So there are 4 Dates for Christmas? I just want to know which one Jesus was born on.

Throughout my ministry as a priest, many have asked the question; “If Jesus was born on December 25th, then why do we celebrate on January 6th?”

For some, today, the date is December 25th, others January 7th, others January 6th and again for others January 19th. So, are there 4 dates for the celebration of Christmas? What gives?

The answer to this question is not as plain nor as obvious as one might at rst presume. Yes, while it’s true that we really don’t know when exactly Jesus was born, the fact remains that He was born, although God’s self-revelation in human history makes the actual date of this glorious celebration moot and quite actually besides the point. In fact, during the very early years of the Christian church His birthday was not celebrated at all!! Many early church fathers omit it entirely from their lists of feasts.

Without going into the history of all the pagan window dressing associated with the modern yuletide season, the true celebrations, according to the ancient tradition of the church, was a culmination of events related to God’s Incarnation. This was not called “Christmas” but rather Theophany which means “revelation of God,” and was universally celebrated on January 6th by all Christendom, hi-lighted by the remembrance of Jesus’ Baptism. Although, ironically today, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, it wasn’t until later that the Nativity was incorporated into the January 6th celebrations of the Theophany.

The question about dates must be answered in 2 parts. There are actually only 2 dates for the observance of Jesus’ birth and not 4. They are December 25th and January 6th. The confusion of the other 2 dates, January 7th and 18th are due to the use of two calendars, the Gregorian and the Julian. While most of the known world, such as Canada, is on the Gregorian calendar (named after Pope Gregory of Rome), some Orthodox Christians maintain their liturgical calendars according to the ancient Julian calendar. Thus, the January 7th date actually corresponds with December 25th on the “old” Julian Calendar while January 19th corresponds to January 6th on the Gregorian calendar. Those who observe January 7th which is actually December 25th on the Julian calendar are referred to as “old calendarists.” Despite the calendar usage, all these churches observe the Epiphany or the Baptism of Jesus twelve days following the Nativity.

Secondly, the Armenians, who observe the Gregorian calendar except in Jerusalem, maintain to this day the ancient date of January 6th as the dual celebration of Jesus’ birth and baptism, where all the major events related to the Theophany are recalled, from the revelation of Jesus as the “Son of Man” the Incarnate Word, to His revelation as the “Son of God” the Prince of Peace and the King of Heaven. Therefore, this celebration includes everything from the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, the visitation of the Magi who came to “witness” Him as the Divine Revelation, the infancy narrative…His naming, His presentation in the temple, His circumcision and nally the Epiphany or His Baptism in the River Jordan whereby His formal ministry of redemption was inaugurated by the opening of the heavens, the descent of God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Voice of God the Father proclaiming that “This is my beloved Son.” The dual Theophany/Epiphany was celebrated on January 6th until the 5th century when the Council of Chalcedon (451 ad) formally declared December 25th as the date for the celebration of “Christmas” separating the Nativity from the Baptism of Christ by the “12 days of Christmas” remembered today in the popular Carol.

Although there are many compelling theories as to the reason for moving the celebration of the Nativity to December 25th, suf ce to say that it is generally believed that the date was changed in order to override and subdue pagan feasts and practices dedicated to The Winter Solstice, because at the time Christians also used to continue their observance of these pagan festivities. The pagans called this celebration Saturnalia, in honor of their god Saturn, a festival lasting from the 17th to the 25th of December culminating with the “Birth of the Unconquerable Sun,” as the days began to lengthen, because among pagans it was generally believed that the sun who dies during the winter solstice rises from death thereafter. Since the date of the Epiphany or Baptism was more ancient, and was of primary importance as a liturgical feast, it was not possible to move it while the secondary and later addition of the nativity could be moved without great offense.

Armenia however, whose Christianity is of ancient Apostolic origins, did not adopt this change for the simple fact that there were no such pagan practices left in Armenia in the 5th century allowing them to remain faithful to the traditions of their forefathers. To this day, Armenians have continued to celebrate the Nativity on January 6th along with the Epiphany which is crowned, as with other Orthodox Church’s, in the observance of Christ’s Baptism, with a glorious “Blessing of the Waters” in whose climax a Cross is plunged into the water as a sign of God’s Saving mystery in Christ’s life from Womb to Tomb. The blessed water is offered

to all as a sign of God’s manifestation in the glorious waters of the Jordan from which the Savior was revealed and it becomes possible for humanity to be born again to new life.

Prayerfully,
Fr. Shnork Souin

Now Trending: Research Shows that The Celebration of Christmas has Healing Properties!

