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The Great Feast Days of the Orthodox Church


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.

Published with the kind permission of Bishop Alexander Mileant

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