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Fulfillment: The Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus Christ, January 1

image The Exaposteilarion of today's Feast declares: "Verily, the Creator of ages Who fulfilled the law is circumcised in the flesh as an eight-day old child, is wrapped in swaddling clothes like a man and is fed with milk, He Who is the All-Controller through His boundless might, since He is God, and the Maker of the law in flesh."

Observe the wording of declaration: "the Creator of the ages...fulfilled the law." The statements that follow concerning His circumcision, clothing as a man, and being fed milk, appear to specify ways in which He fulfills the law in concrete terms. How are we to understand these actions as fulfillment? What is filled full, put into effect, brought to an end, satisfied, converted into reality or brought to its potential?

The "laws" of the created order require infants to be fed and clothed for survival, yet the Lord Who is unbounded and is eternally free from any need for protection has chosen to take our flesh upon Himself, for He is God the Word assuming the limitations and demands of the natural law. Therefore, He was diapered and nursed. Observe that His satisfaction of the natural law is expressed in many of the icons of the Nativity for they regularly show Him being washed and cared for as well as being "wrapped...in swaddling cloths" (Lk. 2:7).

These most mundane, human actions direct us to the Apostle Paul's point: when the Lord was "found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself," lowered Himself in every respect (Phil. 2:7). In other words, He came into the world and joined Himself to us an actual man in order to address the terrible side of being human: separation from God and our wedding to death.

Many Years Master! January 1 is Bishop BASIL's Namesday

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To St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, by St. John Damascene:

Magnify, O my soul, Basil, the Great amongst Bishops.

O Father Basil, thou didst follow in the life-bearing steps, the steps of Christ, faithful Head of shepherds for thou didst go forth and offer thyself to the usurper, valiantly endangering thyself for the Church, O most-beatified.

Magnify, O my soul, Basil the Great of Caesarea.

Verily, the usurper, having seen the all-sanctified assembly, the assembly of the Church of Christ, adorned by the presidency of thy Priesthood, O wise one, was confounded and fell down, utterly perishing, not being able to bear the radiance of the spirit that was in thee, O Basil.

Learn more about Bishop BASIL (Essey).

Bishop BASIL (Essey)

image His Grace Bishop BASIL was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on May 31, 1992, by Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba) of North America at St George Cathedral in Wichita, Kansas, where he had served as priest since July 1987. He served as an auxiliary bishop from 1992 to 2004, residing first at the Los Angeles Chancery and then moving to the Wichita Chancery. On December 14, 2004 he was enthroned as the Bishop of Wichita and Mid-America.

Bishop BASIL served as pastoral assistant at St. George Church in Detroit, Michigan from 1973 to 1975. From 1975 to 1986 he served as director of the Department of Youth Affairs with offices at the main chancery in Englewood, New Jersey. From 1980 to 1986 he also served as assistant pastor at St. Anthony Church in Bergenfield, New Jersey and as instructor of Contemporary Byzantine Chant at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary. In 1986 and 1987 he studied, taught, and researched at the St. John of Damascus Patriarchal Institute of Theology at the Balamand Monastery of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos in Lebanon. His book, The Liturgikon: The Book of Divine Services for the Priest and Deacon, was published in 1989 by Antakya Press.

Bishop BASIL was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania on November 26, 1948 and baptized on April 17, 1949 at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Monessen. After attending public schools in Monessen, he received a B.A. in psychology in 1970 from California State University of Pennsylvania in California, Pennsylvania. In 1973, he graduated from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood, New York with a Master of Divinity.

His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH's Episcopal Visit to the State of Alaska for the Feast of the Holy Nativity of our Lord

His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH's Episcopal Visit to the State of Alaska for the Feast of the Holy Nativity of our Lord
Sunday, December 23, 2007

http://www.antiochianladi...

Nativity Audio Greetings from the Bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese

image In collaboration with the team at Ancient Faith Radio, we're overjoyed to bring you Nativity audio messages from Bishop ANTOUN, Bishop THOMAS, Bishop MARK and Bishop ALEXANDER. Our prayers are with you and yours during this blessed and holy Great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We hope to continue bringing you recorded teachings and messages from the bishops of our Archdiocese, including His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP, throughout 2008. Please do let us know what you think of this new offering via e-mail at editor@antiochian.org, and have a very merry Christmas.

Just click here to listen!

"When the supersensual hosts beheld the mystery before thy Birth, O Lord, they were struck with surprise; for thou who didst adorn the heavens with stars wast pleased to become like a babe, and lie in a manger for beasts, O thou Almighty One in whose grasp are all the regions of the earth; for by thy dispensation thy compassion was made known, O Christ, and thy Great Mercy. Wherefore, glory to thee." (from the Hours of the Nativity)

December 29: Commemoration of the 14,000 Holy Innocents

Today we commemorate the 14,000 infants killed by Herod as St. Matthew recounts, "Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men." (Matthew 2:16 NKJV)

"When the King was born in Bethlehem, the Magi arrived from the East with gifts guided by a Star on high, but Herod was troubled and mowed down the children like wheat; for he lamented that his power would soon be destroyed." Kontakion

Read the account from The Protoevangelium of James (see verses 22-23).

