Metropolitan to Visit, Bless Icons

The Most Reverend Joseph (Al-Zehlaoui), Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, will visit St Michael Orthodox Christian Church on Sunday, 27 August. In addition to presiding at the Liturgy, His Eminence will bless the newly installed icons, painted by Brother Lazarus (Joseph) Brown of Our Lady and St Laurence Monastery in Canon City, Colorado.

It has been nearly 27 years since St Michael’s Church was blessed with the visit of a Metropolitan Archbishop. That occurred on September 9, 1990, when Metropolitan Philip, of thrice-blessed memory, consecrated the altar and solemnly dedicated the church.

The Solemn Reception of the Metropolitan will begin at 9 a.m., followed by the Divine Office. The Divine Liturgy (or Mass) will begin at 10 a.m. Following the Divine Liturgy (Mass), the Antiochian Women of St Michael will sponsor a catered banquet. The Guest of Honor will be His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph. The dinner will feature homemade hummus and tabbouleh to compliment grilled tri-tip beef, grilled chicken and other side dishes. The cost is $17 per person, $50 per family.

St Michael’s Church was founded in 1977 and entered the Orthodox Church in 1981. It is a Western Rite parish in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese.



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Holy Week: What to Expect


Lauds: 9:15 a.m.

Mass: 10:00 a.m.

Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week, when we remember Our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Immediately after Lauds, the blessing and distribution of the palms take place. Each person receives a palm, and the clergy lead the faithful in procession around the Church, while joyful chants are sung culminating in the hymn “All Glory, Laud and Honor.” After the worshipers go to their seats, the Mass continues. During the Mass, the faithful hear the First of the Passion Narratives, from the Gospel according to St. Matthew.


Stations of the Cross: Noon

Vespers & Rosary: 6:00 p.m.

Mass: 7:00 p.m.

Each weekday in Holy Week, the Stations of the Cross are prayed. These stations recall Our Lord’s journey from condemnation to the tomb.

At the Mass, we will hear of Our Lord’s preparation for burial by the penitent woman who anoints him with fragrant oil.


Stations of the Cross: Noon

Vespers & Rosary: 6:00 p.m.

Mass: 7:00 p.m.

During the Mass, the Second of the Passion Narratives, from the Gospel according to St. Mark, is read.


Stations of the Cross: Noon

Vespers & Rosary: 6:00 p.m.

Mass: 7:00 p.m.

Tenebrae: 9:00 p.m.

During the Mass, the Third of the Passion Narratives, from the Gospel according to St. Luke, is read.

Following Vespers, the first of three Tenebrae services is prayed. Tenebrae is a service of prayer conducted in near-darkness. This service includes a candle ceremony, where candles are extinguished at the end of each psalm and the Benedictus. The central feature of this service is the Lamentation of Jeremiah as it applies to Our Lord’s Passion.


Stations of the Cross: Noon

Mass: 7:00 p.m.

Vespers & Stripping of the Altar: 8:30 p.m.

Tenebrae: 9:00 p.m.

The Institution of the Mystical Supper is the focus for The Mass of the Last Supper. The Gloria in Excelsis is restored and the Readings recall the events when Our Lord gathered with His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. After all have received Holy Communion, the Blessed Sacrament is processed to the Altar of Repose where it remains for adoration. After Mass, toward the end of Vespers, the Altar is stripped while Our Lord’s prayer on the cross (Psalm 22) is solemnly chanted. Following Vespers, the second Tenebrae service is prayed.


Stations of the Cross: Noon

Solemn Liturgy (Mass of the Pre-Sanctified): 7:00 p.m.

Tenebrae: 9:00 p.m.

Our Lord’s Death on the Cross is commemorated with the Solemn Liturgy for Good Friday. The service is moving in its starkness and consists of four parts: hearing the Lord’s Word, the Bidding Prayers, the Veneration of the Holy Cross, and the reception of Holy Communion from the Pre-Sanctified. During the first part, the faithful hear the fourth Passion Narrative from the Gospel according to St. John.

Following the Liturgy, the third Tenebrae service is prayed.


