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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Preparing for the Nativity

Today is an important day for Orthodox. It is the beginning of the Nativity Fast. This fast is similar to the Lenten fast in that it prepares the heart for the coming feast. This is a 40 day fast that will last until Christmas liturgy. Of all our fasts in the Church this one may be the hardest in our culture today. In American culture we tend to celebrate Christmas from November to Christmas day, then all is forgetten as the boxes and trees hit the garbage dumps. The Church prods us to be counter-cultural. Prepare, confess, fast, give alms for the next 40 days, then celebrate. Our celebration should last until January 6--the feast of Theophany.

During Sunday's class, we had a guest speaker--Prof David Drillock. Dr. Drillock is a retired professor of liturgical music at St. Vladimir's. He was at our parish to lead a choir retreat. During Sunday School, he gave a talk entitled, "Preparing for the Nativity of Christ in Orthodox Worship". Below is a copy of his outline and notes that I took during his lecture.

I. The beginning of the Christmas fast
a. Commemoration of the Holy Apostle Philip (Nov. 14)
b. The calling of the disciple -- Come and see!

II. The Entrace of the Theotokos into the Temple (Nov. 21)
a. The 3 year old Mary is offered to the Temple by Joachim and Anna.
b. Mary is praised as "the living temple of the holy glory of Christ our God."
c. The singing of the Odes of the Christmas Canon begin:
"Christ is born, glorify Him! Christ comes from heaven go to meet Him!
Christ is on earth, be exalted! Sing to the Lord, all the earth, and praise
Him in gladness, O People! For He has been glorified."

III.The Feast of St. Andrew, the first-called (Nov. 30)
a. Andrew is told by Christ to "come & see!"
b. Special hymns at Vespers
"Tell us, O Joseph, how you led the Virgin into the Bethlehem cave. After
searching the scriptures and hearing the Angel, he says: I am certain that
Mary will wondrously give birth to God Whom the Wise Men from the East will
worship, offering to Him their precious gifts."

IV. Commemoration of St. John of Damascus (Dec.4)
- St. John is a poet, hymnographer, and theologian and author of the Christmas
Canon.

V. Commemoration of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6)
"Holy Nicholas, sacred herald of Christ, you are a great and fervent helper for
those in dangers, those on land and those who sail, those far off and those
nearby, a most compassionate and mighty intercessor. Therefore assembled
together we cry, 'Intercede to the Lord that we may be rescued from every
calamity'.

"Adorn yourself, O cavern! Make ready, O manger! O shepherds and wise men, bring
your gifts and bear witness. For the Virgin is coming bearing Christ in her
womb."

VI. The Three Holy Youths (the children in the fiery furnance)

VII. St. Romas the Melodist - the Kontakion for the Feast of Christmas.
"Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a
cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels, with sheperds, glorify Him! The Wise
Men journey with the star! Since for our sake the eternal God was born as a
little child."

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