December 27: Commemorating St. Stephen the First Martyr

St. Stephen the First Martyr

Troparion (Tone 4)

Because of all you have endured for Christ our God, you have been given a royal crown, O First and Holy Martyr Stephen! You have put your persecutors to shame and have seen your Saviour enthroned at the right hand of the Father. Do not cease to intercede for the salvation of our souls.

The saint whose name leads all the rest who have sacrificed their lives for Jesus Christ is Stephen, the first martyr of Christendom because he would have been the last to deny him.

Stephen was one of the seven deacons of the original Church of Christ in Jerusalem, sharing his duties with six others - Philip, Prochoros, Nikanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas.

It was the function of the deacons to assist much as they do today in such matters as communion but with the additional responsibility of spreading the new faith and at the same time being ever on alert for the imminent danger that came with being a Christian in those early days.

Before entering the service of Christ, the young Stephen had studied under the renowned rabbinical tutor Gamaliel, who had been the mentor of the great St. Paul.

Not unlike Paul he was a qualified religious scholar who once sought to discredit the Saviour, until he came to know Jesus Christ and to embrace him as Paul did in that dramatic confrontation on the road to Damascus.

Fighting For Christ at Christmas

Fr. George Morelli

image Orthodox Christian parents (and all Christian parents) are approaching the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. You would never know this however, by watching secular media. Most in the media see Santa and shopping as the start and end of Christmas, now renamed as the bland and non-descript "Holiday Season" (will it still remain a Holiday when the Holy Day of Christmas is finally forgotten?).

Think back when poems like Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (we know it as "Twas the Night Before Christmas") was part of the cultural mainstream. Today political correcteness prohibits any mention of the poem because of its implicit religious tone. Consider just the first few verses:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

Two sins against politcally correct dogma are already committed in these opening lines. The first is the mention of the word "Christmas," and the second is the word "Saint." "Sugar-plums" passes muster of course.

Blessed Name's Day to His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV of Antioch and all the East

image All of us at the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America wish our beloved Patriarch IGNATIUS IV many, many years on his name's day, December 20, the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch. For more information about the Patriarchate, you can visit their website.

Click here to read His Beatitude's 2006 Nativity message.

St. Cyrenia in Cilicia

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Commemorated on November 1

The Holy Martyr Cyrenia was arrested for confessing the Christian Faith under Marcian, the Governor of Cilicia during the reign of Emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). St. Cyrenia was led around Tarsus to be mocked, being stripped of her garments and with a shorn head. She was then taken to the city of Rosa where she was burned alive.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Helen at Sinope

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Commemorated on November 1

Helen was a young teenage girl who lived during the 1700s with her parents in the Christian enclave at Sinope in Pontus. While walking to the market one day, she passed the house of the local governor. Upon seeing how beautiful she was, he decided to make her his mistress. After she was seized by his servants and brought before him, he made two attempts on her virginity. However, he was prevented from doing so by a power that separated him from her like an invisible wall. Instead, he locked her in a room in his home, but she escaped and ran home to her parents.

Learning that she had escaped, the governor threatened the Christian community that they all would be massacred unless Helen was returned to him. The Christian leaders persuaded Helen’s father to return his daughter. The governor made several more attempts at defiling her, but once again was restrained as if by an invisible wall. Throughout this ordeal, Helen recited the Six Psalms and the prayers that she knew by heart. Realizing that he was powerless, the governor ordered that she be tortured to death. The executioners subjected Helen to several cruel torments before killing her by driving two nails into her skull and then beheading her. They put her body in a sack and threw it into the Black Sea.

St. Theodota the Mother of the Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian

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Commemorated on November 1

St. Theodota was the mother of Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian of Mesopotamia. They were all natives of Asia Minor. Her pagan husband died while her children were still quite small, but she raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, St. Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord. Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Ozerianka Icon of God of Shuiu-Smolensk

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Commemorated on November 2

(also celebrated on July 11, July 28 & Bright Tuesday)

The Shuiu-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God was written in 1654-1655 in the Church of the Resurrection located in Shuiu, Russia, where an unrelenting plague raged at that time. Trusting in the mercy of God and the intercession of the Mother of God, the faithful at the Church of the Resurrection commissioned a pious monk to write the icon of the Smolensk Mother of God, one that had been attributed with being a rescuer of the Russian people from enemies and misfortune.

