This Week in Orthodoxy, January 8th, 2016

This Week in Orthodoxy, January 8th, 2016




Welcome to “This Week in Orthodoxy”, the world’s only online video newscast focused on events in the life of the Orthodox Church. I’m Emmy Louvaris.  These are some of the stories making headlines this week:

  • Greek Orthodox Christmas 2015 Celebrations around the world
  • New Years 2016
  • Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of Saint Basil and the New Year
  • 4 nuns keep Greek Orthodox convent going with help of beeswax, baking and beauty products
  • IOCC is preparing emergency relief for hundreds of communities crippled by severe weather


Jan. 6 marked the Christmas celebration for many Eastern Orthodox Christian communities worldwidefrom Bethlehem to Moscow, who maintain the Christmas date from the old Julian Calendar. Known as “Old Christmas Day” because of its original designation as the day of Jesus’ birth by the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine in 325 A.D.,

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII switched the Julian Calendar to the new date system, now known as the Gregorian Calendar, and the Catholic church moved its Christmas celebrations 13 days ahead to Dec. 25, a shift that was not adopted by much of the Eastern Church, because it did not recognize the primacy of the pope.

While many Orthodox churches eventually adopted the Gregorian calendar, they kept Jan. 6 as the date of their Christmas Eve celebrations.

According to the Christian Post, Orthodox Christmas observances can vary considerably from Western customs. And although there are many secular customs such as Christmas trees, wreaths and gifts that might be shared across traditions, the Orthodox Church puts a greater emphasis on “spiritual” side of the holiday season which includes fasting, and worship services.

A noel service was held at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul where Christians attended the service led by Patriarch Bartholomew.

And the world says goodbye to 2015 and welcomes 2016 with fireworks, revelry and prayers.

Cities around the globe rang in the New Year with incredible displays of fireworks, fun-filled music and impressive light shows.

And the annual Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios, he began by saying. .

“On this first day of the new year and the blessed Feast of our Father among the Saints, Basil the Great, we anticipate the abundant blessings and great works of God, and we continue to give Him honor and glory through our worship and faithful service to Him.

As we dedicate the year and our lives to the holy will of God, it also is fitting at the beginning of this year 2016 that we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ministry of His All-Holiness our beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  This is truly a significant event for our Holy Archdiocese and for Orthodox Christianity, as this time has included tremendous changes and challenges in our world…

The ministry and leadership of His All-Holiness reflects the compassion and faith that were exemplified by Saint Basil.  This is also the witness of our beloved Saint Basil Academy.  Led by our National Ladies Philoptochos Society and local chapters, it is our annual tradition on this day and during the month of January to offer prayers and support for this ministry.  Each and every day of the year, the benefactors, directors, and staff of Saint Basil’s are serving the needs of children and youth who need love, guidance, and the healing power of faith.  This vital ministry has been supported for over sixty years by the Ladies Philoptochos Society through the annual cutting of the Vasilopita, and I ask that you give generously together with your prayers for Saint Basil Academy.

 In the cutting and sharing of the Vasilopita at the inception of this New Year, may we also offer our prayers and support for His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and wish him many more years of faithful and dedicated service to Christ and His Church.  And may the blessings of our Lord be upon each of you and your families for peace, health, and opportunities to share His love and the power of faith throughout the year.

Next up, four nuns who make up the Holy Theotokos Convent, about 50 km north of Toronto, thrive on beeswax, baked goods and some sewing. Tucked into 20 acres of picturesque rolling hills the convent is a step back into a simpler, more traditional time with no TV or radio.

Once you come in, you just feel like you’ve left everything else behind, and you’re just in this quiet place,” said Sister Irene, 45, a Ryerson University graduate in tourism and hospitality who grew up in Toronto. She has been a Greek Orthodox nun for 20 years.

The women welcome visitors and do access the internet. It’s a modern necessity, according to Mother Magdalene, who has a business degree and oversees the community.

Their candle operation, Joyous Light, uses only 100 per cent beeswax and supplies all varieties of candles to the public and churches throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Although they do get some donations and support from their mother convent in Boston, Joyous Light along with a line of all-natural cosmetics and creams, called Nun Better, pays the bills and allows them to be self sufficient.

The nuns operate the candle factory daily with occasional help from volunteers. Going through more than 20,000 kilograms of Canadian beeswax annually and churn out tens of thousands of candles each year including tapers, votives, pillars and novelty shapes.

And lastly from the U.S., Nearly 70 tornados have swept across the country in the past week, causing 11 deaths and massive destruction near Garland, Texas. In Missouri, the governor has declared a state of emergency after severe weather claimed 13 lives and residents brace for more flooding in Missouri and Illinois. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is preparing emergency relief for survivors across the United States. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that 18 million people have been living under flood warnings across 13 states.

IOCC US Country Representative Daniel Christopulos, said “We are in the process of formulating, with our Church, governmental, ecumenical and VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) partners, the most effective way to respond, and we encourage our IOCC supporters to join us in prayer and active love for those suffering during these Holy days when we celebrate God’s Incarnate Love.”


Pray for those who have suffered loss in this disaster that has impacted so many communities across the US.

Assemble emergency kits. IOCC also anticipates the need for Emergency Clean-Up Buckets which are in low supply. For directions on how to assemble Emergency Clean-Up Buckets, please visit

Make a donation. You can help the victims of disasters in the United States by making a financial gift to the United States Emergency Response Fund. The fund will provide immediate relief as well as long-term support through emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need.

For more information, log onto

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That brings another edition of “This Week in Orthodoxy,” to a close. For everyone here in our OCN studios, I’m Emmy Louvaris. Let’s go forth in peace.



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About author

Emmy Louvaris

Emmy Louvaris is the host of This Week in Orthodoxy, the first weekly news show to cover the international Orthodox Church and community.