For those who observe Orthodox Christmas, the celebration of the holy day comes Tuesday.
Following the Julian calendar, which was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C., some Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas 13 days later than those who use the Gregorian calendar, adopted in 1582.
At Christ the Saviour Cathedral, 300 Garfield St., Johnstown, the Christmas Eve service will be held at 8 p.m. Monday, followed by Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at 9 p.m., and Divine Liturgy service at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
“Our family traditions and ethnic customs that we share are important, but they must never overshadow the true meaning of Christmas which is the reality that the second person of the Holy Trinity, God the son, namely Jesus Christ, became one of us human beings, one of his own creations, to save us from the error of old, bringing heaven back to earth and opening paradise to mankind once again for those who believe,” said the Very Rev. Protopresbyter
Robert Buczak, cathedral dean of Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
During the services, Buczak will deliver Bishop Gregory of Nyssa’s message to the congregation.
The letter reads, “I greet you with great joy and love in the name of our incarnate Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we celebrate the feast day of his nativity. It is a day when once again the compassion and mercy of God is revealed to us. I give thanks to almighty God by whose grace we have been given the opportunity to celebrate the birth of his son. We joyfully sing, ‘God is with us,’ remembering all that has been done for us on this great day when God entered the world as one of us, born as a little baby to save mankind.”
It continues saying that as we seek reconciliation with God and with each other, we realize the battle that rages between mind and heart, knowledge and faith, secular society and the church.
“Today every family has to find its way to live an authentic Orthodox life in a secular sometimes hostile world,” the bishop wrote. “Although our modern society does not recognize, and is even antagonistic to the religious meaning and significance of the season, it has gotten into the habit of celebrating what we might call a worldly or secular Christmas, especially in a commercial or materialistic way. So the season of frantic ‘busyness’ and commercialism takes a spiritual toll on all of us.”
The bishop writes that perhaps it seems sometimes that the celebration and spirit of this bright and joyous day will soon disappear.
“As Christians, we know that the spirit of this day reaches far beyond one day, for God is with us – yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he said.
The bishop says that in today’s frantic world, the good news of the birth of our Savior brings with it hope and faith.
“When sorrow and sadness, sickness or hard times overtake our lives, when it seems as if darkness has triumphed over the light, we remember that the light illumined the world on this blessed day, ‘the true light which gives light to every human coming into the world,’ he said. “Let us therefore celebrate and give thanks to the Lord for his great gift, with confidence that we are not alone, for God is always with us.”
The Very Rev. Miles P. Zdinak of SS. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church, 141 Hoffman Farm Road, Windber, said the Christmas Eve service will be held at 8 p.m. Monday, and a Divine Liturgy service will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
“The theme of this year is hope, we give ourselves a sense of purpose and belonging in Christ,” he said. “It’s hard for us to deal with transgression, temptation and our own passions and Christ comes with his divine nature and gives us the hope that we are redeemed from all that deception and corruption.”
Zdinak said Christ comes and gives us a place to belong and a purpose in his kingdom.
“The hope is we can see past the illusions the world gives us that are empty and fleeting, but Christ fulfills us completely day after day and we have that stability in our lives,” he said. “That gives us a sense of hope that doesn’t disappear, it remains a constant.”
Zdinak added the season is a good time for the congregation to gather together for one purpose.
“That’s to be there for each other and to be a part of God and his kingdom – the greatest commandments are to love God and love each other,” he said. “We look back on the year and see how we’ve measured up, have we changed our focus on something else rather than loving God and loving our neighbor.”