Christmas 101: An Orthodox Christian Understanding

As Orthodox Christians, it’s important to know what and why we do the things we do.  Why do we fast for 40 days?  What really happened on the night of the Nativity?

Here is a snippet of the presentation I gave at St. Spyridon’s Advent retreat in Palos Hills, IL last year…

In the first session, we talked about what Christmas really is to an Orthodox Christian.  I thought some of you might find this useful, I know it always helps me to remind myself of what I’m preparing myself for.

St. Gregory the Theologian tells us,

“This is what we are celebrating today:  the Coming of God to man, that we might go forth, or rather that we might go back to God, that putting off the old man we might put on the new; and that we have died in Adam, so we might live in Christ.
Therefore, let us keep the feast, not after the manner of a pagan festival, but in a godly way.  And how shall this be?  Let us not decorate our porches, nor attend dances, nor adorn the streets…these are the ways that lead to evil and are the entrances of sin.  Let us leave all these things to the pagans.  But let us, who are worshipers of the true God, if we must in some way have luxury, let us seek it in God’s Word and the Law and the Scriptures.”

Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand what I’m saying.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t decorate your houses, or have a Christmas tree, or put lights up.  In fact, I encourage all of those things because in today’s 21st century, all of those things are witnesses to the Birth of Christ, they symbolize a Christian holiday.

What I am saying, and what I think St. Gregory was saying, is to be very careful that the spirit of secularism doesn’t use all of that to divert your attention away from the spiritual.

I believe in today’s society, secularism is one of the biggest threats to Orthodox Christianity and Christianity as a whole.
You can take a look at any other world religion.  Whether that be Islam or Judaism, or whatever.  Look at those religions and look at their holy days.  They will not allow secularism to infiltrate their faith in the slightest.  I give them a world of credit for that!!

Now take a look at Christianity and our holy days.  From St. Patrick’s Day to Pascha, secularism has not just infiltrated them, it’s completely taken over!  We have no one to blame but ourselves for this.  Christianity is beginning to look more and more hypocritical every day and this is our fault 110%.  Shame on us!

When March rolls around, we see leprechauns, and rainbows and pots of gold, and coupons for green beer.  What any of this has to do with St. Patrick I have no idea.  St. Patrick was the enlightener of Ireland.  He dedicated his life to teaching the Irish people about the Holy Trinity.  He is depicted in his icon holding a three leaf clover which is what he used to help the people understand that though each leaf was separate is was still one clover; though the people of the trinity are three different beings, they are one.

St. Valentine.  St. Valentine was a priest during the times of Christian persecutions.  When Christian couples wanted to be married in the Church, he took them down into the catacombs and married them.  That’s why he became known as the patron saint of love.  Today, it’s not even called St. Valentine’s Day, it’s just Valentine’s Day.  The story of St. Valentine has been buried by Victoria’s Secret ads.   The spirit of love has been replaced with the spirit of lust.

Even Pascha, the feast of feasts has been completely hijacked.  You all know that the word Easter itself has pagan origins.  Easter was named for Ester, the goddess of fertility.  What’s the symbol for fertility?  The rabbit.  So even the Resurrection of Christ, the foundation of the Christian faith has been reduced to the celebration of the Easter Bunny.  You don’t walk into stores nowadays and see crosses or inspirational items anymore unless you’re in a Christian store.

I realize this may seem a bit extreme to some of you, but let me ask you a question.  Have you noticed that the phrase Merry Christmas has all but been replaced with Happy Holidays? Christmas break is now Winter break and most schools aren’t permitted to have Christmas programs.  If they do, they’re mostly composed of songs like Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells.  There is very little, if any, mention of Christ.  Or Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.

Like it or not, you are under attack.  Our God is under attack.

St. Kosmas of Aitolos says that, “Life is spiritual warfare.  If you’re not fighting, you’re losing.”

So, ask yourself.  Are you fighting or are you losing?  There is no in between.

It says in the Scriptures, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12

We’re not fighting against Target or JCPenny’s.  We’re fighting against the powers of darkness whose only goal is to separate you and I from Christ, they way they separated themselves.

Think about that the next time someone tells you you’re taking your faith too seriously.  I have news people, salvation is serious.  Hell is serious.  Fighting for Christ is serious.  Just ask our martyrs.

Where are all the Christians? 

