St. James' Newsletter
January 2-8, 2023 Issue no. 904
Scrip Gift Card Program
A large variety of scrip (gift) cards are available at the church hall following the liturgy. We have Amazon, Gas, Visa cards, your favorite restaurants and much more! By purchasing scrip cards, our church will receive a percentage or kick-back from the company.
Thursday, January 5
Divine Liturgy 7:00 pm
Friday, January 6
Divine Liturgy 7:00 pm
Sunday, January 8
Matins 9:00 am
Divine Liturgy 10:00 am
Mon. Jan. 2 - Strict fasting
Tue. Jan. 3 - Strict fasting
Wed. Jan 4 - Strict fasting
Thu. Jan 5 - Strict fasting
Fri. Jan. 6 - Strict fasting
Nativity Divine Liturgy - Friday, Jan. 6th 7pm
This Friday we will celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please come with your family to celebrate this joyful feast of our Lord. Dinner will be served following the service.
Looking for Board Members for 2023
If you would like to commit to the sacred task of serving our Lord and your brothers and sisters in Christ in the work of ministry by joining the Board of Trustees for 2023, please contact any existing board member or clergy. The Church is always looking for new leaders to lend a hand in furthering our Church's mission of connecting our members to the faith. Thank you and God Bless!
Sunday School Reminder!
It is very important to bring your children to church to provide them with knowledge about our church and faith. The Central aim of Christian education is to evoke and nurture faith in Jesus Christ according to the Orthodox faith out of which issues a genuine Orthodox way of life. The Church nurtures a living awareness of the risen Christ in our midst, who is the true Celebrant of Sacraments and the true Teacher of His people, and makes Himself known to use by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Below are the two classes currently being taught:
Age group 4-9, taught by Carol Kafeety after the Great Entrance.
Age group 10 and up taught by Yousef Hanna after Holy Communion.
Lunch this Sunday will be provided by Alex and Maria Manoussakis. God bless them and their family!
If you would like to sponsor a lunch, please contact Georgette at 408-406-3546
Wed, 11/30/22 at 7:30pm
St. James Christmas Lunch
Sunday, 12/18/22 at 2:00pm
Michael's at Shoreline
General Parish Meeting
The gift of God's forgiveness is received through private prayer, corporate worship, the disciplines of prayer and fasting, penitential services and above all through the sacrament of Holy Confession. If you have not confessed in a while, you may call Fr. Jeries and schedule a time for confession. If you would like to confess on Sunday, confessions will be conducted between 8:45am to 9:20am.
Receive Text Messages
If you would like to receive service times, announcements and general information about events, please request from any board member or Dcn. Joseph to be added to the system and then text "Alert" to 22300.
Company Matching Donations
Many companies have special matching donation programs for non-profits. If your company offers this benefit, please contact Samer Abujoudom at (669) 238-8218 for help to get this set up.
Benefits of Amazon Smile
Amazon Smile is a great way to shop and help your preferred nonprofit organization. By selecting St. James Orthodox Church of Jerusalem as your preferred non-profit organization, our church will receive .05% of your total purchases. Below you will find instructions on how to connect St. James Orthodox Church to your Amazon account. In addition, below here is an example of how much St. James has received from just one account.
Select St. James as Your Preferred Nonprofit
Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to a charity of your choice.
Follow these simple steps to link your Amazon Smile account to St. James Orthodox Church
1. Visit smile.amazon.com
2. Sign to your Amazon account
3. Choose St. James Orthodox Church of Jerusalem
4. Select your charity
Activating Amazon Smile on your phone/App
1. Open the app and find “Settings” in the main menu (☰)
2. Tap on “AmazonSmile” and follow the on-screen instructions to turn on AmazonSmile in the app.
About the Icon of the Nativity
The above image is the nativity icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is full of beautiful symbolism. Something to bear in mind is that icons are images of reality – they show us how the world exists through symbol. They are not still life portraits. While they depict historical events, they frequently emphasize theology over literalness, which will become apparent as you read on.
In the center is the infant Christ lying in a manger. The Virgin Mary (Theotokos) is beside Him, and an ox and an ass are behind Him. Christ being born in a cave is not in the Bible, but it is an ancient tradition, dating back to the first and second centuries. He is dressed in burial clothes to foreshadow His death. His location in a cave also foreshadows the grave in which He would be buried and where He would resurrect.
When Adam and Even were first created, they were clothed in the glory of God. That was their natural state. But when they fell into sin, they lost this clothing of glory and became aware of their nakedness. Clothed in animals skins (which represent death), they went into exile outside of the Garden. Christ likewise condescended from His state of glory to become one of us, which in some sense meant He was exiling Himself from heaven. He wrapped Himself in the mortal flesh’s sin and death, as Scripture states, God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).
