Archive for the ‘December’ 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




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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.

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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!

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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!

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St. Wenceslas

“Good King Wenceslas”, a very well know Christmas carol written by John Mason Neale,* is about an actual Orthodox saint. You can listen to an MP3 version of this hymn: here. John Mason Neale also wrote a children’s story on St. Wenceslas’ life which can be found here:


*John Mason Neale, an Anglican clergyman of the early to mid 19th century, was the first to translate Orthodox hymns and liturgies into English. He had hoped the Anglican Church would join with the Orthodox, as witnessed by his letters. And the highest ranking clergy at his funeral were Orthodox.

More of John Mason Neale’s stories written for children can be found here:

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This is a very yummy recipe. We are making the dough now and are refrigerating over night. Tomorrow, we plan to roll it out, cut shapes of St. Nicholas and nautical symbols (using patterns and a sharp knife for the nautical symbols, since we do not have any cookie cutters for them). There is plenty of free clip art online that can be used to make such patterns. We will post pictures of our finished cookies tomorrow.

Traditional European gingerbread recipe modified to be lenten:

1 cup of Earth Balance Margarine or other nondairy margarine.

2 cups of dark brown sugar

The equivalent of 2 eggs using either Egg Replacer or 2 Tbsp of ground flax seeds blended in 4 Tbsp of water

Grated rind of one lemon

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg or mace

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cardamom

1/8 tsp salt

4 cups of flour (we used 2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups unbleached)

1 tsp baking powder


Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Stir in egg replacer and lemon rind. Sift spices, salt and powder with flour and gradually stir into butter mixture. Wrap in wax paper, plastic wrap or ziplock bag and refrigerate over night (or if in a rush, chill in the freezer 20 minutes).

Roll dough between 1/4 – 1/8 inch on a floured surface. Larger cut-out figures require thicker dough. Cut out figures with cookie cutters or using a sharp knife. The dough can also be used with a cookie mold, or can be molded by hand.

Place cookies on lightly oiled baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Large and thicker cookies will require a  longer baking time. If you prefer soft cookies, remove them from the oven when just set. The longer they remain in, the crisper they will be.

You can ice and decorate when cool.

Note: as I make this dough, I am finding it too dry, so I am adding water to help it ball up into a real workable dough. We will see how it works out tomorrow when we shape and bake it.

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Fits very well with our St. Nicholas Day celebration:

December 3, 2008

Beloved in Christ,

Christ is in our midst!

As we prepare for the celebration of the First Coming in the Flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must fast and pray, and especially give alms, to be able to enter into the joy and grace of the Feast. By prayer and fasting, we empty ourselves of the chaos of our passions and the distractions of the world, so that we might have peace in our souls and silence in our hearts. By this, we identify ourselves with the silence and peace of the Mother of God, who accepted the Divine Presence within her self, so that the Word might become flesh and dwell among us. Let us also let the Word become incarnate in our hearts and souls and bodies, our thoughts and actions, that we might become instruments of His Will, being recreated in Christ for good works.

We give alms as a way of overcoming our selfishness, of detaching ourselves from grasping for possessions and money, so that the generosity of God who gave His Son for us may shine forth from us. We give alms to those in need, as a way of honoring Christ, who identified Himself with the poor, the suffering, the persecuted and the oppressed. Whoever is poor, whoever is suffering, whoever is rejected and oppressed, is Christ; let us minister to Him in them. Let us open our minds and hearts, our homes and our wallets, to those suffering from loneliness and despair, those who have lost their jobs and fear to lose their dignity, the orphans and widows-the fatherless and divorced, elderly, abandoned and alone. It is good to write checks to organizations. But the spiritual riches come from consoling Christ by serving those in need, personally, with warm affection.

Ours is a time of great uncertainty, fear and war. The economy is teetering, unemployment is mushrooming. Tens of thousands of our children, brothers and sisters are in peril at war in distant lands. Of those who have returned, how many are broken and in despair, not knowing where to turn from the unending nightmares in their memories and their minds. We must especially reach out to them and their families, Orthodox or not, to comfort and console and give them our help, as individuals and as Christian communities.

The Coming of Christ is a message of hope, the banishment of despair. True spiritual striving is the means by which we cast out the works and thoughts of darkness, and let the Holy Spirit heal and console our souls. Let us cleanse our souls through confession, accepting Christ’s forgiveness, forgiving everyone who has offended or hurt us, and forgiving ourselves. By repentance we must cast out all resentments and anger, bitterness and self-loathing, selfishness and carnality, self-serving desires for revenge and retribution, all that entombs us in guilt.

Then with a pure mind and a broken heart enkindled by love, overflowing with compassion for those suffering and in need, we might give birth to Christ in our lives, that we might behold His Glory, the Glory of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Wishing you joy and peace, as we prepare together to receive Christ Come in the Flesh, in the Holy Mysteries, in prayer, and in the service of the needy, I remain faithfully yours,

With love in Christ,

+ Jonah
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

From OCA.org

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