What do you think the Musl*ms would do if someone would try to take over their holy days?  What DO they do when tv shows or political cartoons mock Muhamm*d or All*h?  Not that we should take it to the level they do, obviously.  But we do have a voice.  Let’s start using it.  We can show our love of God and our neighbors and defend our beliefs at the same time.  We can say I will not allow the spirit of secularism to drown out my faith any longer.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that to be a good Christian you have to be tolerant of things that are offensive to your Faith. Christians aren’t always quiet.  We’re not supposed to be.  There is a distinct difference between humility and silence.  Look at St. Nicholas and St. Mark of Ephesus and so many other Defenders of Orthodoxy.  They certainly did not stay quiet.  They didn’t behave like barbarians either.  They spoke plainly and firmly against ungodly teachings.

Look at what Christ did at the temple when people turned the house of God into a bazaar!  Jesus spoke openly about the condemning the sins of fornication and murder and homosexuality.  Can we say that because He said these things, he didn’t have love for mankind?   Are the Scriptures a lie?  Or do you have more love than Christ?  Have courage, we have Christ on our side.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

So, to truly understand Christmas, to be able to defend your faith and have love, it is possible to do both you know this, right?   Let’s understand exactly what we’re fighting for on these feastdays.  Let’s understand the magnitude and greatness of the gift God gave to us on Christmas.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Let’s not allow secularism to gain any more power than it already has.  Let’s not let political correctness, or vanity and designer labels or social status or fear continue to separate us from Christ. Let’s begin this Christmas.  Let’s begin right now.

Let’s start at the beginning…

Who is the Virgin Mary?

We know she was born to the righteous Sts. Joachim and Anna. We also know that Joachim and Anna were barren for many many years.  Then finally, God answered their prayers and an angel appeared telling them they were to bear a child.
When the time came and the precious Mary was born, they promised that they would thank God for such a blessing by dedicating their daughter to His service.

So when she was three years old, they brought her to the temple and there she remained until she was 14 years old and was betrothed to Joseph.

Let’s keep in mind that Panagia was holy from the time of her birth.  While living in the temple, angels descended from heaven and brought her food from Paradise ever day.

Now to interrupt for just a moment…I want to talk real quick about some common misconceptions.  Most Protestants teach that Panagia was afraid of the Archangel Gabriel when he came to bring the news of the Annunciation.  Of course, this teaching comes from the Scripture verse (but when she saw him she was so’er afraid).  But she was not afraid of the angel himself, what she was afraid of was the manner with which he greeted her.  He said, “Rejoice, blessed, or highly favored, one.”  She feared she was in danger of falling into pride as our first mother Eve did in the garden.

Christian movies are awesome.  We should all support them in every way possible.  We just have to be careful because they are created from Protestant viewpoints, not from Orthodox tradition.

In 364 AD, at the Council Laodaceia, when the holy fathers and bishops attending chose, through the grace and enlightenment of God, which books were to be chosen to compose the Bible, there were 49 Old Testament and 29 New Testament books.  Today, in most Bibles, including the NKJV, which is the most accurate, though not entirely accurate, there are only 39 books in the Old Testament. Catholic Bibles have a section in the back called the Apocrypha that has an additional 7 books, bringing them to a grand total of 46.  But they’re still missing 3 books!  That’s huge!  Especially to Protestants who live solo scripturally.  They’re missing ten books from the only book they claim to live their lives based upon.  That’s a big deal.  This is one of the main reasons we have different understandings of the Bible and its teachings.

If you don’t have an Orthodox bible, I strongly suggest you look into getting one.  The new Orthodox Study Bible is wonderful.  Also, one of my absolute favorite ones is the set published by Holy Apostles Convent.  It is a two volume set; the holy gospels and acts, epistles & revelations.  The treasury of endnotes in that set will blow your mind.  You will learn things about stories and teachings that you never thought possible. It is seriously like reading the Bible in 3-D.

Back to Panagia and her life in the temple…When she became of age, the high priests made plans to arrange marriages for her and the other virgins.  However, when Panagia learned of this, she protested.  She told them she promised her virginity and life to God.  The high priests acknowledged her holiness and respected her wishes.  At the same time, they also acknowledged the reality that she couldn’t spend her whole life in the temple.

They prayed and an angel appeared and gave them very precise instructions.  He told them to call all the widowers and to take each of their staffs and place them on the altar and the staff that bloomed at the end would tell them who to entrust the Virgin to.  Now, in those times, a mans staff served as a from of identification, almost like a modern day driver’s license.

So the widowers came, left their staffs and were told to come back in three days.

