old Calendar (O.C. January 7) are still very much within the season, the 12 appointed days of celebration after the event, which makes it a total of 24 if you count somewhat the 12 days celebrated after December 25. So if you are the type that thinks Christmas comes and goes too quickly, think about visiting a Russian, Serbian, or even a Bulgarian Orthodox Church on the Julian Calendar. Then hold on to your tree, keep up those decorations, and don’t throw away that fruit cake because the O.C. gives us another 12 days to party! Continue reading →
I am always a bit ashamed in traveling to Russia and other places in the world that I come from a country where shared folk singing is not as strong as in other cultures. That is until I consider the great American and British tradition of carol singing around Christmas time. Continue reading →