Sunday Articles

The Nativity of Our Lord
The Nativity of Our Lord

The giving of gifts is an important part of our observance of the Nativity of Our Lord. One of the main hymns of the Church for this feast-day deals with this manner of gift-giving: “What shall we bring to You, O Christ, when You are born on earth for our sake? For each of the creatures…brings thanks to You: Angels, their songs, the Heavens a star, the Wise Men gifts, the Shepherds wonder, the Earth a cave, the Wilderness a manger but we? We…a Virgin Mother.”

These same sentiments are expressed in the icon of the Nativity. The Angelic Choir proclaims glory to God and peace to men of good will, the Heavens open to let a star pierce the darkness of earth and point its fingers of light to the Newborn King. The Shepherds wonder at the miracle that has come to pass, the Earth offers a cave, a bleak wound in the land symbolizing the sin that engulfs mankind: The Wilderness offers its refuge where man can come and feed on the Bread of Life.

But we? Humanity offers the Mother, the One full grace and faith, the Handmaiden of God who accepts His will and becomes the Temple for the Only-Begotten Son of God. To all this the icon adds the presence of Joseph, who will care for the Child; the animals, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah; and the three Wise Men who came to present gifts.

In the center is the Christ-Child, born in a type of tomb, wrapped in swaddling clothes that are not unlike the garment of burial. Yes, even in birth we are reminded of the destiny that awaits the Lord: to die that we might live!

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

The Holy Forefathers
The Holy Forefathers

The Church prepares its children for the Feast of the Lord’s Nativity with a special fasting period. Its purpose is to increase the vitality of our prayer and worship, to deepen our faith and to discipline the flesh. Simply, it serves to draw us nearer to Christ.

This season casts light on the long period of waiting and preparation for the coming of the Savior. It therefore takes us back to OLD TESTAMENT times and focuses our attention on the great people of faith who waited for the coming of the Messiah. Two Sundays are especially set aside for this theme: The Second Sunday before the Nativity and the Sunday before the Birth.

The icon on our bulletin depicts the HOLY FOREFATHERS, commemorated on the Sunday before the Nativity. On this day we remember the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, and fathers of Israel, from Adam himself through Abraham and Moses, and down through the Prophets Isaiah and Elijah, even to the Forerunner, St. John the Baptist. The names of all are too numerous to mention. We are reminded of the historical era that preceded the promised Savior.

The idea is to stress the fact that we are not about to celebrate some myth, legend or story that has come down to us, rather that we observe a historical intervention of the Almighty into human history. This coming of Jesus Christ was foretold, it was awaited, it was prayed for, it was expected, it occurred.

As for the Sunday of Genealogy, tracing the ancestors of Christ, this, too, is a time to look back. It provides a historical perspective to the Event we are about to celebrate. Thus, we come to see that the fasting period before the Nativity has great significance indeed. Looking back at the Forefathers, then at the Ancestors, we finally look ahead to the awesome Birth of the Lord.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker
Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker

The Church knows Nicholas as a Saint, a Wonderworker, the Archbishop of Myra and a true shepherd to his flock. As the patron of children, he is perhaps the most beloved and popular saint in all of Christendom.

He was born in Patara, a town in Asia Minor, now in southern Turkey. Nicholas is said to have begun to fast from his cradle, refusing nourishment on Wednesdays and Fridays, except after sundown. He lost his parents, Theofanes and Nonna, when young but distributed their wealth to the poor.

He felt called to the Priesthood, and was ordained by his uncle, the Bishop of Myra. Nicholas later succeeded him and became the Archbishop of that busy seaport community. He was a beloved hierarch, serving God and faithful with complete devotion and dedication.

Stories abound about the wonders wrought by this saint. The most popular seems to be the incident of the father with three daughters. He was unable to provide them with funds for a marriage dowry and was about to send them into the streets. Nicholas came to their home at night and threw a bag of gold through the window. The saint repeated the act a second, then a third time. The father watched and found about who his generous benefactor was.

A Greek historian wrote about this famous saint over 1,000 years ago:“Wherever there are people, in the country and in the town, in the villages and isles, in the farthest parts of the earth, his name is revered, and churches are built in his honor…” We could write the same of him today.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Saint Myrope
Saint Myrope

SAINT MYROPE was born in the third century in the city of Ephesus. She grew up at a time when Christians endured severe persecution for their Faith. During a particularly intense time of suffering in her home town, Myrope and her family fled to the Greek Island of Chios.

The young girl, however, found little peace there, for a pagan prince named Numerius delighted in seeking out Christians – torturing some and executing others. During one of his terrible purges, Numerius was astounded to hear of the conversion to Christianity of Isidore, one of his high-ranking soldiers. After executing him, Numerius merely tossed his body in a shallow grave.

When the compassionate Myrope learned of this, she secretly took Isidore’s body to his family for a proper burial. Numerius was enraged when he heard what had happened, and he threatened to kill several of his prison guards if they did not find out who was responsible for such an act of insubordination. When Myrope realized innocent men would suffer for her actions, she came forth and admitted her deed of kindness. She was savagely beaten and thrown into prison. Although she was given every opportunity to renounce Christ in exchange for her freedom, Myrope steadfastly refused.

Finally, Myrope had a vision of Isidore, surrounded by angels. “Peace be with you, Myrope.” He exclaimed. “You will soon receive the crown prepared for you.” That evening, she fell asleep in the Lord. Immediately, a myrrh-like fragrance filled the entire prison. Myrope’s vision had come true – the “crown of martyrdom” was now hers.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

St. Mercurios
St. Mercurios

A WITNESS FOR CHRIST

It has often been said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the faith.” The infant Christian Church of the first centuries, struggling in an inhospitable and pagan world, was indeed inspired by the acts of martyrdom that occurred at the hands of the Romans. It wasn’t long before the faith began to infiltrate the ranks of the imperial army.

ST. MERCURIOS was a Roman soldier, an officer of great courage and skill. His triumphs in battle brought him to the attention of Emperor Decius, who made him a general. But even generals have enemies, those who are envious of their attainments. Mercurios, a secret Christian, had his share of those who watched him carefully for anything that might discredit him.

It was soon noticed the Mercurios did not attend the pagan services to the Roman gods, but that, in fact, he attended Christian worship services. Decius was informed of the breach of Roman law, and he promptly confronted the soldier. Without hesitation, Mercurios expressed his faith in God alone, and in His Son the Savior, Jesus Christ. The emperor then issued orders for his death, which occurred about the year 251 in Cappadocia. Many sick people have been healed by the wonder-working relics of this ancient saint.

It can be said that the lives that Christian lead today still bear witness to the commitment of the “warriors” of long ago. Let us go forth and live our lives, showing people around us the vitality of our faith in the Lord. May our good works continue to be for the glory of our Father in heaven. ​

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

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