The great and bright holiday of the Nativity of Christ is approaching, on the eve of which we fast, pray and in every possible way prepare for a worthy meeting. In our time, it becomes more difficult for a Christian to set himself up for the attentive experience of this holiday. All the blame for New Year's fuss, unrestrained "shopping" and thoughts about where and how to celebrate a civilian new year. How among all this tinsel not to lose the acquired for the post and in the maximum fullness to experience the joy of the Nativity of Christ? We asked for the advice of the priests Andrei Rakhnovsky, Dimitriy Berezin, Dimitry Sizov, Antony Skrynnikov, Oleg Melnichuk and Pavel Gumerov.
"God took upon Himself a human nature,
to lead us out of the bondage of sin,
and we celebrate the next round of the Earth around the Sun "
Priest Dimitry Berezin, the rector of the Kazan temple of the village of Molokovo in the Moscow region, the secretary of the missionary department of the Moscow diocese, the head of the magazine for popes "Batya," the father of four children:
- The end of the calendar year is associated with a lot of emotions: it is necessary to urgently have time to finish all the affairs, plan the rest, buy all the gifts, stock up on food and drinks, decorate the Christmas tree, visit corporate parties, decide who to visit, where to celebrate the New Year, etc. , other.
When already here to think about the Nativity of Christ!
But if we still decide to drop all the tinsel from ourselves and think about what "upcoming holidays" we congratulate each other, then first we should pay attention to how incomparable the scope of these holidays is with preparations for them. We mark the next round of the Earth around the Sun, forgetting that God, Who created our world, came to people to become One of us, without ceasing to be God. To accept the human nature and bring all people out of the bondage of sin.
Do not be like a traveler who, making his journey, sees only a hillock in front of him and does not pay attention to the highest mountain behind him. It is unlikely, tuned to climb the hill, he will be able to conquer and the top of the mountain. The navigator, going on a long voyage, it is necessary to be ready to swim not the bay in which there is a ship, but the ocean stretching beyond this bay. So we, preparing for the holidays, must first prepare spiritually for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. And the New Year will not go anywhere.
The Christmas post makes us more attentive to the Christmas holiday. Fasting is a period when we devote more time to the spiritual content of our lives: we often read spiritual books, attend worship services, confess and receive communion.
Place of Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, Bethlehem
Divine services during the Christmas Lent and in themselves prepare us for the holiday: Christmas carols are increasingly beginning to sound on the services. And in the temples there are active preparations: general cleaning is carried out, Christmas darts are being built somewhere, and children and adults are learning Christmas carols for Christmas performances.
The first days of January are the memory of famous and revered saints: the martyr of Bonifatius, the Monk Elijah of Murom, the righteous John of Kronstadt, St. Peter of Moscow, Great Martyr Anastasius the Usobelitelnitsa and many others. These days it is difficult for a believer to refer to work, fatigue, business, etc., which usually hinders being in the temple. We must use the moment, saturated with spiritual joy.
This time also it is necessary and it is important to devote to the family: after a temple together to drive on skis, descend on a skating rink or a hill. You can make small trips. Now children are fed up with numerous representations, New Year trees and other entertainments. It is better to fill their time with more useful, but not less interesting pursuits. At Christmas, it's good to get together with a big family: grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. Well, if there is such a tradition.
Personally, I will basically be in the temple - to serve and prepare for Christmas. But I think that there will be time that I will spend with my family. From planned events 3 January I'm going to participate in the family rally "Batya-2014". This is an annual rally for family crews, conducted by the magazine for popes "Batya" and the youth center "Crane". We participated in this rally last year and now look forward to this day. By the way, if you hurry, you can still have time to apply on the site of the magazine.
And on the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, towards evening, we are going to a big family with my grandmother, where we congratulate each other. Usually a 30-40 person of all ages comes.
"Vanity does not begin around me, but in me, in my heart"
Priest Dimitry Sizov, rector of St. Nicholas Church in the village of Kryash-Serda of Pestrechinsky district of Tatarstan, editor of the Internet portal "Kryashenskaya spiritual mission":
Priest Dimitry Sizov
- It is difficult for me to advise people who live in megacities, who have families and numerous everyday concerns. Unlike them, I'm free of this. But vanity does not begin around me, but in me, in my heart. Through thoughts, through wandering the mind to and fro, through excessive mnogopopuchitelnost I myself create a fuss, and the world around me in this only helps. The only cure for a Christian from this misfortune is unceasing prayer. It removes thoughts and collects the mind from wandering, plunging it over time into the heart, where a person finds a relative peace for earthly rest, finding Christ there. Without incessant prayer, any external peace, even a desert, will not be a place for man to get rid of fuss. Christian sobriety in one of its aspects is a removal from all senses, from their experiences, from immersion in them.
