DECEMBER 2005 • Vol. 70 • No. 1220
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The Nativity of Christ To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, On this glorious celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, I greet you with love in the joy of the Good News that was received on that blessed and holy night by the shepherds of Bethlehem. After announcing the birth of the Son of God, the heavenly hosts filled the dark sky with light, rejoicing and proclaiming, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among men (Luke 2:14). On that night in Bethlehem when our Savior entered this world as a human infant born of the Virgin Mary, the favor of God was upon all humankind and upon all of creation. Through the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became like us in every respect, except sin, so that He might know our condition, share in our sufferings, and redeem us from our sins (Hebrews 2:17). Into the darkness and the shadow of death that plagued all of humanity, the radiant sunrise from on high (Luke 1:78) broke through and both illuminated and became the path of peace, the way to salvation and eternal life. As we commemorate the birth of our Lord on this day, we can be assured of the universal significance and relevance of this miraculous event. This is certainly true in terms of our redemption through the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ. But it is also true in terms of the conditions of our world, in times past, present, and future. Into a world that groans under the burden of sin, a world that is filled with the darkness of uncertainty and the shadow of terror and death, our Lord has brought us the peace of God. This coming of this peace was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah who announced that the Prince of Peace would establish His rule and an endless peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). St. Luke the Evangelist makes reference to the same idea when he speaks about Him who would come in order to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79). It was also this peace that Christ Himself gave to His disciples and to those that would follow in their sacred Apostolic work. It is this peace of God through Jesus Christ that is needed in our contemporary world. As we witness and experience the devastating effects of violence and suffering, so many people are searching for that peace which transcends the shadow of death and lifts their souls into the light of truth and understanding. So many people are searching for that peace that renews their spirit, gives them hope, and guides them toward greater fulfillment in life. This is why we must be living carriers of the peace of Christ, who through our faith and our love for God and one another, dwells in us. When we are the image of the Prince of Peace, our thoughts, words, deeds, and aspirations will be imbued with His true and enduring peace. Our security and freedom will not be dependent upon or diminished by the violent events and persistent threats that trouble our world; for we will live in the light and peace of the presence of our Incarnate Lord, offering to others His tender mercy and a secure and eternal relationship with Him. As we gather on this holy Feast and pray to our Lord “for the peace from above” and “for the peace of the whole world,” I invite you to open your hearts to His divine presence and allow Him to bring solace to our hearts and minds. We can be assured that the Prince of Peace has entered this world and our human condition, that He is in our midst, and that He is guiding us on a most sure and certain path of eternal peace and life. May His blessings be upon you and your families during this beautiful season, and may your worship and fellowship be filled with His joy throughout the New Year. With paternal love in Christ,
† Archbishop DEMEtrioS of America
Late11th or early 12th-century triptych from the Monastery of hagia Aikaterine, Sinai, with incidents related to the Nativity. (above) the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi. (below) The Flight into Egypt and the Slaughter of the Innocents.
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St. Basil Academy Holds Festive Christmas Program GARRISON, N.Y. – A “dinner theater” setting characterized this year’s St. Basil Academy’s Christmas Program that featured a brief skit described as a “Living Nativity” Icon, a poetry reading, piano duet and Christmas carols sung by some of the children. The festively decorated gym included round tables festooned with a Christmas theme. Following a welcome from the Academy’s Executive Director Fr. Constantine Sitaras and a brief doxology by Archbishop Demetrios, several children of St. Basil’s performed “The Living Nativity Icon,” which consisted of a brief skit on the events leading to the birth of Jesus. There followed the recitation of a poem, “The Love of Christ,” by student Nancy Morano. For the first time ever, the stage was decorated with a scene reminiscent of a Byzantine icon that depicts the Nativity often seen on Christmas cards. Student Nickolas Clemente along with piano teacher Martha Braden performed the piano duet that followed the skit. Next, several children carolers sang
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Published bi-monthly except single issue in September and December by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Editorial and Business Ofﬁce: 8 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021. TEL.: (212) 570-3555, 774-0235. FAX (212) 774-0239.
A MuSICAL gathering around the piano at the Academy. (below) Archbishop Demetrios with youths of St. Basil Academy and Fr. Constantine Sitaras.