Blessing of Easter Baskets & Animals: Noon

Vigil Mass: 7:30 p.m.

The Western rite knows two celebrations of Our Lord’s Resurrection. The first and most ancient is the Great Vigil which, in the first seven centuries, was kept throughout the night and climaxed with the celebration of Holy Communion at dawn on Easter Day. In the past 13 centuries, the Great Vigil has been assigned to Holy Saturday afternoon or morning.

During the Paschal Vigil, worshipers gather quietly in the entrance for the blessing of fire. Then the Deacon leads the faithful into the Nave. While the worshipers are taking their places, the ancient Easter hymn of praise (Praeconium) is sung and the candles of the faithful and throughout the church are lit. Following this candlelight ceremony, Old Testament prophecies are read. This Service of Readings is followed by the blessing of the Baptismal font. The Litany of the Saints leads the faithful to a joy-filled celebration of Holy Mass. The service concludes with an abbreviated form of Vespers.


Lauds: 9:15 a.m.

Mass: 10:00 a.m.

The Resurrexi Mass (“Mass of the Resurrection”) is the chief celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection. It commences with the blessing of the faithful with the holy water that was blessed at the Great Vigil. Then the Mass proceeds according to the usual order and is augmented with the beautiful Easter sequence (Victimae paschali laudes) as well as many familiar Easter Scripture readings and hymns.

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Lent at St Michael’s Church

Lent 2017

Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1. It is a season of instruction in the Christian Faith which centers primarily in the great mystery of Our Lord’s Suffering, Death and Resurrection and climaxes in the triduum sacrum (“holy three days”) of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.

Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Holy Lent, should be observed with worship in church. Mass will begin at 7 p.m., and will be preceded by “The Imposition Of Ashes.” As the ashes are applied, these words will be said: “Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” This ceremony reminds us both of the penalty of sin, and that we daily ought to put to death our sinful desires so that we might more fully embrace the newness of life given in Holy Baptism.

The Three Disciplines of Lent

Lent involves the practice of three disciplines as a preparation for the newness of life. This newness of life we celebrate with much joy at Easter, not only in the faithful remembrance of the Resurrection of Our Lord, but also in the spiritual resurrection of our lives from dead works to serve the living God. These three disciplines revolve around

  • Increased prayer (public and private),
  • unostentatious fasting or self-denial, and
  • the sacrificial giving of alms (charitable donations).

All three Lenten disciplines form a unit in order to aid the Christian in his observance of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. For Christ’s advice in these matters, consult the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 6:1-21.

Increased Prayer

Extra public worship is a vital part of Lenten life, and our parishioners are given ample opportunity to cultivate this virtue. Mass will be celebrated every day in Lent. Each day has its own unique theme, which lead us to seem the several aspects of Our Lord’s passionate grace. The daily schedule is as follows:

    Sunday………………… 10 a.m.
    Monday……………….. 10 a.m.
    Tuesday…………………. 8 a.m.
    Wednesday…………….. 7 p.m.
    Thursday………………… 8 a.m.
    Friday………………….. 10 a.m.
    Saturday………………. 10 a.m.

In addition, the Stations of the Cross with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be celebrated every Friday at 7 p.m.

Increased private prayers and devotions at home should also be cultivated during this Season. These prayers and devotions should begin and be formed by reading from the Holy Scriptures. This year parishioners are especially encouraged to spend each day in Lent reading one or two chapters each day from the prophet Jeremiah.

Fasting & Abstention

In the Orthodox Church fasting is not an individual practice, but a communal habit. The purpose of this fast is to bring to our mind, each day, Our Lord’s Passion. Fasting also allows the entire body to participate in the penitence characteristic of this Holy Season.

As a community, on Mondays through Saturdays we abstain from all meat and meat products (except fish); and we fast by limiting the amount of food we eat by eating only one full meal, eating one smaller meal, and refraining from all snacks.