The best occupation for a Christian during the New Year and Christmas holidays, I think, will be trips to relatives and friends, walking in the fresh air and reading. I think that you can do anything, the main thing is not to commit a sin and not be idle.
"The Church celebrates the New Year,
but experiences it quite differently: in fasting and thanks to the Lord "
Archpriest Andrei Rakhnovsky, cleric of St. Seraphim of Sarov church in Raev (Moscow):
- First of all, I want to note that the Church does not deny the celebration of the New Year. Earlier it was celebrated 1 September - it was a secular date, which the Church consecrated with its prayer, making it the beginning of the church year. Today the New Year is celebrated on 1 January, and this church also sanctifies this date. On the eve in the churches, thanksgiving services are held, where we thank God for the past year and ask for the blessings for the coming year.
It must be said that the Church celebrates the New Year, but experiences it quite differently: in fasting and gratitude to the Lord. This is also a joy, but it is different - spiritual. It seems to me that the New Year for a Christian is a family holiday. On this day, you should definitely not go to the club. Moreover, on 1 January the Orthodox Church recalls the holy martyr Vonifatii, who is prayed for getting rid of drunkenness. But for some reason it is on this day that our compatriots somehow "do not honor" the memory of a saint who overcame the ailment of drunkenness and debauchery.
Long Christmas holidays, I would advise to hold in preparation for the Nativity of Christ, to gladly meet this holiday. Once again, carefully read the Gospel narrations telling about the Savior's Nativity. And then, after some time, open the texts of Holy Scripture with the interpretations of the holy fathers, in order to better understand what was read.
If the family has children, they can go somewhere to rest, skate or sled, go to the city center and enjoy the New Year tree. It seems to me that we were lucky to have such a long New Year holidays, which really help to get distracted from work and meet Christmas.
"The main thing in Christmas is not a feast with gifts,
but the Divine Services and the Eucharist "
Priest Anthony Skrynnikov, the chief editor of the official site of the Stavropol Metropolis, the senior lecturer of the Department of History and Law of the Stavropol State Pedagogical Institute:
- Christmas is one of the most beloved holidays, which has firmly entered the life of mankind. For more than 2000 years, millions of people, if not billions of people of different nationalities, social status, sex and age, have been marking it for more than XNUMX years.
Christmas is an amazing holiday. We, the children of the Russian Church, celebrate this event on 7 January (BC), and, for example, the Greek Church - 25 December (BC). What does it say? First of all, the fact that not a literalism is important to Christians, but a miracle. It is important that we experience this joy by letting the holiday into our soul.
Unfortunately, life shows that associations associated with this holiday can be multi-polar. For Europe and the United States, which are largely Christianized, they are often discounts and sales. For people of unbelievers - beautiful fir and New Year, for schoolchildren and students - vacations.
And only for people believing, for Christians, Christmas is not just one of the weeks of festive days, but first of all the birth of faith. In the distant I century not in noble chambers, but in a pen for cattle was born the Infant. And today an interesting comparison comes to mind. According to the eastern legend, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) was born into a royal family, Muhammad is a noble merchant family, and only Christ comes to the world as a stranger.
The Feast of the Nativity is an act of Incarnation, when "The Deity Himself came into human nature, so that this nature would rush to all the saints," says Saint Ephraim the Syrian.
In any other religion, God is something distant, transcendent, it is often punishing and severely asking a human being. And only Christians say, they believe and know that the Creator of the universe Himself has become like a human being. God communicated with people, preached, shared food and shelter with them, chose disciples to bring His good news to every heart. And now every person, even the most miserable, poor and sick, can turn to the Creator of the universe for "you", hoping to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Coming Christmas. And everyone thinks how to spend it with benefit for the soul, so that this holiday will leave something good in the heart.
The most important thing in Christmas is not the "Soviet feast" with olive and champagne, not the gift of numerous gifts, but the Divine service and the Eucharist. Only there, in the temple, on this bright night you can feel physically how the space around us changes, as the boundaries of time move apart.
We live at a time when there are no persecution and bans, when no one is happy with the party meetings with the analysis of the behavior of those who celebrated Christmas, when lists of "seen" at the Christmas service are not drawn up. But the holiday of the Nativity of Christ will pass by the soul and mind of a huge number of baptized people, without affecting their daily existence. And yet, quite recently, in the last century, believers gave their lives for the right to rejoice in Christmas. For example, 80-year-old Poltava priest Nicodemus, exiled to Solovki, died in a penal prison because he served in the barracks for Christmas.