On the third day, they returned and the priests went to retrieve their staffs from the altar table but none of them had blossomed and one was missing.   They looked all over the front and sides of the table…nothing.  Then, they looked behind and there it lay.  With three buds at the top.

Panagia was then betrothed to Joseph.  Now, let’s talk a bit about Joseph.  Joseph was a widower with nine children.  He was over 80 years old.  So, again, the portrayal of him in most movies as being close in age to Panagia, is totally inaccurate.

Joseph and Mary were never married.  They never lived as a married couple.  They were betrothed and lived as father and daughter.  Stories of Panagia having other children are completely heretical and completely go against the Orthodox knowledge that she is an ever virgin.  The three stars on Panagia’s robe symbolize her virginity before during and after the birth of Christ.


Of course, we also know that Joseph was chosen because of his lineage, he was from the tribe of David, but he was also chosen because of his humility.  Some may ask the question, “Why did Panagia need betrothal when she would conceive through the Holy Spirit?  Why was this necessary?”

St. Athanasios writes,

“Joseph was made Steward of the mystery, so the Virgin, appearing to have a husband would be held in esteem and that the devil would remain unaware that God had designed to take up His dwelling among men.”

This means the reason she needed to be betrothed was so that the devil would be deceived.  He knew the prophecies said that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, so he was observing the virgins very closely.  So when Panagia was betrothed to Joseph, the devil sort of crossed her off his list as the possible virgin who would bear the Son of God.  The devil overlooked her because of her betrothal.
Interesting bit of info:  Joseph had 9 children, two of them became Jesus’ disciples; James and Jude.

When the time came for Joseph to divide his inheritance among his children, three of his four sons didn’t think Jesus should be included since he was not a biological child of Joseph’s.  James, however, though this was wrong and went on to split his portion of the inheritance with Jesus and Jesus never forgot that.  This is why he is referred to as the Brother of the Lord.  This is also why he was the first to see the Divine Liturgy in Heaven and the first to serve the Liturgy on Earth.  Did you know that?  That the Liturgy we celebrate every Sunday was first written by St. James?  Then of course, St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil made changes because the Liturgy of St. James is a very, very long service and if I’m not mistaken it requires several priests and hierarchs to conduct, so made changes to make it easier for people to attend.

I always thought that was a sweet story and I love how it really does show  the love James had for Christ, even before he realized who He really was.

So, back to Joseph…the angel came to him and said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”

This doesn’t mean to marry her, it simply meant to take her and protect her, provide for her as you would a wife.  Joseph was her guardian, she was entrusted to him.

In the Orthodox marriage ceremony there are two services.  There is a betrothal service and a marriage service.  Mary and Joseph never had a marriage ceremony, just a simple betrothal.  People who are not familiar with the Orthodox Church and her services and traditions are not aware of these things and so there naturally have a very black and white view of these matters.

Let’s take a look at the Icon of the Nativity.  Let’s look at how all of creation participated in this incredible miracle.  There is so, so, so much happening in this icon.  This is just another reason why icons are such an important part of Christian worship.  They teach us so very much.

All of creation gave something that night:

  • the angels gave thanks with their song-the doxology that we sing every Sunday at the end of Orthros.
  • the heavens gave the star {here’s another interesting bit of information…did you know that the star wasn’t really a star at all?  Even scientifically, that star cannot be explained because it behaved so differently than anything scientists have ever observed–even until this day.  It moved, it stopped, it ascended and descended, it changed direction…stars don’t behave like this. That’s because it really wasn’t a star at all.  It was the Archangel Gabriel.  After bringing Panagia the news of the Annunciation, he went straightway to take his place as a light in the sky.  The light that the Magi would follow for over 2 1/2 years.}
  • poor humble shepherds gave praise and amazement
  • earth gave its cave-not a barn-it was actually a cave in the wilderness as depicted in the icon.
  • humanity gave the Virgin; the magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  the gold represented his royalty, the frankincense the dignity of His divinity, and the myrrh of course, represented His death.  Though, the Magi didn’t perceive the mystery of the gifts they gave.  And, I’m going to tell you another really neat story about the myrrh used at His burial later on in this post…

Everything that took place was a fulfillment of of the Old Testament prophecies.  St. Gregory of Nyssa compares the birth of Christ in a cave as the spiritual light shining forth in the shadow of death that had encompassed mankind.

So, what happened EXACTLY that night?