Unlike most icons that feature both Christ and the Virgin Mary, she is not looking at Him. Instead, she is looking at her betrothed, Joseph, interceding for him. The Protoevangelium tells us that after the birth of Jesus, he walked out of the cave, battling doubts. The old man next to him is supposed to be the devil who is, of course, filling his mind with all sorts of doubts and angry thoughts.
We may sing “What Child is This?” but Joseph’s question was “Whose child is this?!” since he knew he was certainly not the father. Yet Joseph has a halo, which indicates his sanctity.
Sometimes when God shows up in our lives, it raises questions and doubts. God bestows His grace upon us, but then He seems to withdraw a little bit, allowing difficulties to test and deepen our faith. We may wonder why things happen the way they do. But if we persevere, then things will gradually become clear.
Top & Middle
At the very top is a blue shape sometimes called a mandorla. It signifies the presence and the glory of God. It beams from the heavens, pointing to the Christ child, which shows His descent from heaven to the earth.
On the left, the three kings (magi) are traveling from afar, following the star in the sky.
Angels appear in the heavens above and tell the good news to the shepherds (on the right) in the field so that they can see this divine child born in the little town of Bethlehem.
I sometimes wonder if the shepherds and angelic chorus appeared after Jesus’ birth more for Joseph’s sake than anything else. These divine interventions affirmed the dream that God granted Joseph, and helped Him to trust God. Our Church’s hymns mention this struggle and Joseph’s victory over doubt:
Joseph, when he beheld the greatness of this wonder, thought that he saw a mortal wrapped as a babe in swaddling clothes; but from all that came to pass he understood that it was the true God, who grants the world great mercy. (Vespers of the Forefeast of the Nativity of Christ)
May we be comforted in the fact that our Savior has come into this world to heal every messy, doubting, sinful part of us. There is nothing a repentant heart has done that will permanently push God away from it. And there is nothing that you have done that he has not already helped someone else through, someone else who is considered a saint.
The women at the bottom right are midwives who display that the Son of God was truly born as a human, and did not merely appear to be human as some early heretics claimed. There is a fountain that they are about to wash the Christ child in because He had, in some sense, an ordinary birth.
The Ox and Donkey
The ox and donkey are two of the most ancient symbols that appear in nativity icons and sculptures. In the ancient Church, the ox symbolized the Jews, for it was a clean, kosher animal that they could eat. It could also be easily trained to pull a plow and assist in various ways. The Jews had the Law of Moses and it helped keep them (or at least a remnant) clean and obedient to God.
The donkey, on the other hand, is a stubborn and wilder animal. It is unclean and not kosher, therefore, it represents the Gentiles who did not have the Law of Moses to guide them away from their pursuit of indecent and immoral behavior.
In Christ, these two seemingly opposed groups came together to form one people. As the Bible says, For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14).
Meeting in the Center
Above are the angels, below are the shepherds, midwives, and people. To the left are the three wise men, the three kings, the magi who travel a great distance bearing expensive gifts. To the right are simple, poor, uneducated shepherds. In the center is Christ, who brings all of these different people together in Himself. He unites heaven and earth, rich and poor, wise and simple, educated and uneducated, locals and foreigners, obedient and rebellious men, the confident and doubters; all these find their place in Christ.
The Cave and the Heart
Christ was the mystery hidden throughout all ages – just as his coming in the cave was hidden from most people. But the glory of this mystery is Christ in you (cf. Col. 1:26-27). In this way, the cave became an icon of every heart that opens itself to Christ.
Caves, with all of their mystery and darkness, hidden chambers and secret places, are truly a reflection of the dark, mysterious heart within each one of us. But like the cave Christ entered on Christmas day, our hearts can become the dwelling place of His majestic glory. Like the ox and ass, we have both clean and unclean things in our hearts – the things that are good and not so good. We have the devil whispering doubts or evil things to us. But we also have the Theotokos praying for us.
All the distractions in our lives pull us outside of our hearts. Because of that, we have terrible self-awareness. But when we enter into our hearts, we find that Christ is there. But what does that mean?
Imagine Joseph getting up and walking away from the devil, saying, “I’m tired of listening to you and your lies.” He prays to God to help him; he gets up and walks to the cave where Christ and the Mother of God are. That is the beginning of descending into the heart. Of finding the mystery hidden from all eternity, dwelling within our hearts as He once dwelt in a cave near the little town of Bethlehem.