The holy days of the Russian Orthodox Church are divided
into two categories: the major or great feast days that commemorate events in
the lives of Christ and the Theotokos; and holy days that commemorate the
various events in the lives of the saints.
It is known from the Gospels that the time of the
death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was during the time of the
celebration of the Jewish feast of Passover, which is calculated according to
the Old Testament lunar calendar. The Church fathers used the same calculations
to produce the Paschal cycle, therefore, all the
feasts connected with Pascha are movable. All others are celebrated on a
specific date and are called immovable feasts.
The immovable great feasts are: the Nativity of
the Theotokos (8/21 Sept.), the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14/27), the
Presentation of the Theotokos in the Temple (Nov. 21/Dec. 4), the Nativity of
Christ (Dec. 25/Jan. 7), Theophany (Jan. 6/19), the Presentation of Christ in
the Temple (Feb. 2/15), the Annunciation (March 25/Apr. 7), the Transfiguration
of the Lord (Aug. 6/19), and the Dormition of the Theotokos (Aug. 15/28).
The movable great feasts are: Entrance of our Lord
into Jerusalem, Ascension of our Lord, Pentecost, and Pascha.
The Church calendar begins with the Nativity of
the Theotokos celebrated on Aug. 26/Sept. 8. This holy day corresponds closely
to the date of the Jewish New Year, which to the Hebrews signified the
beginning of a new era in their lives. Similarly the early Church, which
generally followed the Old Testament celebrations of the Hebrews, proclaimed
the new Christian era by announcing to the world the birth of the Holy Virgin
Mary. She was to be the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, by His birth was
to bring a new era into the world - the era of Christianity.
Holy feast days are not just to remember the past.
By participating in these feasts each believer draws closer to the experience
of the Holy Church, and follows its leadership. Each Christian soul relives
the great events of the Gospels and of Church history, and in this way goes
through a school of spiritual growth.
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