We all know that when Joseph and Panagia traveled to Bethlehem, which literally translates to “House of Bread” and was where the symbol of the eucharist-manna- was delivered from Heaven.  Now, He who rained manna upon His people would Himself become the bread of the eucharist.

When they arrived, there was no room for them so they were led to a cave that housed animals and that is where Christ would be born.  Panagia then asked Joseph to help her off the donkey and help her into the cave.  He did those things and then left to find a midwife.  This all took place around sunset.

Joseph found two midwives, Zelomi and Salome.  Zelomi, went with Joseph to the cave and when they got close to it there was a cloud and an extremely bright light.  As they walked closer and closer, the light decreased and the cloud disappeared and they both beheld the infant at the breast of the Virgin.  Zelomi asked Panagia if she was the mother.  When she said yes, Zelomi replied, “Thou art not like the other daughters of Eve.” And the Theotokos responded, “As my Son has no equal among children, so His Mother has no equal among women.”  And this wasn’t said out of pride, it was said out of amazement.

I mean, can you imagine that?  Those of you who are parents know the joy and love that overflows within you the moment you hold your newborn child.  Can you imagine how the Theotokos felt?  Let alone carrying God in her womb for nine months, but to now be able to hold and kiss the face of God?  That’s incredible!

Zelomi left quickly and went out to get the other midwife, Salome.  Now, Salome was actually a relative of the Theotokos.  She was Agia Anna’s, sister’s daughter, which made them first cousins.

When Zelomi told Salome that “a virgin brought forth, a thing which nature does not admit!”  Salome said she would not believe it unless she saw proof, so she went into the cave to see for herself.

When they entered the cave, Panagia was leaning over the manger and swaddling the baby Jesus before she layed him down to sleep.
This action alone, was amazing to Salome because a woman who had given birth could not physically move so well after just giving birth. Remember, we’re not talking about giving birth in a comfy hospital bed, surrounded by pillows, epidurals and sucking on ice chips.  We’re talking about laying on the floor of a barn, surrounded by animals.

So, Salome reached down and tried to examine Panagia, the way a midwife usually did, but as soon as her hand touched Panagia’s body, it withered and literally started to burn with fire.  She groaned and cried out to the Lord until an angel appeared and instructed her to go and touch the child.  As soon as she did this, her hand was restored and she was filled with joy.  She begged forgiveness from God and from the Theotokos.

You have to understand that when we say Panagia was a virgin, before, during and after the Birth of Christ, we mean exactly that.  Her seal was never broken.  Christ passed through her like a normal delivery, but it was everything but normal.  There was no blood, no afterbirth.  The Panagia felt no pain whatsoever.  This is is why she is depicted this way in the Nativity icon, to indicate her painless delivery and unneeded service of a midwife.

St. John of Damascus, who we know had his hand healed by the Theotokos, said about the birth,

“The birth surpassed the order of birthgiving as it was without pain; for where pleasure had not preceded, pain did not follow.  And just as at His conception He kept her who conceived Him a virgin, so also at His birth did He maintain her virginity intact, because He alone would pass through her and He kept her shut.”

St. Ambrose writes,

“A virgin carried Him whom the world cannot contain or support.  And when He was born of Mary’s womb, He preserved the enclosure of her modesty, and the inviolate seal of her virginity.”

And there are many, many quotes and writings similar to these.

Christ is shown here in swaddling clothes which are also symbolic of His future death, burial, tomb and burial clothes.  Panagia is also depicted this way in the Dormition icon.

Then, we know the Shepherds came to worship Him.  Now, the shepherds were chosen for a reason.  They didn’t just happen to be at the right place at the right time.  God chose them for very specific reasons.  St. Gregory the Great tells us that “before the birth of Christ, there was discord between us and the angels because we separated ourselves from God through sin, the angels (as God’s loyal subjects) cut us off from their fellowship.  But because we were now acknowledging Him as King, they again received us as fellow citizens.

We also see in the icon, an old man dressed in black fur, bent down whispering in Joseph’s ear.  This is the devil, who continuously tried to make Joseph doubt.  “how is it possible for a virgin to bear a child?  it is against all the laws of nature!  you’re a fool!”  Of course, Joseph struggled with doubt, but never gave in to his temptations.  He protected the Theotokos and Christ until his death.

Down in the corner, we see the two midwives, Salome and Zelomi bathing the baby Jesus.  This was done out of tradition, not because He was dirty, we already talked about how there was no blood or anything involved in His birth.

