Tier marks Orthodox Christmas today

Posted On January 7, 2007

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Churches plan services; fasts end for some > For some, Christmas comes today, when hundreds of Orthodox Christians at four Southern Tier churches celebrate the Feast of the Nativity.

Commonly known as Orthodox Christmas, the feast commemorates Jesus’ birth. The date of the Orthodox observance is set by the older Julian calendar and corresponds to December 25 on the newer Gregorian calendar, when the majority of Christians celebrate Christmas.

“It’s a good idea to pay attention to the Gospel of Luke and the message of the angel is clear: ‘Do not be afraid; I bring you good news,'” said the Rev. James S. Dutko, pastor of St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church in Binghamton. “Sometimes, we focus too much on the bad and miss the good. The message of the angel is addressed to everyone. Don’t be afraid; I bring you good news of great joy. That is found in Christ.”

Some adherents will go to Christmas services today after breaking an Advent fast that excluded meat and dairy products. Some ate a traditional Holy Night Supper after sundown Saturday that included mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, lima beans, home-baked bread, sauerkraut, fish and nuts. Some put straw under their tables to symbolize the straw in the manger where Jesus slept.

The words and prayers repeated today at some Orthodox churches have been used to observe the Nativity since the fourth century, when St. John Chrysostom, a bishop of Constantinople, wrote the liturgy, said the Rev. Zinoviy John Zharsky, pastor of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Johnson City.

“We celebrate the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Prophets prophesied about a Messiah,” Zharsky said. “This is important for us because this is the fulfillment of prophecy.”

At St. Mary Orthodox Church, where many of the church’s founding families came from the Carpathian Mountains, the observance today will include a social gathering in late-morning, as well as the traditional Nativity liturgy.

“We are on a journey like Joseph and Mary,” said the Rev. Michael Kleban, pastor. “We are on a journey though life. We wish to leave behind the things of bitterness and despair, and take the things that are the life of Christ, sacrifice, service, charity, forgiveness and love.”

According to the Association of Religion Data Archives at Pennsylvania State University, roughly 3,480 people are affiliated with the four Orthodox churches in Broome County who observe Christmas today.

These are the local Orthodox churches that will observe the Feast of the Nativity today, also known as Orthodox Christmas:
* St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 1 St. John Parkway, Johnson City: 9:30 a.m., Divine Liturgy.
* St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, 1907 Jenkins St., Endicott: 10 a.m., Divine Liturgy.
* St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church, 298 Clinton St., Binghamton: 9 a.m., Divine Liturgy; 4 p.m., Time Warner broadcast on cable channel 4.
* St. Nicholas Synodal Russian Orthodox Church, 308 N. Page Ave., Endicott: 9:30 a.m. Divine Liturgy.