The Feast of Incarnation
- Christmas is the feast of Nativity. Nativity means
'the time of one's birth' or 'place of origin'.
It is about the time and place of Mother delivering
a child. Christmas is the feast of nativity of Christ.
Many consider that the feast of nativity is same the
feast of Incarnation of God the Word. As a result,
people think birth occurs in delivery. Hence the
associated modern practises of stopping life before
delivery. In reality birth occurs in conception.
Hence it is difficult to find out the actual birthday
of a person.
But in the case of St. Mary, the date of conception
is known. It occured when the angel announced the
Incarnation of the Lord in her womb, the annunciation
given by the angel Mar Gabriel to St. Mary.
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be
to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
When teaching about Christ, Church fathers consider
annunciation as the point of Incarnation. The teaching
of St. Severus about Christ is based on Incarnation,
that the union of divine and human natures happened
at this point. After this union, they preached one Christ.
Some Churches give more importance to Ephipany than
Nativity (Christmas), for example Ethiopian and Armenian
Churches. They celebrate Nativity and Ephipany on
consequtinve days beginning January 6th. Nativity is
birth in body and Epiphany (Baptism) is birth in Spirit.
Therefore, Church gave more importance to Epiphany.
"Armenian Catholicos John Mandakuni (AD 720) bears
witness to this fact that Armenian Christians never
separated the feasts as one according to the flesh
and the other as according to the spirit".
Armenians celebrate a combined feast on Januray 6th.
But Xmas on Dec. 25 is more popular in Westernized
churches. The date Dec. 25 originated from a
pre-Christian western feast day. Yet, no one questions
it. But when a function of relatively much less
importance called "Vidyarambam" was celebrated on the
same day as Hindus, many westernized Evangelicals
questioned it! What is the reason for this contradiction!
Malankara Orthodox/Jacobite Syrian Church adopted
this new calendar only in the 20th century. As a
result, the importance is now on Nativity (Xmas) on
Dec. 25 and associated festivities. Epiphany,
Annunciation etc. are almost ignored by people. Even
the feast of Martyrdom of St. Thomas is largely
ignored due to various Xmas programs, such as E
cumenical carols, parish celebrations etc.
Christian churches are getting westernized very fast!
In India, Central government recently made a
decision that for Central Schools, Christmas holiday
will be on January 7th. The Dec. 25 holiday is taken
Perhaps this is a good point to go back to the old
calendar and hence remain consistent with rest of
Orthodox Churches. Should we offer our support
to the central government?
What reform can we do regarding this?
Coming back to the point, March 25th marked as "Subroro"
in the calendar is the feast of Incarnation or the
feast of Annunciation of St. Mary. This feast is of
high importance in all Orthodox Churches (both
Eastern and Oriental). HOly Qurbana is not allowed on
Good Friday. But if this feast falls on Good Friday,
the Church first celebrate Holy Qurbana, only after
that the Good Froday services. In Eastern Orthodox
Churches, they relax fasting on this day, since this
is a great feast.
To summarize, the feast of Incarnation is not
Christmas or Nativity. It is 'Suboro' or the
Annunciation to St. Mary. Birth occurs not in delivery,
but in conception.
Secondly, the Church leaders should consider the
current laxity in observing some of the importance
feasts such as Annunciation, Epiphany etc. Though
they are celebrated, they are not stressed as
important as Xmas today. As a result people consider
them as less important. It is difficult to blame
people regarding this.
Wish you a very Happy Christmas!
st. Mary/St. George Orthodox Church, Thumpamon