Another amazing story is that while the midwives bathed Christ, there was a woman watching nearby.  When they took Him back into the cave, the woman brought an alabaster flask and filled it with His bath water.  You see, Christ our God does not defile water, He doesn’t make it dirty.  He purifies and sanctifies it. So, this woman took the flask and hid it in a cave.  Some years later, a man found the jar and when he opened it, it had turned into myrrh.  This myrrh smelled so incredible, nothing like he had ever smelled before and so he went and sold it for 300 denarii.  We celebrate her on Palm Sunday because she used the myrrh to anoint the feet of Christ and wipe it with her hair.  She was then instructed by our Lord to take the rest and save it for His burial.

Do you see again how everything comes full circle in Orthodoxy?  These are stories that are so amazing and Christians who are against tradition, which is contrary to Scriptures anyway, miss out on!  Don’t you just love our beloved Orthodoxy?

Now, let’s talk again about the Magi and who they were.

They were not astrologers in the modern-day sense.  They were not bound up with metaphysics and satanism, which is why astrology today is rejected by the Orthodox Church.  The wise men simply observed the stars and their movements.  God obviously knew they were in a spiritual state suitable for seeing and worshipping His Son.  The holy fathers have said that this was not a matter of science but of inner noetic purity, which the wise men obviously had.

We mentioned earlier that the Magi brought their gifts to Christ.  But, what we didn’t talk about was when.  They’re shown in the icon of the Nativity, but they were not actually there at His birth.

It says in the Scriptures that when they came into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. (Matt 2:11)

By the time they found him, he was almost two years old.  The Wise Men followed the star for over two years.  This is the reason Herod gave the decree to kill every male child that was two years old and under.

After that, we know that the Scriptures say, they left and didn’t return through Herod’s kingdom because God had enlightened them of the evil inside of Herod.  We read in the Akathist Hymn, “the wise men left Herod as a trifler who knew not how to chant…”

But has anyone wondered what happened to them after that?  After witnessing such things, and being in such a strong spiritual state, how could they possibly just go home and return to live as it was before meeting the Son of God?

St. John Chrysostom tells us that “they returned home and continued to worship Him, even more than before.  And they preached Him and instructed many.  When St. Thomas went to that region, they came to him and were baptized.  Then they joined him and preached the gospel.

St. Gregory says this is also symbolic:  “It was impossible that having come from Herod to Christ, they would return again to Herod,” meaning, our true country is Paradise, to which, having now come to the knowledge of Jesus, we are forbidden to return by the path we left.”
…..
At the time of His birth,

  • A spring gushed forth from a rock inside the cave where He was born.
  • In Rome, oil poured forth from the ground.  So much so, that it ran into the Tiber River.
  • In Spain, a cloud appeared as bright as the sun.
  • In the Hebrew Sanctuary called the Eternal Temple, the idols within crashed to the ground.
  • In Judea, vines sprang forth even though it was the dead of winter.

So, just as the entire earth reacted when Christ drew His last breath…the sun turned black, the veil of the temple was torn in two, graves were opened and the dead lived again…

So also, the entire earth reacted when He drew His first breath.

Oftentimes, we hear people saying Happy Birthday Jesus, but we as Orthodox Christians don’t do this for one simple reason. It’s technically not His birthday because we know He always existed.  It was only His birth according to the flesh.  To us, His birth is much, much more than just a birthday.  We use the greeting, “Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!”

In this icon, we see The Flight into Egypt.  We see Christ is already older and sits upon Joseph’s shoulders, we see St. James or Iakovos with them.  Also, notice Joseph’s age again.  He is properly depicted in this icon.

So, Herod ordered the murder of the holy Innocents, those 14,000 children who became the first martyrs for Christ and we remember them on December 29, and an angel came to warn Joseph and instructed him to “take the young Child and His Mother and flee to Egypt.” (Matt 2:13)

They packed up and left. On their way into Egypt they passed through a den of thieves.  Many of them were asleep but two of them, Dismas and Gestas, awoke when the holy family passed by.

Dismas went across the Theotokos to see what she held covered up at her chest.  When she uncovered Christ, Dismas fell to his knees and said, “If God were to take human flesh, He would not be more beautiful than this child!” Then he turned to Gestas and said, “I beg thee to let these people pass by quietly.  Don’t let our comrades be roused.”  However, Gestas wouldn’t agree, so Dismas offered him forty drachmas and his belt and gave them to him before he could say no.  Gestas, realizing that it was more than he would get from robbing them, agreed.

