January 7, 2007

Mary Christmas, MOSCOW II

This beautiful picture from the Radio Free Europe news page.

January 7, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- From Russia to Ethiopia, Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas today.

In Moscow, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Aleksy II, celebrated a midnight Mass for 5,000 people at Christ the Savior Cathedral.

The five-hour service was broadcast on national television.

Orthodox Christmas was not officially recognized by the communist regime, but became a public holiday in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Communists demolished thousands of churches, including Christ the Savior Cathedral, which was rebuilt in the late 1990s.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, began Christmas ceremonies for Greek, Syrian, and Coptic churches at the ancient Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on January 6.

Mary Christmas, SERBIA

This page explains the Christmas traditions in Serbia and surrounding areas. Lots of great pictures for this holiest and happiest holidays, when our Savior was born!

Mary Christmas, Russian Cosmonauts!

Fascinating MSNBC story from 2006 about the revival of Orthodox Worship in a former center of atheism in the Soviet Union. Praise Be to Him, Christ is Born!

For almost half a century, Russian rockets and space travelers have assaulted the heavens from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Soviet spaceport in Central Asia that was portrayed as the shining symbol of a communist future. Now one of the last sights for departing space crews is the shiny domes of a new Russian Orthodox church — where they have their own way of reaching toward heaven.The city of the space workers was originally named “Leninsk” in honor of the founder of the Soviet state, a champion of the official atheism under which priests were imprisoned and churches were burned. Cosmonauts in the Soviet era were often quoted as joking, “We have been to heaven, and didn’t see God there."

But in a radical cultural revolution, the collapse of the Soviet regime in 1991 unleashed a long-underground religious impulse even among the elite of Soviet society, “rocket scientists” and the military hierarchy.

“Almost every cosmonaut brings with him into space his personal icons,” said Gennady Padalka, who commanded the 9th expedition aboard the international space station in 2004. In addition, a copy of the famous icon of “St. Mary of Kazan” is displayed on a panel in the Russian segment of the station. It was placed there in 2000 by the very first long-term crew.

As the story later relates (NASA, are you listening?)

Father Sergey is also an enthusiast for space exploration, which he sees as making manifest the glory of God. “Man can go into space, that’s good," he told the newspaper. "He can view unbounded horizons, other planets, and appreciate how wisely this entire gigantic “mechanism” was constructed, in which everything is computed literally to the millimeter. And every sane person, discovering all this knowledge himself must say, 'Glory to Thee, O Lord, Who hast so wondrously made it all.'”

Mary Christmas Kazakhstan!

ASTANA. January 7. KAZINFORM. /Kurmat Samarkhan/ - Today Kazakhstanis gathered in the Constantine Helen Orthodox cathedral in Astana and worshipped at Christmas services, Kazinform reports.

According to the head of the cathedral, Archimandrite Serapion, the Feast of the Nativity, from which the new history of mankind starts, is the most important day for the Orthodox Christians.

- We must appreciate the values Jesus taught us, and understand that the most important of them is peace and safety of our country, Archimandrite Serapion said. .

Besides, during the day, the Kazakhstanis will observe the Feast of the Nativity at all churches and cathedrals of the country. A special Christmas concert will be held tonight at 18:00 in the Zhastar Palace of Astana.

Mary Christmas, ALASKA

More pictures from the 2006 Christmas celebration in Alaska.

Mary Christmas, Azerbaijan!

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has extended Christmas congratulations to the Orthodox Christians of the Azerbaijan Republic, APA reports.

“I cordially congratulate you, the Christian community of Azerbaijan, on the occasion of the blessed Christmas holiday, and extend my most sincere wishes to all of you.

Christianity has existed in Azerbaijan since ancient times. It is not by mere chance that our country was the first in the Caucasus, where Christian temples were built. Peacefully coexisting here over centuries, the divine religions have played invaluable, historic role in the establishment of brotherhood, friendship and harmony among people. No cases of ethnic or racial discrimination or religious intolerance have ever been observed in Azerbaijan.

Today, the independent Republic of Azerbaijan remains committed to its progressive traditions. The high degree of benevolence peculiar to our people, the atmosphere of ethnic and religious tolerance, mutual respect and confidence among ethnic minorities and religious communities, as well as the established socio-political stability and civil solidarity, have made our country internationally known as a good example of tolerance. As an integral part of our society, the Orthodox Christian community is closely involved in all spheres of socio-political life. I am confident that you will continue to perform worthily your civic duties in the name of progress and development of our country. Christmas, which is solemnly celebrated annually in Azerbaijan, is a holiday of renewal, peace, compassion and mercy. This blessed holiday bring happiness into your families, and welfare into your lives. Happy Christmas!” the congratulations say. /APA/

Mary Christmas, Ethiopians!