The faithful spent the whole week in prayer and fasting while the image was being created. When the icon was finished, the priest and the people took it to the church and set it in a specially built place. From that time, the plague began to ease, at first in the area of the church, and then in the city.

From this Icon of the Mother of God, many miracles of healing took place, especially of eye diseases. This icon is also celebrated on July 11, July 28, and Bright Tuesday.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Anna Vesvolodna

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Commemorated on November 3

The Holy Princess Anna Vsevolodna was the daughter of the Kievan Great Prince Vsevolod Yaroslavich (1078-1093) whose wife was the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomachos. Anna did not wish to marry, and as a virgin, she took monastic tonsure in 1082 at the Andreiev Yanchinov Monastery built for her at Kiev, but later destroyed under the Tatar invasion.

She journeyed to Constantinople, from where she returned in the company of the newly-consecrated Metropolitan John the Eunuch. She died in the year 1112.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Winefride

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Commemorated on November 3

St. Winefride was a maiden of noble birth who lived in North Wales in the seventh century. The niece and spiritual daughter of St. Beuno, she entered the Monastery of Gwytherin after his death, where she lived under the spiritual direction of St. Eleril.

The son of a neighboring chieftan, Caradoc, demanded that Winefride submit herself to him. When she refused, he pursued her and struck off her head with a sword. The spot where her head fell became known as Holywell, because of the appearance of a healing spring for those who would take its waters with faith. Holywell remains a great place of pilgrimage in Britain to this day.

By permission of Abba Moses (www.abbamoses.com)

St. Epistime with her husband, Galacteon, at Emesa

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Commemorated on November 5

Epistime was a beautiful and illustrious girl whose marriage was arranged by the father of her future betrothed, Galacteon. By the will of God, the wedding was postponed for a time. Visiting his future bride, Galacteon gradually revealed his faith to her. He converted her to Christ and secretly baptized her himself.

In addition to Epistime, he also baptized one of her servants, Eutolmius. The newly-illumined decided to devote themselves to the monastic life. Leaving the city, they hid on Mt. Publion, where there were two monasteries, one for men and the other for women. The new monastics had to take with them all their necessities since the inhabitants of both monasteries were old and infirm.

For several years, the monastics struggled in work, fasting, and prayer. Later, Epistime had a vision in her sleep where she and Galacteon stood in a wondrous palace before a radiant King, and the King bestowed golden crowns on them. This vision prefigured their impending martyrdom.

Pagans became aware of the existence of the monasteries, and soldiers were sent to apprehend the inhabitants. The monks and the nuns hid in the hills surrounding the monasteries. However, Galacteon had no desire to flee and remained in his cell, reading the Holy Scriptures. When Epistime saw that the soldiers were leading Galacteon away in chains, she begged the Abbess to permit her to go with him, since she wished to accept torture for Christ together with her husband and teacher. The Abbess tearfully gave Epistime her blessing.

St. Karina with her husband and son

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Commemorated on November 7

Karina, with her husband, Melasippus, and their son, Antoninus, and forty children converted by their martyrdom, suffered during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate in the city of Ancyra in Phrygia in 363. Melasippus and Karina, lacerated by iron hooks and exhausted, died under torture.

Their son, Antoninus, whom the persecutor forced to watch the torture of his parents, spat in the face of the emperor. For this, he was tortured, but remained unharmed. He was then beheaded.

Forty other youths, seeing that the Lord had preserved Antoninus unharmed, came to believe in Christ. They openly confessed their faith and endured martyrdom.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Eustolia of Constantinople

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Commemorated on November 9

Saint Eustolia, a native of Rome, came to Constantinople and entered one of the women’s monasteries. The virtuous and strict monastic life of the saint gained her the love and respect of the sisters. Not only monastics, but also many laypeople, came to her for advice and consolation.

St. Eustolia died in the year 610.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Matrona, Abbess of Constantinople

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Commemorated on November 9

St. Matrona, Abbess of Constantinople, was born in the city of Perge Pamphylia (Asia Minor) in the fifth century. She was given in marriage to a wealthy man named Dometian. When their daughter, Theodota, was born, the family resettled in Constantinople. The twenty-five-year-old Matrona loved to walk to the temple of God. She spent entire days there, ardently praying to the Lord and weeping for her sins.

At the church, Matrona met two pious Eldresses, Eugenia and Susanna, who from their youth lived there in asceticism, work and prayer. Matrona began to imitate the God-pleasing life of an ascetic, humbling herself by abstinence and fasting, for which she endured criticism from her husband.

Her soul yearned for a full renunciation of the world. After a long hesitation, Matrona decided to leave her family and entreated the Lord to reveal whether her intent was pleasing to Him. During a light sleep, she had a dream that she had fled from her husband, who was in pursuit of her. She concealed herself in a crowd of monks, and her husband did not notice her. Matrona accepted this dream as a divine directive to enter a men’s monastery, where her husband would not think to look for her.