The Lady Theotokos, full of gratitude for the kindness shown to them by Dismas, looked at him and prophesied, “My Child will reward thee richly for having spared Him this day.  The Lord God will receive thee to His right hand and grant thee pardon of thy sins.”
Indeed, more than thirty years later, at the Crucifixion of Her Son and God, he hung on a cross in between two robbers.  To the left was Gestas, who mocked and reviled the Lord.  And to the right was Dismas, who while on the cross repented of his whole life and said, “This Man has done nothing wrong, we are paying the just price for our sins.”

And as we well know, Dismas was that same day with Christ in Paradise.

Again, everything in Orthdoxy comes full circle.

So, you see.  This is what happened on Christougenna. This is what Christmas is about.  After talking about all of this, doesn’t the celebration of Santa and eight flying reindeer seem incredibly empty?  There is so much more tradition and joy in celebrating Christ than celebrating Santa.

I’m going to share something with you that my spiritual father once said to me and it’s something that I think of all the time and it rings true over and over again.  He said,

“Secular things bring happiness, not joy.  Happiness fades away but joy is unending and can only come through Christ.  When you have joy, you can be in the middle of disaster and will still feel peace.”

Seek joy, not happiness.  Seek it in Christ!

Comments

  1. Wow, Sylvia, this is amazing! I learned so much!!! There were stories that I’ve never heard before– like who the thieves were on the crooses with Jesus. I think you need to tell me some books to read to learn more. Beautifully written. Have a blessed Christmas!!

    Lindsay

  2. Thankyou for sharing this with us! It’s so easy to get caught up with the Santa and reindeers kind of Christmas, especially when you have young. children.. This post just brought me back to the real Christmas, the birth of Christ, our Lord. Also, thankyou for presenting these beautiful icons! I especially love the 3Christmas icons, so beautiful!

  3. this was wonderful, I learned so much! Thank you!

  4. I agree, dear friend, I learned a lot from this post. Thank you!

  5. Wow, I learned a lot as well! It’s these stories that my children need to hear! Even though I’m a “cradle” Orthodox Christian (I’m almost embarrassed to say )I didn’t know and still don’t know a lot about our faith. However, I am on a mission to learn… thanks so much for posting :)

  6. Wow! Thankyou Syliva.

    I have just emailed this to some Scripture Teachers here in Australia!

    Great information to know, and very easy to understand.

    May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and New Year!

  7. I loved this post! Thanks.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing these teachings. I was moved to tears at the joy and truth of our faith. Valery

  9. wonderful, thank u so much for this piece

  10. Dear Silvia,
    Thank you for sharing what you have written,it’s great to share our great Orthodox
    Faith,it’s great to have it,live it,love it and defend it!May God bless you always and bless your family

  11. Sylvia,
    You have such a gift for writing. I loved reading the history of Christ’s birth! I learned a great deal, and I hope to reread this every year. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  12. Christ is born! Merry Christmas!
    I’m enjoying this post tonight after a beautiful day of celebrating with family here in Oz, thank you.
    I’ve been looking into the various available editions of the Orthodox study bible to get one, but I have never come across the 2 edition version. If it’s at all possible to provide further details and even a picture please as this one you mentioned sounds like the one I’d like to have. Thank you. God Bless +

  13. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing this!

    I wanted to just clear up one misunderstanding, though. Apocrypha is the Protestant term for the seven books—Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees (along with additions to Daniel and Esther)—that some Protestant bibles list at the end of scripture. In a Catholic bible, they are integrated within the Old Testament. If distinguishment is necessary, they are referred to as deuterocanonical. But they are in no way separated from the rest of scripture.

    Thank you again for your wonderful post.

  14. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing this!

    I wanted to just clear up one misunderstanding, though. Apocrypha is the Protestant term for the seven books—Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees (along with additions to Daniel and Esther)—that some Protestant bibles list at the end of scripture. In a Catholic bible, they are integrated within the Old Testament. If distinguishment is necessary, they are referred to as deuterocanonical. But they are in no way separated from the rest of scripture.

    Thank you again for your wonderful post.

    Warmly,
    A sister in the Western Church

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  1. […] compose the Bible, there were 49 Old Testament and 29 New … … Read the original post: Christmas 101: An Orthodox Christian Understanding ← Feedback: Christians Celebrating Christmas at Christmas Town … Not So […]

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  3. […] Brush up on your Nativity History with this post:  Christmas 101: An Orthodox Christian Understanding. […]

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