Monday, 28 December 2009

Feasts celebrated on January 1st

This year we are celebrating a Liturgy
of St Basil on 1st January – the feast of
the Circumcision of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ and the day on
which St Basil the Great is also
In submitting to the Law of
Circumcision, Our Lord signifies that He
is the fullness and the completion of
the Old Covenant. St. Paul says, in the
Epistle read on the Feast: For in [Jesus]
the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily
and you have come to fullness of life in
Him, Who is the head of all rule and
authority. In Him also you were
circumcised with a circumcision made
without hands, by putting off the body
of flesh in the circumcision of Christ.

The Church Fathers explain that the Lord, the Creator of the Law, underwent
circumcision in order to give people an example of how faithfully the divine
ordinances ought to be fulfilled. The Lord was circumcised so that later no one
would doubt that he had truly assumed human flesh, and that his
Incarnation was not merely an illusion, as certain heretics taught.
Additionally, he received the name Jesus (Saviour) on this day. These two
events, the Lord's Circumcision and Naming, remind Christians that they have
entered into a New Covenant with God.

Our father among the saints Basil the Great is shown in the icon on the front
page above the icon of the Circumcision
Basil the Great (c330 - January 1, 379), was bishop of Caesarea, a leading
churchman in the 4th century. The Church considers him a saint and one of
the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Saints Gregory the Theologian (Gregory
Nazianzus) and John Chrysostom.
Basil, Gregory the Theologian, and Basil's brother Saint Gregory of Nyssa are
called the Cappadocian Fathers. The Roman Catholic Church also considers him
a saint and calls him a Doctor of the Church.

Basil's memory is celebrated on January 1; he is also remembered on January
30 with the Three Holy Hierarchs. In Greek tradition, he is supposed to visit
children and give presents every January 1. This festival is also marked by the
baking of Saint Basil's bread (Vasilópita), a sweetbread with a coin hidden

He should not be confused with Saint Basil the Blessed, Fool-for-Christ, a
Russian saint, after whom St. Basil's Cathedral, on Red Square in Moscow, is

Great Lent and Memorials

The fasting period leading to Great Week and Holy Pascha will soon be upon us.
It begins on Monday 15th February.
One of the characteristics of the period is the provision of “Memorial Saturdays”.
Sat 6th February is the first one.
Saturday is the right day to remember the anniversaries of our departed loved ones.
Sunday is the day of Resurrection and should not be used for Memorials. I have
tried to encourage the use of Saturdays for Memorials so that we do not detract
from the joyful, triumphal celebration of the Resurrection of our Saviour.
So stick to Saturdays for Memorials please. We have a beautiful little church,
let’s be in it as often as we can, not just a quick visit on Sundays.
Our Church Calendar provides many occasions when we are asked to
face up to the fact of death, and at this time of year there are "Saturdays
of the Souls
". We pray for the dead especially on Saturdays because it was
on the Sabbath day (Saturday) that Christ lay dead in the tomb, "resting
from all His works and trampling down death by death".

Praying for the dead is an expression of love. We ask God to remember our
departed loved ones because we love them. The relationship of love
survives, and even transcends, death. There is an inner need to continue to
express our relationship with a loved one even after death. Often even more
so after a loved one has died since physical communication is no longer
possible. The Church encourages us to express our love for our departed
brethren through memorial services and prayers.

The Orthodox Church prays for the dead to express her faith that all who
have fallen asleep in the Lord, live in the Lord; their lives are "hidden with
Christ in God" (COL.3:3). Whether on earth or in heaven, the Church is one
family, one body in Christ. Death changes the location but it cannot sever the
bond of love.

Just as we pray for the dead, so we believe they continue to love us,
remember us and pray for us now that they are closer to God. Death can only
be properly understood in the light of Christ's Resurrection from the dead.