Luke 4:14-20
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1-2) 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Your anointing oil is consolation.
From the lamentations of St. Gregory of Narek

Once again, most Americans are going to miss Christmas. Oh, they won’t realize it and they won’t think that they’re missing it. They’ll attend their holiday parties, put on their ugly holiday sweaters, holiday nog, decorate their houses, and some may even sing carols, and exchange the mandatory gifts, but assuredly most Americans will miss Christmas.
As our society grows more secular and engineered in such a way that renders it more generic, neutral and ostensibly anti-christian, Christmas is being unseated and replaced by a more politically palatable winter holiday. Today, Christians are often even made to feel self-conscious about public displays of faith and any exchange of Christian cheer and good will is considered insensitive to unbelievers. The religion of faith, rebirth, and new life devoid of Christ, is replaced by consumerism with the value we place in people measured by the value of what we are willing to spend.
Last year, on September 27th, in the remote town of Etchmiadzin Armenia, the Armenian Church led by Her Catholicos, HH KAREKIN II, consecrated the Holy Anointing Oil. As this batch was blessed in the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, HH proclaimed the chrism, the Victory Muron. As this event culminated, I thought to myself, what can this possibly mean to anyone outside the Orthodox Christian faith? This simple tincture of oil mixed with the previous batch and prepared with over 40 flowers and herbs, and many prayers, becomes the sacred means by which the power of God’s Spirit has illuminated Christians, and vessels from the time of the apostles, becoming conduits of God’s grace.
The oil has always been associated not only with consecration, but with healing and with knowledge. The evangelists invited the infirm to “call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord,” (Mark 6:13) with a promise that anointed with this oil are “cast out many demons and (anointed with oil) many who were sick (were/and) healed. (1 John 2:20)
The oil does not stand alone but is activated by the energy of the Holy Spirit. On January 6th, in celebration of the Lord’s baptism, the water will be blessed and endowed with the chrism of holiness. Its constant yearly reminder of the revelation of God’s anointed one, the messiah who assumed human flesh and thereby seals the offspring of His holy church with the same all holy oil. We are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and the seal of God’s Spirit dwells in us by means of this Victorious Chrism.
While, the days in which we are living are darkened by terrorism, uncertainty, hatred and intolerance, our faith is restored in the manifestation of Christ in His promise, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” (Joel 2:28)
As children of the Armenian Church we are blessed to have so rich a tradition that brings us into a wonderful and proper relationship with Christ every Christmas. The celebration highlighted by the Blessing of the Water with the Holy Chrism, brings us back into a right relationship with Christ, it helps us and enlightens us.
This expression of wonder each year, at the font of Christ’s Baptism, where the Cross is plunged into the water, reminding us of how sin is stalled up in salvation by the Creator’s Incarnation, invokes the same wonder with which the hearers of Christ’s sermon were moved by ancient words which came alive in their presence and by their hearing.
In this season of the celebration of Christ’s birth and revelation, we relive once again His messianic self proclamation, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1-11)
This must have been some great and welcome news. It was for them and it is today! The Israelites were living in a protector state under the rule and dominance of the Roman Empire. To a large extent their freedom was restricted and they yearned for a new day to live and worship freely before God. The prophecy of Isaiah where the Messiah would “proclaim good news to the poor” could not come to soon.
Once again, as we live in a time fraught with danger and uncertainty, having lost our trust in our governments’ ability to ensure our safety, we find reasons to blame our problems on their failed policies while at all the same time enduring the bolder attacks on our own lands on on our soil. While this doesn’t parallel what was going on in Israel, we are nevertheless a people in need of some good news.
The problems of the world in which we live should not however mask the greater problem which is our slow but sure estrangement from God and the descent into sin.
Beloved in Christ, there are those today who as we speak feel as though they “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” (Psalm 23:1-6) Are they afraid? Certainly, but armed with their faith, they know that the Lord is with them and that He is their Shepherd, He leads them by still waters and will restore their soul with the promise of Resurrection. They are faithful even in a new age of martyrdom, yet they are anointed with the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ. This is the true consolation of which St. Gregory of Narek speaks when he says, “Ko yughit odsumu usposank e – Your anointing oil is consolation.”
Our consolation is not a feeling, it is not wishful thinking, it is embodied personally. It is Christ! No one, either from the past or in the present, can personally embody the fulfillment of such a great prophecy and word of comfort and consolation. Only the Lord Jesus, the anointed One of God can unconditionally proclaim the good news, because He is the on whom rests the Spirit of the Lord, who has been sent by His Father, the One who was not only plunged into the waters of baptism at Theophany, but plunged into the belly of the Earth at Golgotha. It is Christ, the anointed One, who began His earthly ministry, anointed and empowered with the Holy Spirit, the One with whom we have fellowship, in baptism, who trampled death under foot and rose again on the third day.
Apart from the Holy Spirit, the “religion” of Christianity is just the same as any other religion It has its laws, its rules, its teachings and traditions, but apart from the Holy Spirit alive and inspiring believers with faith, hope and love it is useless, devoid of life and meaning. “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him,”(1 John 2:27) says the Apostle John. Consolation is derived not in the rules, but in the power of the Christ’s Spirit which abides in us by virtue of the seal of the Holy Chrism of Victory! A power reinvigorated in the forgiveness of sins, in the reception of the Holy Eucharist and in the communion of the saints in the sacred assembly of believers sharing in the common things in Christ’s true and mystical Presence. Let’s not miss our consolation at Christmas this year. We are anointed and consoled with the Holy Spirit, Christ is born and revealed, Amen.
Christ is Born and Revealed, Blessed is the Revelation of Christ.

