January 1-Feast of Saint Basil the Great

Saint Basil, preeminent among hierarchs, wisest of saintly teachers, and wondrous favorite of God, was born in Cappadocia toward the end of the Great Constantine's reign. His father was also named Basil, and his mother, Emmelia. He learned to read at the age of seven, and progressed so rapidly in his studies that five years later he was already engaged in philosophical inquiry. Eventually, he forsook his homeland and moved to Athens, the fount of Hellenic (Greek) wisdom, where he took lessons with the renowned teacher Evvulus, at the same time visiting the schools of Hemerius and Proeresius.

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January 1-The Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord

Eight (8) days after His Nativity, our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to be circumcised. He submitted to circumcision, first of all, to fulfill the Law. "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law", said He; "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (St. Matthew, Ch. 5). He subjected Himself to the Law to free transgressors subject to the Law, as the holy Apostle teaches: When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law" (Galatians, Ch. 4).

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Commemoration of the 14,000 Holy Innocents

When Herod "saw that he was mocked of the Wise Men" (St. Matthew, chapter 2), became "exceeding wroth", both with them and the newborn King of the Jews. He was angry with the Magi because they had failed to return and tell him where the Child was, and with Christ, because he was afraid to lose his kingdom. He thought Christ wished to establish an earthly empire, and failed to understand that the Lord's Kingdom is not of this world. He, therefore, poured out his anger upon innocent children. He sent soldiers armed as if for battle to Bethlehem, with orders to slay every child that was "two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men".  

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St. Stefanos (Stephen), Protomartyr and Archdceacon-December 27

The bloodthirsty hypocrites, preparing to stone Christ's good and faithful servant, removed their outer garments so that they could move more freely, and laid them at the feet of a young man names Saul (later known as Paul), a kinsman of the victim. Saul, it is written, "was consenting unto" Stephen's death (Acts, Ch. 8), being more infuriated with him than any of the others, on account of his fanatical devotion to the ancient Law. "He was very sorry," Saint Chrysostom tells us, "that he did not have innumerable hands with which to stone Stefanos (Stephen), but consoled himself with the thought that may false witnesses were found to kill the martyr, and that he was able to guard their clothing."

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Flight Into Egypt

After the Wise Men left Bethlehem, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to flee to Egypt with the newborn Babe, Jesus Christ, and His Mother, the Most Pure Virgin Mary. The Angel told Joseph to remain in that country until he received the command to return, for Herod intended to "seek the young Child, to destroy Him (St. Matthew Chapter 2). Joseph arose, and "took the young Child and His Mother by night, and departed into Egypt," but before leaving the country, he fulfilled in the Temple of Solomon everything commanded by the Law of the Lord; for the days of the purification of the immaculate and blameless Mother of God were drawing to an end.

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The Genealogies of the Gospels

The Gospels of Saints Matthew and Luke give the genealogies of Joseph: Saint Matthew, in the opening passage of the Gospel, and Saint Luke, after the story of the Baptism. The two lists differ, and various explanations have been given for the discrepancies. Originally written in Aramaic (Hebrew dialect) to the Synagogue community, the Evangelist Matthew's list descends from Abraham, "father of believers," at the origin of the Old Covenant (Testament), to Jesus, Author of the New Covenant (Testament).

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The Magi and the Star of Bethlehem

In Latin tradition dating from the 11th century, (from a Greek manuscript) their names are given as Gaspar (or Caspar/Jasper), Melchior and Balthasar. According to one tradition, the Magi were baptized by the holy Apostle Thomas and became bishops. The Church commemorates the Magi as Saints; the Orthodox feast day of the Magi is December 25.

There are numerous variations of the names of the Magi in Greek, but the most common variations are for the name Gaspar which in Greek is Γιάσπερος (Iasperos) which is Anglicized as Jasper.

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The Preaching of the Prophets has Reached its Fulfillment

Saint Andrew of Crete comments, "Of Thee, O Mary, all interpreters of the Spirit sang." Nowhere in the divinely inspired Scripture can one look without seeing some allusion to her. "Rejoice, Mediatress of the Law and of grace, seal of the Old and New Testaments, clear fulfillment of the whole of prophecy, of the Truth of Holy Scripture inspired by God, the Living and Most Pure Book of God and the Logos/Word in which, without voice or writing, the Writer Himself, God and Logos/Word, is everyday read" (Saint Andrew of Crete, Homily IV). Saint Gregory Palamas thought that "all divinely inspired Scripture was written because of the Virgin who brought forth God Incarnate (Saint Gregory Palamas (+ 1296-1359), Archbishop of Thessaloniki (1347).

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Homily on the Nativity of Christ

At the Savior's Nativity, the celestial herald declared to the shepherds, "Unto you is born this day a Savior, and this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (St. Luke, Ch. 2). Perhaps someone may think that this is no great sign, for every new-born child is bound in swaddling. If the Angel, it could be said, had wished to prove to the shepherds that it was indeed Christ that had been born, he might have revealed some unusual portent, like the star that appeared to the Magi in the East, or the maiden in the sun, holding a child, which the sybil showed Augustus.

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