December 2003

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Fr. Antony PortraitThe Orthodox services and hymns for the Nativity of our Lord are incomparable, deeply mystical, gems of liturgical worship and theological reflection. It is only right that we commemorate the birth of the Son of God with special reverence and solemnity. What kind of parish would we be if we ignored the majesty of Christmas?

Our tradition calls for a full compliment of liturgical services on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. They are supposed to stretch throughout the day beginning in the morning of Christmas Eve (the paramon of the Feast0 and extending past midnight into the early hours of Christmas Day just like at Holy Pascha. At St. Mary's we chant all the services for which are called. The only compromise we have made is to move the Divine Liturgy from midnight to eight o'clock which is the earliest feasible hour given the length and demands of the earlier services.

If we neglect Christmas we dishonor our Lord and hobble our faith crippling our witness to the world and robbing our souls of the Word of Life. I cannot imagine a sadder sight than our Church dark and closed on Christmas Even when the nave should be full and the air resplendent with the sounds of joyous chant as we welcome the Birth of God.

I believe that we have compromised our faith with regard to Christmas and we must do all we can to remedy the situation. It is tragic that so many have relegated Christ to a minor role in this Holy Season. When family holiday traditions once centered around Church services now for many they do not include them at all! Under the circumstances the antidote is to work to conform our holiday observances to the Church not to ask the Church to conform even more to our own.

He that loveth father and mother more than Me
is not worthy of Me. (St. Matthew 10:37)

With the deepest love I greet you all as we approach the Great Feast. May God bless us every one.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Antony Hughes