Archive for the ‘Advent/Nativity/Theophany’ Category

 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




Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »


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.


Read Full Post »

A.D. 330-379


You became for the Church a solid foundation,

and for all mankind strengthened by your teaching,

you became a harbor of refuge,

O Venerable Basil who reveals heaven’s mysteries!




Vasilopeta Cake


According to The Complete Book of Greek Cooking, page 208:

Vasilopeta is a cake made in honor of Saint Basil, whose feast day is January 1. Cakes differ in the various regions of Greece: some are a type of bread, others a type of rich yeast cake, others are flat, made of cookie dough. The cakes may differ, but all include the customary hidden silver coin. It symbolizes good luck to the person who finds the coin in his piece of cake…The following recipe is the most traditional version.

  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, or pistachios)
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Cream butter and sugar together until light. Add flour and stir until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir baking powder into milk and stir into egg mixture. Mix baking soda and lemon juice and stir in. Mix well.Pour into a greased round layer cake pan 10 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep. Bake for 20 minutes. Slip inside cake, a coin wrapped in aluminum foil. Sprinkle with nuts and sugar and bake for 20 to 30 minutes longer, or until cake tests done. Cool 10 minutes in pan and invert onto serving plate. Serve right side up.

Personal note: Our family actually uses an 11 x 3 spring roll pan and it takes us longer, more like an hour and a half, to bake this vasilopeta recipe. In our experience, this recipe requires significantly more volume in pan size than what is stated.It is a tradition to take these cakes or loaves of bread to church to be blessed after the liturgy for St. Basil the Great.

Read Full Post »

Homily on the Nativity of the Lord

by  St. John Chrysostom


I behold a new and wondrous mystery! My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.

The Angels sing!
The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!
The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!
The Seraphim exalt His glory!
All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side the Sun of Justice.

And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, he had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God.

This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.

And behold,
Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;
Soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;
Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;
Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;
Infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;
Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;
Men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;
Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;
Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;
Servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;
Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;
Publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;
Sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;
And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.

Since therefore all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice. I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival. But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not shaking the Thyrsian staff, not with the music of pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ. For this is all my hope, this my life, this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp. And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels, sing: Glory to God in the Highest;
and with the shepherds: and on earth peace to men of good will.


Posted from here.

Read Full Post »

Updated! Now supplemental readings are complete and cover days 1 through 52!


Includes hymns and additional suggested reading resources for each day, graciously made available by a member of our group:



Copywork and additional weeks of suggested supplemental reading will be added to this post as they come available.

Thank you!

Read Full Post »

Just updated! Now includes readings through Day 52!

Please note, some ornaments have been rearranged:



Fr. Joshua and M. Jenny Mosher have finished the first part of the Jesse Tree readings and have graciously made it available:


Thank you Fr. Joshua and M. Jenny!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »