The Russian Orthodox Church and several other Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on January 7.
According to a Catholic tradition, a Christmas service starts with putting a figurine of the Infant Jesus into a crib.
“This is a holy night for every Christian,” Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow Paolo Pezzi addressed the people.
“On this night, more than 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born,” Archbishop Paolo said. “Although the holiday of Christmas repeats every year, each time, on this night, we have a feeling that something incredible and supernatural is happening. Jesus Christ, God and Man, is being born into the world – but Christ is also being born in our souls. God the Son incarnated into the world to save us not because we have deserved it. He did it because of His boundless love and mercy to us. Doesn’t this fill us with joy?”
The Moscow Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is a building in the Gothic style, the size and splendor of which are really impressive, built in the early 20th century. On the Christmas night, several thousand people gathered in the cathedral.
“For me, this cathedral is a second home, and Christmas is the main holiday in my life,” Olga, who was born and has always lived in Moscow, says.
“Celebrating Christmas always fills me with joy,” Olga says. “I always try not to leave Moscow on this day. I dress up a Christmas tree – and think about how beautiful life is.”
“I was baptized as a Roman Catholic only 7 years ago, although I had wanted to become a Catholic for a long time. The dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church are very close to me.”
Despite a rather widely spread belief that the majority of Roman Catholics in Russia are foreigners, there were many Russians in the cathedral on the Christmas Night as well.
“Our parish consists of people of various nationalities – Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians and others,” the senior priest of the cathedral Father Kirill Gorbunov says. “But they all consider themselves people of Russian culture. They don’t feel themselves as foreigners in Russia. Still, there are also many ethnic Russians in our parish. True, the majority of Russians are Orthodox Christians – but Roman Catholicism has long-standing traditions in Russia as well.”
Under the atheistic Soviet regime, the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, like many other churches of various confessions all over the Soviet Union, was closed. In the late 1990s, the cathedral was restored, and divine services, after a break of many decades, resumed there.
“I am happy to be here on such a day,” a man called Christian, who has come from Germany, says.
“This is the second time I come to Moscow,” Christian says. “I first came here when you still had the Soviet regime. That time, the cathedral was closed. Now, I have a chance to be inside it – and I should say that I did not expect it to be so beautiful. It resembles many cathedrals in my native Germany.”
“I am a Roman Catholic,” Christian continues. “Although Germany is often considered to be a Protestant country, in reality, the percentage of Protestants and Catholics in Germany is approximately the same. As a rule, I celebrate Christmas in my church community in Germany – but now, I am happy to celebrate it in Moscow.’
However, not only Roman Catholics came to the cathedral on the Christmas night. Marianna, an Orthodox Christian, says:
“I am not going to change my confession, but I am very interested in Catholicism. I believe that if you have God in your soul, you will feel His presence everywhere, be it an Orthodox cathedral or a Catholic one.”
As mentioned, the Russian Orthodox Church, which lives according to a calendar different from the Western one, celebrates Christmas on January 7. However, several Orthodox local churches, like the Church of Alexandria, of Antioch, the Rumanian Church, the Church of Cyprus, of Greece and several others, celebrate it on December 24. Still, according to an undocumented agreement, on the territory of Russia, representatives of the above-mentioned Orthodox churches celebrate it on January 7, together with the Russian Orthodox Church.
The outgoing 2012 year was rich with historical events, such as the Russian presidential elections, the US presidential vote, the discovery of the Higgs boson, the London Summer Olympics, a wave of Middle East conflicts in Syria, Egypt and the Israel-Palestine row, Pussy Riot’s punk prayer, Breivik’s killing spree, the release of the “Innocence of Muslims” video clip and the false Apocalypse.
Nevertheless, we wish you and your families to usher in the New Year with optimism!
Merry Christmas to all Catholics and Protestants!
We hope you will stay with us in 2013 and promise you more interesting news, analytic reviews, interviews, commentaries, photo galleries and videos.
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Metropolitan Hilarion extends Christmas greetings
Metropolitan Hilarion, curator of external relations at the Moscow Patriarchate, has been on The Voice of Russia to congratulate the Roman Catholics, the Protestants and also the Orthodox who follow the Gregorian Calendar on the occasion of Christmas.
"I’m here to congratulate you on the New Year and Christmas.
The New Year is an occasion to sum up the events of the outgoing year, both socially and in a close family circle. Please don’t take all the good things brought by the outgoing year thoughtlessly and in your stride. Thank Almighty God for them! Thankfulness to God is a state of mind which must last and never end. The name of the main Christian church service, the Eucharist, translates as ‘thanksgiving’. The thanks in it are due to God, Who supports and guides us throughout our lives and in every single moment of them.
Setting your goals and tasks in the incoming year, please never forget that you must rely on God’s help in pursuing and solving them. This means, among other things, that each and every step that you make must comply with the Ten Commandments and follow the Holy Gospel.
The occasion of Christmas reminds us of responsibility for our own lives and the lives of our relatives and neighbours. It also reminds us that we came into this world on a mission from God. Each living person must be aware of his or her mission. Only this can help us spend out lives in complete harmony with the will of God. Refrain from misdemeanor, renounce evil and pernicious habits and pursue moral and ethical self-improvement. God does not expect us to attain sainthood through action of our own. He will help us in this, supporting us each time we choose to do something good.
That, brothers and sisters, was my advice to you on the occasion of the coming feasts.
God bless you all!"