St. Sopatra of Constantinople

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Commemorated on November 9

St. Sopatra of Constantinople was the daughter of Emperor Mauricius (582-602). She was inclined towards monasticism, and met St. Eustolia in the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos at Blachernae. After speaking with the saint, Sopatra decided to leave the world and submit her will to her guide, St. Eustolia. She transformed the palace building, which her father had given her, into a monastery known for its strict monastic rule.

St. Sopatra died in the year 625.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Theoctiste of the Isle of Lesbos

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Commemorated on November 9

St. Theoctiste was born in the city of Methymna on the island of Lesbos. At an early age, she was left a complete orphan, and relatives sent her to a monastery to be raised. The girl was happy to be removed from the world of sin, and she loved the monastic life, the long church services, monastic obedience, the strict fasting and unceasing prayer. She learned much of the singing, prayers and psalms by heart.

In 846, when she was eighteen years old, she set off on Pascha with the blessing of the abbess to a neighboring village to visit her sister and remain there overnight. Arabs invaded the settlement and took captive all the inhabitants, loading them on a ship, and sailing out to sea. The captives were taken to the desolate island of Paros so that they might be examined in order to assign their value at the slave-market. The Lord helped Theoctiste to escape, but the Arabs did not catch her. St. Theoctiste dwelt on the island for 35 years. An old church in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos served as her dwelling, and her food was sunflower seeds. Her time was spent in constant prayer.

St. Melitsa of Serbia

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Commemorated on November 11

St. Melitsa of Serbia, Mother of Blessed Stephen, King of Serbia, and widow of the righteous king, St. Lazar, lived in the 13th century.

Possessing what is unquestionably one of the most beautiful church buildings in existence, Ljzboatina Convent, with its elegant and refined beauty, is an outstanding manifestation of the final flowering of medieval Serbian Orthodox culture. It was built under the patronage of Princess Militsa. The Princess herself entered the convent as a nun after her husband’s death.

After her repose, she was revealed as a saint and wonderworker, and from her relics flowed fragrant myrrh. The whole atmosphere of the convent is still permeated with this fragrance, along with many centuries of prayer, monastic life and spiritual vision.

By permission of Abba Moses (www.abbamoses.com)

St. Irene Myrtidiotissa

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Commemorated on November 13

Irene Demetra Pateras was born March 30, 1939, the third child of an affluent Greek shipping family from the island of Oinoussi. True to her name (”Irene” in Greek means “peace”), the girl had a serene and meek temperament, although in matters of faith she did not hesitate to stand up for her convictions. The family lived in Alexandria, where six-year-old Irene attended a Roman Catholic school. One day she was taken, against her parents’ express instructions, to church to receive Communion. When she refused, the priest tried to reassure her by saying, “It’s all right. We’re all the same.” “In that case,” Irene said, “you should come to St. Sophia’s [the Greek Orthodox Church] to commune. Then I’ll receive Communion from you.”

In 1952, after the family had moved to Athens, Irene’s father, a former sea-captain and prominent member of the community, became seriously ill. It was not until a year later that the doctors diagnosed Hodgkin’s disease. Irene loved her father, and she could not bear to see him suffer. She begged God that the illness pass to her and that her father be relieved. She reasoned that the family needed her father more than they needed her, and that he could still do good for others through his deeds.

St. Theodora

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Commemorated on November 14

St. Theodora was the wife of St. Justinian the emperor, and lived during the sixth century.

The Empress Theodora was at first a notorious harlot and actress, and an adherent of the Monophysite heresy, but then she repented. After becoming empress, she led a virtuous life, maintaining purity of both soul and body. She provided wise counsel for her husband during his reign, and she also saved his throne during the Nika riots of 532 through her political intelligence and expertise.

St. Theodora died in 548.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God of Kupyatitch

Commemorated on November 15

The Kupyatitch Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the year 1180 near the village of Kupyatich near Minsk, Russia. It was found in the forest on a tree by the peasant girl Anna, a cattle herder. The image, in the form of a cross, shone with an unusual light.

On the spot of the miraculous appearance of the icon, peasants built a church in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos, and placed the icon within it. After some years, Tatars burned the church. The icon was found a second time after many years by a traveler named Joachim. Peasants transferred the cruciform-icon to the village church, and Joachim remained at the church as church attendant, by God’s will.

In the early 17th century, the Kupyatitch Monastery was built next to the church, which the Roman Catholics seized at the end of the century. After the monastery was abandoned, Orthodox monks came and took the holy icon of the Kupyatitch Mother of God. They transferred the wonderworking icon to the Sophia Cathedral in Kiev.

The Kupyatitch Icon is a small copper cross. On one side of the cross, the Mother of God is depicted with the Pre-eternal Infant, and on the other side, the Crucifixion.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

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