Archive for January, 2009

The Meeting of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple

Troparion – Tone 1

Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace!

From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God.

Enlightening those who sat in darkness!

Rejoice, and be glad, O righteous elder;

You accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls,

Who grants us the Resurrection.

Kontakion – Tone 1

By Your nativity, You did sanctify the Virgin’s womb,

And did bless Simeon’s hands, O Christ God.

Now You have come and saved us through love.

Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man!

For a wonderful online video telling the story of the presentation:

Click here.

Wendy M. (thank you Wendy!) made the following suggestions for celebrating this feast:

  • Make honeycomb beeswax candles and have them blessed at your parish on the feast day. The candles are very easy to make. You only need a sheet of honeycomb wax sheet, wick, and possibly a hair dryer (depending whether you live in a warm or cold climate.) Cold wax sheets are very fragile, so it is best to warm it with the hair dryer before rolling the wax around the wick. The following website gives much better instructions: candle-making-guide.com (offering instructions for pillar style candles) and wicksandwax.com (offering instructions for tapered candles). Some craft stores sell them, but they can also be purchased online. A discussion could follow, describing Christ as the “light to bring revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32).
  • If you have a small paper icon of the feast, which can be a color printout of an icon found online, and Stockmar Candle Decorating Wax, you can decorate the honeycomb or conventional wax candles in preparation for this feast, or for a baptism or Pascha. Stockmar Candle Decorating Wax as well as well as honeycomb wax for the candle itself, can be found here or here . Candles could also be made in the traditional way by dipping. And paint could be used instead or in addition to, decorating wax.
  • Share pictures of your children’s churching and discuss how it relates to the Presentation of our Lord.
  • For old children, you may want to examine the service prayers said during a forty-day churching.
  • Another activity practiced by some is singing the Prayer of St. Simeon daily until the leavetaking of the feast

Images of candles made by Wendy and her daughter:



The following are links to music downloads for the feast (provided by Molly):


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St. Anthony the Great
(A.D. 251-356)
Apolytikion (Fourth Tone)

O Father Anthony, you imitated the zealous Elijah.
You followed the straight paths of the Baptist and became a desert dweller.
By prayer you confirmed the universe.
Wherefore, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.

Kontakion (Second Tone)

Forsaking the uproars of life O venerable one,
you completed your life in quiet, fully imitating the Baptist.
Therefore, we honor you with him, O Anthony, Father of Fathers.

His Life from the Prologue from Ochrid:

Anthony was an Egyptian and was born about the year 250 A.D. in the village of Koman near Herculea. Following the demise of his noble and wealthy parents, he divided the inherited estate with his sister, who was a minor, and provided for her with some relatives. Anthony distributed his half of the estate to the poor and, he, in his twentieth year, dedicated himself to the ascetical life for which he yearned from his childhood. In the beginning Anthony lived a life of asceticism in the proximity of his village but, in order to flee the disturbances of people, he withdrew into the wilderness on the shore of the Red Sea, where he spent twenty years as a recluse not associating with anyone except with God through constant prayer, reflection and contemplation, patiently enduring unspeakable temptations from the devil. His fame spread throughout the entire world and many disciples gathered around him whom he placed on the path of salvation by his example and words. During the eighty-five years of his ascetical life, only twice did he go to Alexandria. The first time to seek martyrdom during the time of the persecution of the Church and, the second time at the invitation of St. Athanasius, in order to refute the accusation of the Arians: supposedly that he, too, was an adherent of the Arian heresy. Anthony died in the one-hundred fifth year of his life, leaving behind an entire army of his disciples and imitators. Even though Anthony was not a scholar, nevertheless, he was a counselor and teacher of the most learned men of that time, as was St. Athanasius the Great. When certain Greek philosophers tempted him with literary wisdom, Anthony shamed them with the question: “Which is older, the understanding or the book? Which of these two was the cause of the other?” Ashamed, the philosophers dispersed for they perceived that they only had literary knowledge without understanding and Anthony had understanding. Here is a man who attained perfection in as far as man, in general, can attain on earth. Here is an instructor to instructors and a teacher to teachers, who, for a full eighty five years perfected himself and only in that way was he able to perfect many others. Filled with many years of life and great works, Anthony died in the Lord in the year 335 A.D.

(You can read a more detailed description of his life from this Coptic source).
Suggested Activities:
more coming…

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 Written just before his repose.

