December 26, 2013

On the Occasion of the Feasts of the Twelve Days of Christmas

By Protopresbyter Fr. Thomas Bambinis

The festive Twelve Days which begin with the feast of Christmas and ends with Theophany, or the Feast of Lights, shows us the greatness of the Christian Faith and indeed of Orthodoxy. These feasts are really celebrated only when they are associated with the life of the Church, because outside of the Church no one can understand their true meaning. They remain on the surface, with fickle emotions, and they ignore the salvific depth from which derives the existence and life of the Church of Christ.

The Incarnation of God - the Capital of Feasts - is a "strange mystery" that gives us the opportunity to become members of the Body of Christ. The Church exists as the Body of Christ, since the Son of God became man.

The circumcision Christ accepted in obedience to the law expresses the ascetic struggle necessary that we may be freed from the "veil of our passions". Christ endured circumcision in the flesh, so that we can attain the circumcision of our hearts, which is our purification.

Finally, the Baptism of Christ brought sanctification to the waters and remade it as a "soul purifier". Thus, with the baptism of the Church, during which the waters of the font are sanctified and acquire the "blessing of Jordan", the "innocent" child or the adult catechized in Orthodoxy, that is, the one who is guided and struggling to reach the "circumcision of the heart", is renewed and illumined. This takes place because, according to the Apostle Paul, with our baptism "in Christ" we are "clothed in Christ", buried with Him, and rise with Him. We are members of His Body, members of His Church.

The emotional approach to these feasts is characteristic of a shallow spirituality, but also the result of anthropocentric attitudes prevalent nowadays. The consequence of this emotional and anthropocentric approach to the Church and the holidays is the inability of some to understand some liturgical and pastoral practices. Emotions cover over and nourish the passions, while the Church heals them, which is why it causes angry and impassioned criticisms from certain "free spirits". However, the Church is not afraid of the criticisms of the "world", which is dominated by carnal reasoning and is ignorant of the logic of faith. She always sets and displays the requirements needed for one to reach true freedom and authentic love.

At this point I wish to point out the big problem with the secular mindset of some people who have been baptized Orthodox Christians and want to baptize their children Orthodox Christians with godparents of their choice, while ignoring the ecclesiastical conditions which must be fulfilled by the godparent. I should note that the godparent, according to the tradition of the Church, is not simply a friend of the family, but a person of the Church competent and experienced in teaching the faith, representing the Priest in ecclesiastical catechism and the nurturing of the newly-illumined. Normally, according to the authoritative opinion of the late Archimandrite Epiphanios Theodoropoulos, the godparent must be a person of absolute confidence to the Priest who is conducting the Mystery.

When the Church, grounded in her Sacred Canons, excludes some from the role of a godparent, she usually raises against her criticism from a certain portion of people, that she is following a Dark Age and Medieval mindset. But what she is doing is calling things out by their proper name. She is telling the truth, not darkening. Because she loves, she does not want to deceive. She tries to preserve the manner by which the catechumen and the "illumined" can live personally the events of the life of Christ. These events enrich the existence of the struggling members of the Church with true freedom and authentic love.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΜΕ ΑΦΟΡΜΗ ΤΙΣ ΕΟΡΤΕΣ ΤΟΥ ΔΩΔΕΚΑΗΜΕΡΟΥ", December 1997. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.