Now that the Christmas season has begun—in our secular society called the “holiday season”—there are parties held at workplaces. But we are fasting, and the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity does not comes until December 25/January 7. Fr. John Whiteford talks about how Orthodox Christians can do when they are under obligation to participate in secular celebrations during the Nativity Fast.
In the past 50 years, American culture has gone from the older practice of putting up Christmas decorations on Christmas eve, and then celebrating Christmas on the actual day (albeit New Calendar), and continuing that celebration through either New Year’s day, or Epiphany (what we usually call Theophany) on January 6th. This is evident from the older classic Christmas movies
Saint Nikolai Velimirovic (1880-1956) was bishop of Ohrid and of Zhicha in the Serbian Orthodox Church. As an influential theological writer and a highly gifted orator, he became known as ‘the New Chrysostom.’4 Bishop Nikolai strongly supported the unity of all Orthodox Churches and established particularly good relationships with the Anglican, the Old Catholic and the American Episcopalian Church. His presence in England during the years of the Great War did much to strengthen the friendship between the Church of England and the Eastern Orthodox Churches in general, and the Serbian Church in particular. His original Christian eloquence made a deep impression and his warm personality won him many friends. As the Bishop of London wrote at the time: “Father Nikolai Velimirovic by his simplicity of character and devotion has won all our hearts”.5 In his lifetime, Bishop Nikolai visited the United States of America several times, and perhaps of all Eastern Orthodox churchmen was the best known to America. After his speech at the Institute of Politics in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1927, a reporter covering the event wrote:
Recently, I heard about a man (let’s call him John) who went to his 25th high school reunion. John never felt very comfortable with himself during high school. He always felt too skinny, and admired the other guys in his class who were athletic and popular. But at this reunion, one of those athletic popular guys told John how he always admired how confident John was in high school.
You see, the way John saw things didn’t match with how others did. John and his high school classmates looked back on their four years of high school very differently; all because they perceived them differently.
Experience is shaped by perception. We see ourselves one way, while others see us differently. We worry about how others perceive us and whether they will accept us.
Sometimes we even worry if we’re good enough for God.
It’s easy to get stuck inside our heads, lost in all of these questions, and forget that each person is just as bound to their perception as we are to ours. More often than not, this perception is shaped by insecurities and fears, and even traumas.
But what if we were able to let go of this bad thinking? What if we could get out of our own heads and see things, not as we fear they are, but as they really are?
So let’s briefly look at three areas of perception and try to look past the lies we tell ourselves to discover the truths that God is trying to tell us.