(Translation by Protodeacon Leonid Mickle)

Glory to God in the highest, 
I hear today in Bethlehem from the Angels, 
[glory to Him whose good pleasure it was] that there be peace on earth.

Stichera from the Litya for the Feast of the Nativity of

Beloved in the Lord Most-reverend Archpastors, Reverend
Presbyters, the Diaconate in Christ, beloved of God Monastics, dear Brothers and Sisters, faithful Children of the Church!

 Once again we hear the jubilant Angelic song, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke  2: 14). 
The Church on earth welcomes the Pre-eternal God, Who, born of the
Virgin in Bethlehem, has become Man. According to the Gospel, His arrival brings peace from above to those living on earth.  Fulfilled are the Psalmist’s words, “The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace ” (Psalm 28: 11 [KJV Ps. 29: 11]).

 “Peace I leave with you,” saith the Savior, “…My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. ” (John 14:27).  The Peace offered by God with His Incarnation destroys sinful passions and worldly anxieties.   That Peace has nothing in common with the
everyday, worldly self-satisfaction that locks the human soul within the bounds of earthly concerns; rather, it takes it up to the supremely peaceful Kingdom of God, of which every true Christian can
partake here on earth.  Holy Hierarch St. Basil the Great called the Peace granted by God “the most perfect of blessings,” and St. Seraphim of Sarov passed down to us those truly golden, heavenly words, “Acquire the spirit of peace, and thousands about you will
be saved.”

Incarnate God the Word brought Peace to everyone who believes on Him and who, taking up his own Cross, follows after Him.  However, why do we continue to be surrounded by as many conflicts, quarrels, feuds and grudges as before? Why is there still enmity between generations, among political groups, and between rich and poor?
Why do parents divorce, bringing suffering upon their children?  Why do peoples, even Orthodox peoples, rise up against one another?

We will be unable to honestly and directly answer those questions unless we look into our own hearts. Do we not too often live according to our own will, forgetting God’s Will and Commandments, relying only on our human strengths, and forgetting God’s power?   Do we not substitute sinful vanity – something that brings only the disillusionment of emptiness – for our aspirations for peace?

Let us remember, dear ones, that only the Lord grants true
peace.  It is only by following the Star of Bethlehem along Christ’s path that we will find prosperous and peaceful life on earth and eternal peace in His Heavenly Kingdom.

Let us remember that Christ’s peace overcomes the hostility of this era, and that only by acquiring that peace in one’s heart can one withstand all of the storms of life and bring reconciliation to those near and far, transforming life through faith, truth, purity and love.  May Christ’s peace embrace all of us, His disciples and followers, people of different ages, nationalities, political views, and social classes.  May it extend to those of other faiths and convictions, those with whom we build our life together as a people.  

Once again there is unrest in the world.  In many places, blood is being shed and people are suffering.  However, we believe that the Lord will help us Orthodox Christians, by His good example and
actions, to motivate the peoples toward reconciliation, toward wise and just resolution of all disputes and disagreements.

Beloved archpastors, dear fathers, brothers and sisters! By the prayers of the Most-holy Theotokos and all of the Saints, the Lord is leading the Church along the path to salvation. Thanks to the many, many efforts you have made in the past year, He has kept His people unharmed and “…added to the Church daily such as should be
saved. ” (Acts 2: 47), and it was with God’s help that I carried on my
Patriarchal service.  Christ the Supreme Pastor bolstered my strength in standing before Him in prayer, granted me the joy of having active association with many of you, granted me the wisdom needed
in my meetings with secular authorities and with representatives of various nations and peoples.

In June 2008, the Holy Council of Bishops took place in Moscow.  It glorified as saints to be venerated by the entire Church a number of worthy ones of God venerated by the people, expanded the social teachings of our Church and decided many pressing questions affecting its life.  We celebrated the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, a celebration during which the Lord allowed me to visit ancient Kiev, the cradle of our Church and one of its religious capitals.   Amid a great confluence of the faithful, we prayed at Kiev’s holy places, and once again felt the powerful unity of peoples baptized in one single baptismal font.  That unity, bequeathed to us by our holy forbears, must be carefully preserved and passed on to those who come
after us.  

During the past year we marked  the 90th Anniversary of the cruel
murder of the Royal Martyrs.  On the days of their commemoration, tens of thousands of faithful came to the place of the holy passion-bearers’ suffering, and asked them to help our people in its spiritual rebirth, in its correction of its historical path.  Let us resolutely hope that the Lord will enable us to overcome all of the consequences of the tragedies, discords and crimes of the 20th Century, and will lead Holy Russia to ever greater strength.

