Thursday, January 3, 2008

Prefestive time of Christmas - some liturgical particulars

As those of us Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian Calendar prepare for the Feast of the Nativity (Jan. 7), I take this chance to remind everyone that we are in these solemn days of "pre-festivity."

Christmas Eve is normally a day of strict fasting. Meat, dairy products, fish, oil and wine are traditionally prohibited. Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, the day of "strict fast" is observed on the previous Friday, which is tomorrow. This occurs because neither Saturday or Sunday are ever kept as "strict fast" days in the church ustav (liturgical guidebook).

In addition, the usual Christmas Eve service known as the "royal hours" is also celebrated on this Friday, since their association is with the day of fasting. Likewise, instead of celebrating the Liturgy of St. Basil together with Vespers on the Eve of Christmas, this year Vespers are celebrated alone on the evening of January 6, followed by Great Compline with Litiya. The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, in these instances, becomes the principal liturgy of the Nativity day.

Since this is easily overlooked, I thought I would mention it in today's entry. May we all enjoy a spiritual preparation for the observance of Our Lord's birth.

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