“The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, becoming as one of us, is really an historic event that happened more than two thousand years ago, but it is also an event that transcends history. For when God intervenes in history, the events always overcome it; becoming trans-historical, which means that whatever God touches is transformed for all times, for all populations and for all people. Therefore, Christmas and its message isn’t weakened or diminished by the flow of time, for out of it stems a life-giving message that is never exhausted.”
These are the words with which the Metropolitan of Korça, His Eminence John began his sermon at the height of the celebrations, during the Divine Liturgy held on Christmas. It was this message that reminded us once again of the reasons why we celebrate with joy and look forward to Christmas.
The Metropolis of Korça was very active preparing spiritually for the celebration of this feast. Various services were held in all the churches, ceremonies, various artistic activities with a Christmas theme etc., were held throughout the week before this great feast.
Thus, in the Cathedral “Resurrection of Christ” on December 17th a beautiful concert was given by the school, “Sevasti Qiriazi”, while on the 19th of December, a very nice concert was also held, with songs, melodies and hymns about Christmas, which was the fruit of a wonderful collaboration of both schools, the artistic school, “Tefta Tashko”, and the Greek-Albanian school “Omiros”. This concert was honored by the participation of representatives from local government, foreign consular offices in this city, by professors and by many citizens and residents of the area of Korça. These concerts helped everyone feel more completely the humbling and loving spirit of Christmas.
Obviously throughout the Metropolis, in every village and church it was easy to distinguish the festive atmosphere which made participation in Church services more impressive. All the churches were decorated and especially the Cathedral of Korça, which conveys a special beauty to the city, especially when it is decorated with festive colors. So, with this festive atmosphere the days passed and we arrived at the 24th of December when the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in all churches of the city, as well as the service of the hours, which from the liturgical aspect is one of the most beautiful services that the Church has. This was an excellent opportunity to follow all the religious ceremonies, and then to conclude with the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. This is the moment when the spiritual celebrations culminate and they continue with the Liturgy held on Christmas day which was attended by hundreds of faithful and where Metropolitan John again directed to the believers the spiritual words mentioned in the passage above.
When the liturgy was ended many believers, with mystical joy and gladness in their hearts, rushed to congratulate warmly His Eminence John in the Metropolis headquarters. However, the wishes did not stop here. The greatest miracle happened when all the Orthodox believers received wishes from the believers of other religions because of the harmonious religious coexistence among people and the mysterious miracle that permeates the feast of Christmas that affects everyone.
Wholeheartedly all during this feast wish that humility, love, simplicity and everything that characterizes it, inspires and teaches us that the birth of Jesus Christ is to become an inseparable part of our daily lives.
Christmas in Korça
Deacon Joan Qako
The joyful atmosphere of Christmas had been seen days in the eyes of children and youth, but also in many of the believers of Berat, long before the preparations had begun to experience, in a very beautiful way, this great feast, the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, our Savior. The activities and concerts at the year end, in which the children and young people of our city have been very active, made this bright feast even more excellent. Also the evening of caroling on December 23rd was very exciting, when many groups of children, beautifully adorned and with the Star of Bethlehem in their hands, went from house to house to share the news of the Savior’s birth.
The high point of the feast is surely the morning of December 25th, when all the Orthodox go to their churches to celebrate the bodily Birth of Christ, and to partake of His Body and Blood. In Berat, as is the tradition, the Divine Liturgy began early at 6am, led by the Metropolitan of Berat, Vlora and Kanina, His Eminence Ignatius. After the Liturgy the reception at the Holy Metropolis of Berat took place, where the higher local authorities, representatives of religious communities and many believers were present.
This same atmosphere was experienced in every church of our Metropolis, in the districts of Fier, Lushnja and Vlora. Also in many churches of this region the Divine Liturgy began early, around 6am. In the main churches a reception also took place. A joyful and festive atmosphere was created in the beautiful environments of the Church of St. Theodore.
In all the churches of our Metropolis the Christmas Messages prepared by our Metropolitan, His Grace Ignatius, were heard in which it was emphasized: “Before the coming of man on earth, “God planted Paradise in Eden, in the East, and placed there the man whom He created”. And within that wonderful garden planted by God, “made to grow out of the ground every pleasing tree to the sight that yield good fruit to eat.”
But when “Christ came on earth”? Oh Then! Instead of Eden, Bethlehem! Instead of the warmth of Paradise, the wet and cold cave! Instead of the savor of Paradise, the smell of the stockyard! Instead of blinding light of the days of Paradise, the dark veil of night! And the Planter of the Paradise, when he came upon the earth, was accepted by the poor manger of the irrational animals!
Do we ever feel that Christ came from the heavens to earth, with these most humble and poor conditions to exalt man from earth to heaven? “God become man so that Adam might become God“, notes St. Athanasius the Great. But, from God by grace, as St. Paul says, “we receive the sonship”.