God grant that the words spoken in the terrible year 1938 by Holy Hierarch St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco might be fulfilled, “Blessed are you, O Russian Land, cleansed by the fire of suffering!  You went through the water of baptism.  Now you are going through fire of suffering, and will enter into your rest.”  

I heartily congratulate all of you, my dear ones, with the feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior! May Christ the Incarnate God bless all of us in the coming new year with peace, health, and success in all good works! May He bring to our homes, to our countries, cities and villages the joy of living in His concord, love, and justice. 
On this holy Feast, I address to you the words of the Holy Apostle St. Paul: “Brethren, rejoice, be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you. ” (II Corinthians 13: 11). Amen.

+ Alexey,

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

Nativity of Christ



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Holy Theophany Resources




More coming

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Theophany Fritters

This dessert is traditional among Orthodox in Lebanon and Syria (and their American descendants). The explanation given in The Art of Syrian Cookery by Helen Corey is that the dough was traditionally wrapped in a cloth, “baptized” in a local fountain and then hung in a tree for three days, where it would develop a strain of wild yeast and rise! It would then be used as a source of yeast for baking throughout the new year.

I have never prepared these fritters with a fountain or a tree, so the explanation I always give my children is that the fritters remind us of baptism because they are deep fried—dipped in oil and changed. They then get dipped in sugar syrup, which also looks like a baptism.

The following recipes are paraphrased from Lebanese Cuisine by Annisa Helou.

Sugar Syrup

1.5 cups sugar

0.5 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon rose water

1 tablespoon orange blossom water [Using both flower waters is lovely, but if you only have one on hand, just double the quantity and use that one.]

Put sugar, water and lemon juice in a pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, occasionally stirring. Leave to boil for 3 minutes then stir in flower waters and boil for a few more seconds. Take off heat and leave to cool. It must be completely cool before use in the next recipe. However, if you are not planning to use it the same day, it can be stored in the refrigerator in a glass container for up to two weeks. Let it warm back up to room temperature before using it.


Full recipe sugar syrup

1 cup all purpose flour

1.25 cups yogurt

.25 teaspoon baking soda

vegetable oil for frying

Prepare the syrup, keep in the pan and have it on hand to drop the fritters into when they are ready.

Sift flour into a mixing bowl, then add yogurt and baking soda. Whisk until well blended and smooth, then cover and leave to rest for 45 minutes.

Fill a medium-sized frying pan with enough vegetable oil to deep fry the fritters and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot (drop in a little batter, if the oil bubbles around it, it is ready), dip a dessert spoon in a little cool oil, fill it with batter and then drop the batter into the oil. Ideally, the fritters should be round, but this takes a fair bit of practice. Drop in as many fritters as can fit comfortably, stir to brown them evenly, until they become golden all over. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a double layer of paper towels before dropping in the syrup. Turn a few times in the syrup and remove onto a serving dish.

These fritters should be eaten right away, once they reach room temperature. They do not store well.

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A new idea is being developed that will allow us to celebrate Theophany as a season rather than just a day. It is based off the Jesse Tree idea, where a short selection of Scripture is read and a hymn is sung each day. Then children make an edible symbol using either marzipan or fondant (fondant is the recommended choice for those with nut allergies) colored with food dye. The season of Holy Theophany begins on January 6/19 and extends until January 14/27 with its leavetaking. A symbol will be made each day and then placed on a cake with light blue frosting (to represent water) to be consumed on the evening of the Leavetaking of Theophany on January 14/27.


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Remembrance of God

“When you undertake to begin any task whatever,” a certain elder advises, “conscientiously ask yourself this question: ‘If I were visited by the Lord at his moment, what would I do?’ Take care to listen well to what your conscience answers you. If it reproves you, immediately forsake what you had decided to do and begin some other task of which it approves and which, so as assuredly to complete it, is intrinsically rewarding. The virtuous worker must at every moment be ready to face death.
“When you fall into your bed to sleep, or get up from sleep, when you eat or work, when you are thinking or your mind is idle, constantly say to yourself: ‘If the Lord were to call me at this moment, would I be ready?’ Listen also with care to what your conscience tells you and do not fail to comply with its directions. Your heart will, indeed, assure you that God has had mercy on you.” ~ The Desert Fathers

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