Word of the Father, Now in Flesh Appearing

vigrinmarychristflyerAs I get older, as I confessed to one of our young acolytes just the other day, I get lazier and count on my experience, choosing the path of least resistance. I find myself doing this in my personal life, in my prayer life, professionally,  as a parent and as a husband. Thankfully, I often take pause, especially in moments of clarity while at prayer or during periods of solitude and reflection. I offer words of contrition and ask for God’s forgiveness and the gift of a willing heart and the desire to excel by His grace and to His glory.

Of course I know and am convinced that God is a loving and forgiving God and that, if I confess my sins, He is not only able, but faithful to forgive my sin (1 John 1:9) in order to reset me and place me on the wholesome path. Yes, God “is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but that all should reach repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9) and desires “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4). The remaining question is however, can “simple” forgiveness be enough? What does forgiveness do ultimately? Of course it puts me in proper stead before God but what does it change in me? The word repentance in Greek is metanoia, a change of mind and in Armenian abashxarutiun or a reorientation from the way of the world, darkness to light, sin to righteousness, from a path of desolation and despair to a road that leads to the springs of eternal life.

This sounds pretty awesome and if true amazing, speaking to the power vested in the church to absolve sin, however, a problem, as a direct result of the very nature of God, in whom there is no falsehood, still remains.

From the time of Adam, where by his disobedience transmitted to all the generations of the children of man, the “law of death” came into the created order. According to the command and promise of God, who created man in the beginning, death not only holds a grip on us, but has since the Fall led us to greater destruction with the work of God seemingly being undone. Even if sins are forgiven , God who must be eternally true to Himself does not eliminate death which would mean that He went back on his Word, where He announces “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17) Therefore, death still remains. If death did not continue to hold dominion over man God’s word would be false. Ours is not merely a case of sin, trespassing against God’s commandments, but in so doing receiving an inheritance of corruption from which there is no return, an ailment so sinister that it infects both body and soul eventually and always unto death.

The only antidote for death therefore in the infinite and profound omnipotent, divine omniscience was the very death of God Himself.

The question is, how can Holy, Mighty and Immortal God die?

St. Athanasius (4th ca) in his Treatise de Incarnatione Verbi Dei, treats this divine paradox with grace, virtue and insight into the mind of God and the truth of the Holy Scriptures. Understanding that repentance cannot recall a man from his very nature, God applies His nature to the existence of His own creation by which, not the question of What is required, but Who? St. Athanasius says, ” Who (emph.mine), save the Word of God Himself, Who also in the beginning had made all things out of nothing? His part it was , and His alone, both to bring again the corruptible to incorruption and to maintain for the Father His consistency of character with all. For He alone being Word of the Father and above all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father.” (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, SVP, NY, 1982, p.33.)

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, it is vital that I bring to mind and to the mind of our faithful, that the celebration of the Birth of God is tempered by the knowledge that God was born in order to die, that all who were and are dying may through Him be  made alive, recalling the words of the hymn of Vesting, “Through the sufferings of Thine only Begotten Thou hast received all creatures, and again hast made man immortal, adorning him with a garment no more to be divested.” (Khorhoort Khorin, Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Orthodox Church, 3rd stanza).

Christ is Born and Revealed, blessed is the Revelation of Christ.

Fr. Shnork Souin ~ 12.6.2016~Providence, RI