From The Blog

Mission Monthly – January 2010

The Nativity and Epiphany:

The fullness of celebrating

By Father Nicholas Speier

In approaching the Christmas Feast and celebrating the beginning of the New Year (2009) we recall that the historic Christian center of this time of year is Epiphany (Theophany). The Church in her wisdom has placed these feasts together so we might experience the fullness of celebrating the coming of our Lord.

The Nativity of our Lord is a feast of joy, but at Epiphany the joy is greater still. In the stable cave we see God becoming man and sanctifying humanity, and we see His humility and His love for us. But at Epiphany we see the greater work of sanctifying all of creation in the baptismal water. We know from our reading of the Gospel of St. John that Christ came to save not only man but all of creation.

The Nativity has the angel proclaiming glad tidings, but at Epiphany the forerunner prepares the way. At His birth Christ brought us the message of peace on earth and good will toward man, a true sign of His condescending love. But at Epiphany we see the forerunner preparing the way for all humanity to walk in peace and good will. For God not only wants us to know about life in Him but to live our life in Him.

The Nativity has blood spilt, as Bethlehem wails in her childlessness, but at Epiphany this water gives way to many sons. As Christ is born, this world begins its rejection of the Savior to end at His crucifixion and death. But at the Baptism of Christ we see that His presence can not be stamped out. He is forever making things new through death and resurrection and the new children of God entering the Kingdom through Baptismal water.

At the Nativity, the star proclaims Christ to the Wise men, but at Epiphany the Father reveals Christ to the whole universe. Mary and Joseph quietly come into Bethlehem and Christ is born of her amidst a few, but now at Epiphany the Father's voice declares to all men, angels, and all creation that Christ is the Beloved and only begotten Son of the Father.

As we can see, the two feasts together help us to experience the fullness of the coming of our Lord. They emphasize his humility in lowering himself to save us, His beloved. The two feasts declare to us, beyond doubt, God's great love for mankind and all creation. He did not wait for us to make things better or right, but He came to us in our distress to save us and to save this world. May the depth and joy of these celebrations lift our spirits so we may rejoice with the angels and all the saints at the coming of Christ our Lord.


“At the approach of a great feast you must watch yourself with particular care. The enemy endeavors beforehand to chill your heart towards the event being celebrated, so that you will not honor it by whole-heartedly considering its reality. He acts upon us through the weather, or through the food and drink we have taken, or through his own arrows thrown plentifully at the heart and inflaming the entire person, at which time evil, impure and blasphemous thoughts occur to us, and we feel thoroughly averse to the solemnity. We must overcome the enemy by forcing ourselves to meditate and pray devoutly.”

St. John of Kronstadt

This year's Nativity season reminded me of past holy seasons interrupted with illnesses, weather and other various struggles. One recent year I recall how Kh. Vanessa, after Great Lent's long journey, because of Anthony's illness, simply had to miss virtually all of Holy Week and Pascha itself. This year, due to ill-timed ice storms, we came as close as we ever have to possibly having to cancel both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services (and by the grace of God and the vitamin intervention if Susan Miglautsch I was able to stave off an approaching cold to complete our Confession schedule and the beautiful services of Christmas). Most certainly each of us have our own stories to tell. The question I raise here is whether or not we need to see the “enemy” in these inopportune interruptions or if these are just inconvenient coincidences? Personally I take seriously what has been said here by St. John of Kronstadt. It is no light matter and to simply reject outright the influence of the evil one over the conditions of our lives would be fool-hearty. But rather than assigning blame to the cause of our struggles, we might simply grow in the awareness of spiritual warfare and how it affects our lives; and work more diligently at maintaining warmth towards God which allows us with humility and zeal to absorb all of life's trials. If God allowed Job's entire life to be intentionally taken from him by the Devil should we not expect even these smallest of attacks, and remain devoted to solemn prayer, repentance, contemplation and celebration? Beloved, THIS is our reality, and by the grace of God and our watchfulness may we always be ready to “overcome!”