Today Christ is born of the Virgin in Bethlehem. Today the eternal One has a beginning; today the Word becomes incarnate. All the heavenly powers rejoice, and all who dwell on earth are happy. The magi offer gifts to the Master; the shepherds proclaim the marvel; and we cry aloud unceasingly: Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and good will to all”   

(Aposticha from the Christmas matins)

OPEN YOURSELVES TO HOLINESS AND BLESSINGS OF RIZDVO CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR!

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Rizdvo – Christmas it seems, is turning into a sort of commercial venture and of feelings of nice sentimentalities (which are good in themselves) whilst discarding the meaning and significance of the Incarnation – Christ, our maker, our creator, God is with us.

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Contrast this with our Ukrainian tradition, our heritage.

Ukrainians have always regarded the Blessed and Holy Virgin Mary as a protectress – Pokrova, a mediator between man and God. Ukrainian princes, kings, cossacks and hetmans placed themselves under her protection as their Patron and Guardian.

In 1037 (982 years ago), князь Ярослав Мудрий – Prince Yaroslav the Wise, entrusted the whole nation to the guardianship of the Mother of God at the Church of Assumption in Kyiv, which he had built.

The Slavonic word “Pokrov” has several meanings: protection, covering, hiding place, protecting veil of the Most Holy Mother of God. With her veil – omophorion (‘something’ over the shoulder) she covers, protects, hides us from peril.

What has this to do with Rizdvo, Christmas?

Many misunderstand the title ‘Mother of God’.

Simply, it means being the ‘Bearer of God’ and giving birth – not the maker or creator of God. The Byzantine tradition makes use of the Greek term Theotokos – Bearer of God.

The Most Blessed Holy Virgin Mary bore Christ who took on human form within her body thus becoming Incarnate. So at the Christmas Great Compline we sing “God is with us understand all you nations, humble yourselves for God is with us”.

Some History Bringing Us To This Day Rizdvo, Christmas

In the letter to the Hebrews, right at the beginning of chapter one (Hb 1:1-3) we read –  “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”

We also read in Hebrews 9:1-4, “The first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence; this is called the Holy Place.

Mary, in her humility, faith, hope and love – she herself became the New Ark of the Covenant and Pokrova – Protector of whom she bore inside of her womb.

Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies. In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat.”

Mary, in her humility, faith, hope and love – she herself became the New Ark of the Covenant and Pokrova – Protector of whom she bore inside of her womb.

She became the ‘root’ that held in place within her Christ God in human form, providing protection and nurturing.

Today as Then!

She gave totally of herself, in contrast to todays ethos, “the more I give, the less I have for myself” in time, effort, community, co-operation, sharing.

Today we have an ethos “don’t tell me what to do”. It seems to reflect that of ancient Israel around 3,000 years ago which led to all manner of problems including dysfunctional communal relationships to worshipping physical objects – idols.

They worshipped what they perceived as being of worth. One could say that they ‘worth-shipped’ false god’s.

They did not worship the one and only true God.

The true God, the law of God, the root or holy tradition had been forsaken and replaced with subjectivism.

They did not worship the one and only God who created, bringing into being from nothing everything and everyone. “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him,” “we live and move and have our being.” (Eucharistic prayer & Preface VI – Roman Rite Mass).

We read in the Book of Judges (21:25) written around 550 BC “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.”

The true God, the law of God, the root or holy tradition had been forsaken and replaced with subjectivism.

This seems to be what we are seeing today in our postmodern, relativist culture of ‘there is no universal objective truth, each point of view has its own truth, don’t tell me what is good, beautiful, true’.

History shows repeatedly, that the world will act like this when people do ‘what was right in their own eyes’.

Today, this attitude has almost overwhelmed Christianity rooted in holy tradition.

The Blessed Holy Mary, the Theotokos – Bearer of God was not like this. She was the humble servant, “I am the handmaid [servant] of the Lord; let it be according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

“Let it be according to your word”, was unlike the prodigal son, “Give me, my share of the inheritance coming to me” (Luke 15:12).       Me, me, me.

Sound familiar today?

Back to History – Rizdvo, Christmas

Our Blessed Theotokos Pokrova gave, not took. She gave her body to be the Ark of the New Covernant, protecting the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

Some 3,500 years ago in the times of Moses, are some of the roots of our Christian Catholic and Orthodox Tradition, when God commanded Moses to build an Ark to exact specifications to house the Holy Words of the Covenant, an agreement, a sign of unity – commandments written on stone, explaining how that agreement of unity is recognized.

It was the word of God inscribed on stone.

Also inside the Ark built by Moses was the rod or staff of the High Priest Aaron, who was the brother of Moses.

It was not only the symbol of authority of the priesthood. Aaron’s staff or rod, was used in the freeing process of the Israelites out of captivity and to the promised land.

The third item in the Ark, was a golden urn which contained Manna – the miraculous bread that kept the Israelites alive in their wanderings in the desert for 40 years.

What changed?

As distinct to the above, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Theotokos, bore within her, the living Word, the Logos alive in flesh. She was the living pure New Ark of the Covenant.

The Holy Theotokos, the bearer of Christ God, bore in her living body

  1. the Logos, Word made flesh, (not word on stone)
  2. the High Priest Himself, the supreme authority in person, (not a priestly symbol)
  3. who is the Bread of Life (not manna of the desert).

When the Logos, the Word, the High Priest Himself, the Bread of Life is given birth and later named Jesus, it happens in Bethlehem (meaning in Hebrew ‘House of Bread’) and is placed in a manger, which is a trough in which is placed food.

Who are the first ones to be told about the birth, but the lowly shepherds. Why?

Rizdvo – Christmas is the great celebration of God becoming Incarnate, the Word born in flesh that we accept as being of great worth that we worship – the one and only true God.

Possibly because the shepherds were always the first to know of the birth of a lamb, who John the Baptist when he sees Jesus exclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God …” (John 1:36).

For nine months the Blessed Virgin Mary Theotokos within her body protected the living Word of God, the High Priest Himself, who is the life giving Manna, the Bread of Life coming from heaven, the Lamb of God.

She was not only the New Ark but also the Protector – Pokrova. She had to flee to Egypt and later settle in Nazareth to protect Christ Jesus, the Bread of Life and Lamb of God.

Mary was not the Protector of symbols, but the real presence of Christ our God, the Logos, Word made flesh, Bread of Life, the Lamb of God, whose coming into space and time we call the Incarnation is what we celebrate at Rizdvo – Christmas.

Rizdvo – Christmas is the great celebration of God becoming Incarnate, the Word born in flesh that we accept as being of great worth that we worship – the one and only true God.

“God is with us! Understand all you nations. Humble yourselves, as God is with us!”

З нами Бог розумійте народи, покоряйтеся, бо з нами Бог!

Христос РаждаєтьсяСлавім Його!   –   Christ is born! Glorify Him!

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