From the desk of Fr. Andrew

December 2018

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The following Katavasia is the first hymn chanted during the Orthros/Matins for the feast day known as the Presentation of the Theotokos, which is celebrated each year on November 21st.

Christ is born; therefore, glorify. Christ is come from heaven; encounter Him. Christ is on earth; arise to Him. Sing to the Lord , all you who dwell on the earth; and in merry spirits, O you peoples, praise His birth for He is glorified.

The Katavasies are a set or body of seasonal doctrinal texts put to music. That season can last a week, or in this case, several weeks. As I said above, we will begin to chant the Christmas Katavasia on November 21st until the celebration of Christmas. We will then begin to chant the Katavasia for Epiphany and so on with each approaching feast day; the Church will chant its respective Katavasia. The Katavasia basically consists of eight short hymns, again, chanted during the Orthros/Matins services of the Church.

Also, as stated above, the Katavasia are doctrinal in nature. They speak about the unchanging truths of God, in this case, the truths surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. The truth about the birth of Christ is that it is an ever present reality. It takes place today not sometime in the past: Christ is born and our response to this great gift is for us who believe to offer glory toward God. Christ is come from heaven and we are called to encounter Him. Christ is on earth and we are called to arise to Him. We are called to joyfully sing and praise the Lord for He has been glorified.

There are many ways to offer glory to God. There are many ways to encounter God. There are many ways to arise to God. There are many ways to offer up praise and song to God. The one constant for us as Orthodox Christians is to at least be present for the Divine Services of the Church, especially during the Major feast day periods of the Church, i.e. Christmas.

The Church, you and I, prepares herself in her attempt to glorify, encounter, arise, and praise God with a forty day fast commencing on November 15thg until the celebration of Christmas Divine Liturgy. The Christmas Fast in unlike the Great Fast (in preparation for Pascha) in that it is not penitential in nature. In both cases however, preparation and participation is required from us if we are to experience the ever present reality of Christ's glorious Incarnation/Birth.

Many times I have heard people say, as I am sure you have too, I don't get anything out of going to Church. Orthodoxy requires the faithful to be active and not passive. We are called to do something and preparation is the key to encounter Jesus Christ on a regular basis. How many of you had even heard of the Katavasia and the spiritual truths they relate before reading this piece? And yet, at every Orthros service they are chanted offering us divine illumination and spiritual nourishment.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ please know that I am sensitive toward those who truly have good reason for not being present for Orthros and/or the other divine services of the Church. Only you and you alone know your intent and desire with regard to your attendance and spiritual growth. I am just trying to remind you about the beautiful hymnology the Church has available for worship, illumination, and growth. Most of the hymns of the Church, including the Katavasia, are taken from the pages of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. These biblical truths are put to music for our spiritual edification. But all this requires more preparation from us. We must know a little bit about Scripture in order to put all the pieces together. So, I encourage you and/or your family to cultivate and grow in your Orthodox faith through reading the Bible and other spiritual books and through constant preparation including personal and communal prayer. It is also my prayer that you will all continue to make a concerted effort to be present for the divine services of the Church; preparing to encounter Jesus Christ on a regular basis - and the faithful said - Amen!

END NOTE: The divine services for the Nativity of our Lord and Savior will begin at 6:30pm on Christmas Eve evening, Monday, December 24th. The Orthros will start at 6:30pm followed by the Doxology and Divine Liturgy.

God's continued blessing, +Fr. Andrew