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December Liturgical Texts Now Available

His Beatitude Patriarch John X blesses the loaves during Great Vespers at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, NY, in honor of its patronal feast on Dec. 5, 2014.His Beatitude Patriarch John X blesses the loaves during Great Vespers at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, NY, in honor of its patronal feast on Dec. 5, 2014.One of the most beloved saints in all of Christendom, plus two others with a strong devotion in the Patriarchate of Antioch, as well as the prophets and ancestors of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ Himself, are celebrated in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The Liturgical Texts for December, blessed by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, are now ready for clergy and laity to download from the Online Liturgical Guide.

On December 6, we celebrate St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the fourth-century archbishop of Myra in Lycia. None of his writings is extant, but his examples of Christian generosity, virtue and love endure to this day. St. Nicholas is the living embodiment of the words “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). He is also the patron and protector of two cathedrals – Brooklyn and Los Angeles – in our Archdiocese.

This year, Orthodox Christians commemorate St. Ignatius of Antioch on Saturday, December 19. The Typikon prescribes that we do so when December 20 (his usual date of commemoration) falls on a Sunday. That Sunday already includes hymnody for the Resurrection, the start of the Forefeast of Christmas, and the “Sunday before Christmas.” Church tradition holds that St. Ignatius was the child whom Christ held in His arms to teach His disciples that, “Whoever receives one such child in My Name receives Me” (Mark 9:36-37).

Just as the Orthodox Church has special Sundays leading to and following the celebration of Pascha, it also has special Sundays that surround Christmas. On December 13, we commemorate the Forefathers of our Lord, especially those prophets who told of His coming (advent) in the flesh. On the Sunday before the Nativity, December 20, we recall the genealogy of Christ (Matt. 1:1-25) to show that He is fully human in order to restore humanity to its fullness while being fully divine. On the Sunday after the Nativity, we commemorate three of the Lord God’s family members in particular: King David the Prophet, Joseph the Betrothed and his son from before his betrothal to the Virgin Theotokos, James the “Brother of God.” And every year on December 27, we commemorate the proto-martyr Stephen the Archdeacon, one of the first people to die for our Lord so that he might live with Him in paradise.

Of course, Orthodox Christians celebrate one of the greatest of the twelve great feasts, the Nativity (Christmas), on December 25. The Liturgical Texts include the Royal (Great) Hours and Vespers with Divine Liturgy to be celebrated on Christmas Eve, and Festal Orthros and variables for the Festal Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day.

The Online Liturgical Guide, produced by the Department of Liturgics, provides the official, uniform word-for-word texts to be used for the divine services in all parishes across the Archdiocese. Should you have any questions, please contact Subdeacon Peter Samore at service_texts@antiochianladiocese.org.