The best answer to the question "How to celebrate?" Is given by St. Ephraim the Syrian: "This night delivers the peace and silence of the universe. This night belongs to the Meek, so let everyone put off anger and sternness, let everyone restrain his pride and humble his arrogance. Now the day of mercy has dawned, but no one pursues the revenge of the offense inflicted on him; the day of joy has come, but no one will have the wine of sorrow and sorrow for another. This is a day of goodwill, let every kindness remain; this is a cloudless and clear day, but anger, a disturber of peace and tranquility, will be restrained; this is the day on which God descended to sinners, let the righteous be ashamed to be exalted before a sinner ... "
"A Christian must be a participant in every event,
committed in the earthly life of Jesus Christ "
Archpriest Oleg Melnichuk, the rector of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kiev, the Chairman of the Kyiv Diocesan Department for Family Affairs, the representative of the UOC under the President's Authorized Representative for Children
Archpriest Oleg Melnichuk
A Christian should be a participant in every event committed in the earthly life of Jesus Christ, especially his birth. Communicate to the Nativity of Christ and to confront the challenges of the modern world can be through thinking about the Feast, its role in our life, including domestic life, through participation in the Sacraments and reading of the patristic texts dedicated to this event.
A great feast is accompanied by fasting. Fasting is abstinence. Fasting is a compass that indicates the desired vector of movement to the Christian. A sin - always moving past the goal. Past the holiday. Past God. Vanity, unrestrained "shopping", table "delight" - all this past fasting, past the Nativity of Christ.
"The New Year will never replace the joy of Christmas"
Priest Pavel Gumerov, a clergyman of the church of St. Nicholas at the Rogozhsky cemetery in Moscow, the author of many books and articles on family life and the upbringing of children:
Priest Pavel Gumerov
- We are preparing a post for any great Orthodox holiday. And to meet Christmas with dignity, you need to really well prepare for this. What can we bring to God as a gift? Only our broken heart, abstinence, peace in the soul and with neighbors. Fasting is not only abstinence from food, but also entertainment. But in the period of the Nativity Fast, sometimes it is very difficult for a person who has relatives who are far from the Church. They are bustling around, preparing for the New Year's feast, running to the shops in search of gifts and forget about the most important thing - about the soul. How, among all this pre-New Year's hype, the Christian will not be lost? How not to offend relatives and not break fast? I do not have a clear answer to this question, but I believe that you can always find the "golden mean". It is not necessary to plan a grand feast on New Year's Eve, you can quietly meet the New Year with your family, having gone before the New Year's service. Personally, I and my family almost always celebrate the New Year, if it does not happen on the day when you need to observe a strict fast. And I do not see anything wrong with it, because the New Year will never replace the joy of Christmas.
If your relatives still cherish this holiday, dear memories of him from Soviet times, then, of course, do not upset them. You can sit with them modestly at the table, remember what was good in the outgoing year, and thank God for the coming year.
But corporate parties are better to refuse. Optina elder Varsonofy told me that when he was young, when his comrades invited him to a noisy collective celebration, he always gave money, so that he would not be considered a stingy person, and under some pretext he deviated from the celebration.
When we celebrate the New Year with unchurched relatives, we do this not to enjoy, but out of love for them, condescending to their infirmity. For the Lord said: "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." Sometimes we push people away from the Church by their wrong behavior.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: V. Oseledko / AFP
The problem is not whether to meet or not to celebrate the New Year, but how to celebrate it. It is not necessary to break the fast. You can just warn in advance that you have prepared a couple of lean dishes. A good, friendly atmosphere is created not by food and drink, but by our mood. I often had to participate in feasts, where, for various reasons, I ate almost nothing and did not drink alcohol (for example, I was behind the wheel), but it did not stop me from communicating with loved ones, rejoice and give joy to them.
I became convinced that people are more attracted to the Church than any sermons or beliefs that God exists and one should go to the temple, but the human attitude towards them. When people feel Christian love, when they see that a Christian is different for the better. For example, in family life you always need to look for a compromise. If you succumb to your wife or your husband, you will sit with him (with her) at the New Year's table, then your half with you next time, maybe, goes to church for Christmas.
Orthodox, ecclesiastical people and their churched relatives, of course, do not have to celebrate the New Year - this is not a church holiday. But I see no sin in modestly meeting him for a fast meal with the family. For a modern man who is less and less communicating with his family, this will be an extra reason to stay with his family.
It is especially good in the first days after the New Year. On the streets and tracks an unusual lull, free time for most people, as a rule, a lot. Us, Muscovites, such luck falls only once a year, when you can relax from the bustle, endless traffic jams and crush in public transport. And this is a very gracious opportunity in peace and tranquility to meet a real holiday - the Nativity of Our Lord.
Temple of St. Demetrius Prilutsky on Navoloka. Photo: Archbishop Maximilian of Vologda and Veliky Ustyug