Christmas songs in English and Greek. In brief comments after the program, Archbishop Demetrios remarked that the program offered pleasant surprises, including the stage set and other festive decorations and the quality of the program. “It was a nice peaceful, joyful program,” he said. “I don’t recall anything as amazing and a performance so short that is so rich.” He reminded the audience about the “millions of children in the world without food, without parents and with diseases” and that a place like the Academy offers “opportunities that are unique in our world.” His Eminence also reminded the St. Basil children to “be mindful of the happy and unhappy children” of the world during the Christmas season, “those blessed with gifts, and those with no gifts at all.” Following the program and luncheon,
the children and visitors retreated to the Main, the administration building and visitor center, where Archbishop Demetrios distributed Christmas gifts to each of the 31 children that reside at the Academy. Members of the Metropolitan Philoptochos Board and chapters in New York and New Jersey provided many of the donations and Christmas gifts for the event. Also providing donations for the event was St. George Greek School in Bethesda, Md., St. Spyridon Church in Manhattan, Fantis Foods, Tony and Vera Giordano, Mr. and Mrs. Rountous, and Dr. Elena DaFaras of St. Athanasius Church in Paramus, N.J., and St. John Russian Orthodox Church PTO of Perth Amboy, N.J. Among the special guests in attendance was Martha Mavrommatis, consul general of the Republic of Cyprus and Dr. Steven Gounardes, St. Basil Board of Trustees president.
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THE HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF THE CHRISTMAS DATE The joyous season of Christmas is upon us to enrich our lives with the nearness of God and to strengthen our faith and conviction in the message of the Redemption and Salvation of all men and women. by Bishop John of Amorion
The theme of joy attributed to Christmas lies in the realization that Christ, born in a cave in Bethlehem, entered our life, once and for all, never to leave it, not to forsake us. His is with us always, as the word “Emmanuel” designates. This Mystery of Mysteries, the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which Christians throughout the world observe has undergone a process of change I think we should stop to consider from a historical point of view. To begin with, Christmas, the Nativity of Christ was not observed by the early Christians as a separate holy day. Epiphany and Easter (Pascha), especially the latter, were great feasts observed by the first Christians. Even when the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, in the 4th century, established Christianity as the state religion of the empire, thereby ending the imperial persecutions of Christians. There was no observance of Christ’s birth as a distinct and separate holy day. Our sources regarding the origin of the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ are among the writings of St. John Chrysostom, who as the 37th archbishop of Constantinople (398-404) informs us that St. Cyril, archbishop of Jerusalem, requested Pope Julius I of Rome to investigate the question regarding the date of Christ’s most probable date of birth. As a consequence, the Feast of the Nativity of Christ was first observed in Rome, on Dec. 25, 353, and from there the observance of Christmas on Dec. 25 spread eastward. In the east, from 376 A.D., Christians began to observe Christmas as a separate religious holy day in the church calendar, except for the Armenians, who still observe Christmas on Jan. 6, along with the observance of Epiphany Day – the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ. Some sources suggest that Dec. 25 was chosen to counter the observance of that date as the birthday of the pagan sun god. It is interesting to note that in spite of the fact that today’s Christian’s of the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions emphasize Christmas as opposed to Easter, which is the case of Orthodox Christians.
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Archdiocesan District Schools Celebrate Christmas Hark! the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!
The Archdiocesan Metropolitan outh Choir performed its Annual Christmas Concert at the kimisis of Theotokos Church, in Brooklyn, NY, Dec. 18. his Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America was the guest of honor and following the performace praised the children and the choir director Maria kolevas.
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IN ThE MANgER OF BEThLEhEM presented by the children of the holy Trinity greek Orthodox Community of hicksville, NY
A MEMORABLE ChRISTMAS performance presented by the children of the “Areti and Stephen Cherpelis greek Orthodox Afternoon School” of St. Nicholas in Flushing, NY
LITTLE ANgELS and the Drummer Boy were featured at the Christmas play of the Plato greek American School, in Brooklyn, NY
ThE NATIVITY SCENE performed ﬂawlesly by young children of the St. Demetrios School in Jamaica, NY.
