Dear brothers and sisters,
I hope that those of you sharing western Christmas with your families have a been blessed with a time of sharing and joy.
Though the festivities may last for a day or two more, it is important for us to focus on the remaining week and half of the Nativity Fast, preparing for the coming feast prayerfully and with spiritual focus.
Given it was western Christmas Eve, we expected our Sunday Liturgy to be low in attendance, but we were surprised by the number of people who made their way to Nazareth House, and we were pleased to welcome new visitors. We were relieved that Mass ended earlier than usual, allowing more time to set up the church. Thanks to all who helped with this, and we are – as always – grateful for those who played their part in the celebration of the Liturgy.
The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers reminded us that we are in the last two weeks of the Fast, and the coming weekend – with the Sunday of the Holy Fathers – will be our last before Nativity, marked by the reading of the genealogy of Christ, when we will hear the generations through which Christ came in the flesh: the generations through which God descended to humanity, and humanity was raised up to heaven.
The variables for next Sunday’s Liturgy may be found at orthodoxaustin, as usual:
Confessions will be on Thursday, so I would appreciate emails/texts/messages by 19:00 tomorrow evening to allow time to get in touch with those who would like to attend. Please remember that there are some parishioners who are unable to come for confession in the week, and really need time on Sunday.
The following weekend, our service on Christmas Eve will be at 19:00, possibly simplified due to us having limited singers, and the Christmas Day Liturgy at our usual Sunday time – starting as close to. 11:00 as possible.
Our sisters have started discussing food for Christmas trapeza, and I would direct you all to the WhatsApp group, where discussions are going on, though our senior-sister Menna can also be contacted regarding food you may wish to bring. Let’s remember that Christmas refreshments are not only the responsibility of our sisters, and that we ask all to try and make an offering in some way.
This Saturday will bring the joy of Stephen’s baptism at 13:00, at the Old Church Hall in St Nicholas.
Anyone wishing to attend should contact me or Menna, so that we know that you are coming, and give directions, if needed We greatly look forward to this and welcoming Stephen to the Holy Mysteries on Sunday morning. Glory to God for all things!
Struggle on during the remaining days of the Fast, and if things have previously not gone according to plan, shake off the dust and pick yourselves up. If you’ve not prayed much, then start NOW. If you’ve neglected the Fast, them start NOW, even at the eleventh hour – remembering the encouraging words in St John Chrysostom’s wonderful homily that we hear at Pascha.
It applies equally to the coming feast, and to the whole of our Christian lives!
“For the Master is generous and accepts the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour in the same was as him who has laboured from the first. He accepts the deed, and commends the intention. Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord. First and last, receive alike your reward.”
Let us spiritually make our way to Bethlehem, to contemplate the wonder of Love-Incarnate: Emmanuel – God With Us.
May God bless you all.
In Christ – Hieromonk Mark