Today’s JAR : Christmas is a religious holiday, not a shopping season.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the Christmas shopping season and the false sense of want.  Ads and catalogues are being sent to our homes competing for attention. You probably think you need another “this” or two more of “that.”  The double page layouts can be very convincing.  Surely you know someone, anyone, who would appreciate item 4B on page 15, in multiple colors and sizes.

But this kind of thinking is exhausting, especially if you try to maintain it for 6 weeks, (which is evident by the abandoned naked pine trees and dark homes on December 26.)

Justify it as the virtue of giving all you like.  The truth is that it’s all a distraction from what really matters. Christmas is a religious holiday, not a shopping season.

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Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who created the universe, has chosen to enter into the limits of his creation.  And not as a mature man with the rights and privileges of adulthood, but as a tiny, vulnerable baby.

This is something awesome, something worthy of greater reflection than a moment of silence before you dig into a well-laid feast or rip open the boxes under the tree.

Keeping the Advent Fast is the best way to remember that Christmas is a religious holiday.

Why?  Fasting requires us to delay the celebration of Christ’s birth until Christ’s birthday.  It also allows the days preceding said celebration to be one of reflection and preparation.  If I might interject a commonly used phrase, it’s “the reason for the season.”

Don’t let the holiday activity distract you from the end prize, which is actually just the beginning.

The Advent Fast lasts November 15-December 24.  There is no fasting December 25- January 6, (except January 5 which is a strict fast day in preparation for Theophany.)

May we have a blessed fast which will prepare us for a glorious feast!

Where Is Your Faith?

Today’s JAR just a reminder

2014_08_panagia-pousiotissa-058As I think about today’s reading and the woman who washed Jesus’ feet. He told her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

But to be clear, it wasn’t that she possessed “faith” that she was saved, but what her faith inspired her to do.

Her faith led her to take action. Her faith revealed a true relationship between her and Jesus. Her faith brought her to tears of repentance.

We have to relocate faith from our head and put it in our hands, feet, and heart.

This is how we truly experience God’s love. This is how we experience peace.

The Apolytikion for Panagia tou Harou

Panagia tou Harou Apolytikion

The Apolytikion for Panagia tou Harou as translated by our dear friends, Pres. Evangelia and Fr. Nicholas March.

Your holy icon, depicting the Death of our Lord, we venerate, All-praised One; having been called upon through invocation, the lilies were observed to grow on it green and fresh after the passage of time; we praise your grace with all reverence, Virgin, crying out: Glory to your mighty works Pure One, Glory to your wonders, Glory to your care towards us, O Immaculate One.

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Panagia tou Harou

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Panagia tou Harou is an icon of the Virgin and Christ, on the island of Lipsi, Greece.  This icon depicts the Virgin Mary holding a miniature crucified Christ.

On the Apodosis (Leave-taking) of the Feast of the Dormition (August 23), which is 9 days after the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, thousands gather on the small island to witness a miracle.

The miracle comes from flowers that were offered as thanks to the Virgin Mary in the 1940s.  The local folklore tells of a woman who was praying in a little countryside chapel before the icon of Panagia tou Harou. Her prayers were answered, and in gratitude, she returned and placed a simple bouquet of lilies on the icon. These lilies were forgotten and dried on the icon.

In the following year, on Vespers of the Apodosis (Leave-taking) of the Feast of the Dormition (August 23), when they opened the little chapel once more, as it is customary to only hold services in the small chapels on their feast days, these rootless lilies blossomed and were fragrant.

Since then, this miracle occurs annually.

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