Metropolis of New Jersey Hosts Annual Christmas Tree Lighting KENILWORTH, N.J. â€“ The Metropolis of New Jersey held its 3rd annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Celebration on Dec. 18 at the Metropolis headquarters. Metropolitan Evangelos and the Metropolis Philoptochos Board, hosted the celebration that was attended by many Orthodox faithful from throughout the Metropolis. Joining the Metropolitan were Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana, abbot of the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropeghial Monastery of St. Irene of Chrysovalantou in
Astoria, N.Y., Bishop Philotheos of Meloa and Bishop Vikentios of Apameia, deputy abbot of the Monastery, several priests, Nicholas Bouras, vice commander of the Order of Archons of the Venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Archons of the Order of St. Andrew, Catherine Bouras, consul general of Greece in New York, and members of the Metropolitan Council, the Metropolis Philoptochos Society, Leadership 100, various youth organizations and other faithful. The highlight of the event was the lighting of the tree by the Metropolitan,
METROPOLITAN Evangelos offers small token gifts to the children who came to sing Christmas carols and hymns.
which was followed by liturgical hymns led by the newly formed Metropolis Byzantine Choir. Greek and Sunday school students and children from area parishes led the singing of traditional Christmas Carols. Metropolitan Evangelos distributed gift bags and an Icon of the Nativity to the children and all present, bestowing upon all his paternal blessings and wishing upon them the blessings of God, a most blessed and beautiful Christmas, and a healthy and happy New Year. The evening concluded with a lenten reception prepared by the Metropolis Philoptochos.
ay the joy that flooded the earth on the day of His birth overflow in our hearts, in our homes, and in our communities during this holy season and every day of the year. To the one God, in whom we live and move and have our being, be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen.
A Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year to All,
Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund Incorporated
Serving Orthodoxy and Hellenism in America
We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year A long-held tradition at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese headquarters is the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony marking the beginning of the festive Christmas season. Staff members of the Archdiocese gathered around the tree late in the afternoon on Dec. 7, joining Archbishop Demetrios and Chancellor Bishop Savas of Troas, Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, Ecumenical Office director, and Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, Department of Philanthropy director.
Tree-Lighting, Carol Singing Event Held at Archdiocese Archbishop Demetrios welcomed everyone to the event, wished everyone a Merry Christmas and then placed a cross ornament on one of the branches before lighting the tree. The staff of Leadership 100 –which recently moved ORTHODOX OBSERVER to new offices– attended the celebration and included Fr. ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS inaugurated celebrations for the 2005 Christmas season together with the staff of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and with the Demetrios Antokas, Paulette traditional tree lighting ceremony. The young children of deacons Panteleimon and John, (l to r) Steli-Styliani, Eleftheria and Nikiforos are in the front. Poulos, and others. Also present was Fr. The entire group next sang several the traditional Kalanda. During the Christ- placed on all first-floor windows of the Alex Karloutsos, spiritual advisor to the Hymns and Christmas Carols in Greek mas season, the entire Archdiocese is fes- Archdiocese, and smaller trees, wreaths Archons-Order of St. Andrew. and English, including Silent Night, and tooned in the holiday spirit, with wreaths and poinsettia plants in other locations.
Orthodox Charities Weekend/Hurricane Katrina Relief
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PALOS HILLS, Ill. – Sts. Constantine and Helen parish held its 22nd annual Orthodox Charities Weekend Sept.24-25, which included a bike/run/walk-a-thon and a blood drive that drew many participants. Proceeds went to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Also held were bake sales and fundraisers that preceded the weekend events. The bike/run/walk-a-thon had 137 participants who spent their Saturday in a spirit of Christian fellowship. The blood drive on Sunday attracted more than 40 participants and more than 40 volunteers assisted at these events. Orthodox Charities Weekend
succeeded through support from donors, participants and stewards (volunteers). An estimated $10,000 has been raised and submitted to the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Hurricane Relief Fund. This will be in addition to the $13,000 already contributed earlier in September for the Archdiocese Hurricane Relief Fund. Over the 22 years of this program’s existence, $120,000 has been donated and distributed to various charities. This program is part of “Project Diakonia,” a ministry that brings together all the community’s philanthropic programs.
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Three Young participants of the bike-a-thon during the 22nd Orthodox Charities Weekend.
Philoptochos Offers $98G for Hurricane Relief National Philoptochos Society President Georgia Skeadas recently presented Archbishop Demetrios with a donation of $98,000 for the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund. The funds will be used to address temporary housing expenses and for the purchase of major appliances for Orthodox families affected by the hurricane. In her letter to the Archbishop, Mrs. Skeadas noted, in part, “The women of
the Philoptochos Society, as the philanthropic heart of our Archdiocese, always strive to give solace to people in need. The Philoptochos chapters throughout the United States, in response to our letter of appeal, have shown their deep concern for the victims of the hurricanes by offering their generous support, which will provide some comfort and aid to the many suffering from the effects of this devastation of enormous magnitude.
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