Thursday, January 8, 2015

Orthodox believers in Serbia celebrate Christmas

BELGRADE - The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and its believers celebrated Christmas on Wednesday as the most joyous Christian holiday of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.

The Christmas liturgy in the Cathedral Church in Belgrade was served by Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the ceremony was attended by a number of believers, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic, Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic, Prince Aleksandar II Karadjordjevic and his wife Katarina and representatives of religious communities. In his address to the believers, the patriarch underscored that the love of Christ is a love for all mankind, and noted that we cannot love Our Lord unless we love our neighbour. 

 Our Lords wants us to cherish peace and love for every man regardless of his origin, culture and tan, the Serbian patriarch said and called on the believers to pray to God for reign of peace because disagreements, wars, injustice and evil are still present throughout the world. The celebration of Christmas according to the Julian calendar began by midnight liturgies in Orthodox churches throughout Serbia. In Belgrade's Saint Sava Cathedral, the Christmas liturgy was served by Bishop of Toplica Arsenije as the vicar of the SPC patriarch. 

 Ahead of Christmas, the patriarch also served the vigil late on Tuesday in the Saint Sava Cathedral as the biggest church in the Balkans, and the Yule log was consecrated by the patriarch and set on fire in front of the church in the presence of a large number of believers. 

 The preparations for the celebration of Orthodox Christmas traditionally begin 40 days before the Christmas Day by a fast that symbolises the cleansing of the soul and the body. Ahead of Christmas, Christmas Eve is celebrated by liturgies in churches, as well as by consecration and burning of the Yule log that symbolises the announcement of the Nativity of Jesus Christ and a traditional family gathering around a lean feast. According to the tradition, the family gets up before sunrise on Christmas Day to prepare for the celebration, and they welcome the first guest with gifts because he brings joy and good cheer of the Nativity of Our Lord. 

 The traditional Christmas lunch consists of non-lean meals and a special bread called cesnica which contains a coin, a grain and a chip of wood. It is believed that those who find these items in the bread will have greatest success, abundance and good health in the year to come. 

 According to the Julian calendar, Christmas is observed on January 7 by the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church, as well as the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Mount Athos, Egyptian Copts and believers who use the Julian calendar in Greece. Photo Tanjug, S. Radovanovic

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