Most believers in the Eastern Orthodox Church prepare for Christmas with 40 days of fasting, continuing right up until late on Christmas Eve Jan 6th.
Orthodox Christmas Top Events and Things to Do
marriage rite beautifully express four qualities of marital love: free, total, faithful and fruitful.
29. This revisitation of a wedding, dear married couples and those of you called to marriage, I hope will resound in its beauty, its profound meaning, and its call to be vulnerable to this love and to avoid the deadly state the Sacred Scriptures call hardness of heart. “To love at all is to be vulnerable,” wrote CS Lewis. This is why real love can cause awe and even a paralyzing fear. Love is risky! Is it really necessary to take such risks? Yes. For the alternative to the risk of love is self-enclosed hell. Lewis’s striking passage on love continues: “…Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
30. Do not be afraid of love! We need love in all of its necessary vulnerability and sacrifice because we are made in the image of Love itself! In the story of creation found in Genesis 1, we read:
32. At the key moment of the Catholic marriage ceremony, in front of God and their invited family and friends (who represent the whole world), the priest or deacon, official witness for the Church, asks the man and the woman to publicly assent to three important questions, which contain the four fundamental qualities of authentic marital love.
33. The first is this: “Have you come here to enter Marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?”
34. “Are you truly free?” the Church is asking, and, “Are you here in front of this altar of sacrifice—willing to give a total gift of yourself to this other person?” The man and the woman reply, “Yes.”
35. This love requires your freedom, your free willing of the good for your spouse! And it requires your total gift, holding nothing back out of fear. It requires that you consider this promise irrevocable, never to be taken back despite the inevitable challenges that accompany love in a fallen world.
36. The second question speaks to faithfulness: “Are you prepared, as you follow the path of Marriage, to love and honor each other for as long as you both shall live?” The man and woman each reply, “I am.”
37. True love is faithful. Living this faithfulness requires a constant exercise of “willing the good of the other” in marriage such that a powerful force in the world is increased. St. John Chrysostom said, “The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together.” Therefore, the Church and wise nations and communities recognize and support even at great cost the need for families to be based on marriage, the committed, life-long covenantal bond with all of its necessary rights and duties.
38. Think here of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Contemplating with awe and gratitude the mystery of a God who is eternally and reliably a fire of never-ending love, we best understand the nature of marital love and the demands that flow from it. Would there be “cheating” among the members of the Trinity? Obviously not, and therefore the marital covenant which images the Trinity must be faithful through all the storms of life. Can we imagine a “breakup” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Certainly not, and therefore a valid, sacramental marriage is indissoluble. Nothing but death can break the bond of such a marriage. Would the three Divine Persons opt for sterility, or does their love bear constant and abundant fruit? Hence marital love requires the rejection of any chosen option for sterility, whether it be contraception use or surgical sterilization.
39. This brings us to the third question of intent. The priest or deacon asks, “Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?” “I am,” the man and woman each reply.
40. Love is fruitful. Usually, though not in every case, acts of sexual intercourse proper only to marriage give rise eventually to the gift of children.
Instant obedience to the initial promptings of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:24–25)