What if Christmas *Did* Come from a Pagan Festival?

While traveling on the subway the other day, I overheard an interesting conversation between two strangers.   “Actually,” one person began grumbling, “They don’t know when he was born. I mean, if Christ was so important, you’d think we’d at least know his birthday!” A second person responded with similar cynicism: “And plus, Christmas came from a pagan…

Cycles of the Orthodox calendar (and why they matter)

The end of September marks the start of a somewhat quieter time, liturgically speaking. The next of the major feast days isn’t until 21 November (Presentation of the Theotokos) and there are no major fast periods until that of Nativity,  starting on 15 November. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of good stuff happening in the Church between…

23 September: a Conception, a Caesar and an Equinox

On September 23rd, we commemorate the conception of St. John the Baptist, who paved the way for Christ’s message of salvation. In Orthodox circles, he’s often called the Forerunner, i.e. the precursor, to Christ. Although St. John is a pretty big deal, his conception is prone to falling off our annual radar—it’s not preceded by a fast, it’s not…