Here is a truly beautiful documentography page on Ethiopian Orthodox believers celebrating Christmas. Just lovely pictures.

Alexy II Extends Christmas Greeetings

Interfax reports:

Moscow, January 7, Interfax - Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II extended Christmas greetings to all Orthodox Christians in a televised address on Sunday.

"Let us remember that the success of efforts to make the world surrounding us better does not depend on social cataclysms and upheavals. Rather, it depends on our spiritual health and emotional attitude, as well as on those good, though small, deeds we are able and must accomplish in the name of the great love of God," he said.

"Help your neighbor, wipe away tears from the eyes of those in grief, feed the hungry, comfort those in despair, and give the warmth of your soul to all people surrounding you. And your virtues will be accepted by God," the patriarch said.

What counts most today is the need to strengthen the institution of family, "which has always been the foundation of any country and a guarantee of its prosperity today and in the future," Alexy II said.

"That is why it is important to safeguard our family traditions and to nurture a caring attitude toward marriage, family and motherhood," the patriarch said, extending his best wishes to all people celebrating Christmas on January 7.

BBC Pictures of Julian Xmas

The BBC has some very nice pictures of Orthodox Christians celebrating the Feast of the Nativity which you can view here.

Mary Christmas, Egyptians!

From Middle East Times:

CAIRO -- Thousands of Copts joined their pope Shenuda III at Saint Mark's Cathedral here overnight Saturday-Sunday to celebrate Orthodox Christmas.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sent a top government official to represent him at the midnight mass, which was attended by many young people. January 7, Orthodox Christmas Day, has been a nationwide holiday in Egypt for the past three years.

After the mass, the faithful were to break their 45-day fast during which they did not eat any food "with a soul," meaning coming from an animal. The traditional meal after the all-vegetarian diet is the "fatta," a mixture of meat, rice, and bread fried in butter with garlic sauce.

The Coptic Church, the largest Christian community in the East, has about five to six million members, according to official figures, and 10 million according to Church estimates.

The Egyptian government includes only two Copts: finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali and secretary of state for the environment Maged George Elias.

Mary Christmas, Ukrainians!

From Canada's Calgary Sun:

Christmas carollers and parishioners proclaiming the birth of Jesus Christ could be heard last night on the streets of the city's northeast.

That's because Ukrainian Christmas was being celebrated by members of St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Today marks the sacred day of nativity, one of anticipation for those of the Ukrainian Orthodox faith, said Father Taras Krochak of St. Vladimir's.

"This is Christmas Eve for us," said Krochak, hours before his evening service at 404 Meridith Rd. N.E.

"It's a special time, because without his nativity, we have no salvation."

Parishioners will also gather this morning for a 9:30 a.m. service led by Krochak at the church.

"I'll tell them Merry Christmas," Krochak said.

"And we'll rejoice in the nativity of our lord and saviour, Jesus Christ."

Krochak said most who celebrate Ukrainian Christmas spent last night with family for the holy supper, which is a dozen meatless dishes in memory of the 12 apostles who dedicated their life to the service of Jesus.

"The meal is still a fasting one," said Krochak.

"But on the day of Ukrainian Christmas itself, it'll be a non-fasting meal."

Today, those of the faith will visit with friends and relatives in homes and continue to celebrate for 12 days until the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 19, which corresponds with the baptism of Christ, Krochak added.

Mary Christmas Georgia!

(No, not Jimmy Carter's Georgia, though he did write a lovely book about Christmas in Plains, Georgia.)

Associated Press
Sunday, January 7, 2007 (Tibilisi):

A colourful procession blocked central streets of Tbilisi on Sunday as Georgia's Christian Orthodox community celebrated Christmas.

Children and adults dressed in national costume marched through the streets holding church flags and singing the Christmas carol "Alilo," collecting gifts for charity on their way.

Onlookers bought sweets and other gifts to give to those who participated in the procession.
The gifts are traditionally distributed to orphanages.

The word "Alilo" in Georgian means "glory to God" and its tradition dates back to the fifth century.

Georgia is among other Christian Orthodox countries celebrating Christmas on January 7, and was one of the earliest countries to adopt Christianity in the 4th century.