The Lenten Fast does not offer suggestions on what to “give up.” Rather, it prescribes the common rule the faithful are to follow as they fast together. Individuals may choose to “give up” additional items during Lent, but such choices should not replace the Lenten fast, and should be made in consolation with individ

ual’s spiritual father. Likewise, those who, for medical or other legitimate reasons, find it difficult to observe the Lenten Fast, should speak with their spiritual father concerning legitimate modifications in order to keep the spirit of the Fast.


Extra Alms and charitable donations should be made during Lent, even for those of us who tithe. These alms can come from the money saved by eating less during Lent. By giving to those in need, we remind ourselves that Our Lord’s love knows no economic boundaries.

To assist your Lenten almsgiving, look especially for the Lenten coin boxes which are available in the Narthex. Money received from these folders will help the Archdiocese “Food for Hungry People” program.

You may also wish to designate a particular local charity for additional funds. Such charities may include the local FOCUS North America chapter, the IOCC, the OCMC, the Crisis Pregnancy Center, or any number of homeless shelters.

Laudable Lenten Customs

Lent is especially the time when Christians put the remembrance of Our Lord’s Passion above all other pursuits. In our modern and permissive age it is unpopular to point out suc

h things, but this very fact indicates how much such pointing-out is needed.

For this reason, Lent is a closed season of the Church Year. This means that the solemnities of this season should not be disturbed by wedding celebrations and activities that would encourage one away from the three Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and charitable giving.

In addition, the Liturgy itself during Holy Lent expresses the seasons’ penitential character. The Gloria in excelsis, the Alleluia, bells, and extra organ music are omitted. Somber violet covers both Altar and Celebrant, lightened on only two occasions: Laetare Sunday, with rose as the proper color; and Holy Thursday, when white is used for the Mass of the Institution of Our Lord’s Supper.

Passion Sunday falls on April 2 this year. At this time, the Lenten observance is heightened in anticipation of the greater nearness of the celebration of Our Lord’s Death. Passion Sunday is when violet veils are placed over crucifixes, icons and statutes in church and home.

Holy Week

Lent concludes with the Holy Week observances. Mass will be celebrated each day of Holy Week at 7 p.m., climaxing with the triduum sacrum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Pascha.

On Maundy Thursday evening (April 13) in a most splendid and dignified Sung Mass, the Institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament will be celebrated at 7:00 p.m. This Mass concludes with the solemn Procession and the Stripping of the Altar. Every communicant should make every effort to receive Holy Communion on this sacred evening.

The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ will be celebrated with the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Good Friday (April 14) beginning at 7 p.m. This Solemn Liturgy includes the Sacrament of Holy Communion and a sermon based on the Passion Narrative according to St. John. Every member should make an effort to attend the Good Friday Solemn Liturgy.

The Queen of Feasts will be celebrated with great joy at St Michael’s Church. The feast will commence with the Great Vigil of Easter, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Holy Saturday (April 15). Then, on Easter Sunday (April 16), we shall hear again the Gospel of Our Lord’s Resurrection at the Easter Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. How greatly our joy would be increased if every communicant member of our Parish would come to the Altar on the Queen of Feasts!

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2017 Lenten Retreat

The Society of St Benedict will host their annual Lenten Retreat on Saturday, March 4, at St Michael Orthodox Christian Church in Whittier.

“The Character of the Godly Heart” is the theme of the retreat. Rev. Dr. Calinic Berger, Assistant Pastor at St Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles, will offer three meditations during the retreat. In addition to the meditations, this retreat follows the Benedictine model of a “silent retreat.” Therefore, there will be ample quiet time for personal prayer, reflection, and meditation.

This event is intended to provide a break from the busyness of this world, to offer time to learn how to live the season of Lent, and to refresh and prepare the soul for the Lenten journey.

The retreat begins at 9 a.m. with prayer according to the rule of St Benedict, and concludes at 3 p.m. Lunch will be provided, and a free will donation is appreciated. Child care, unfortunately, will not be available.

Fr. Calinic earned a PhD in Systematic theology from Catholic University of America in Washington DC. He has been a Visiting Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Yonkers NY, and has taught and published on Orthodox theology and spiritual life in a variety of venues.

For more information or to RSVP, please call or email the St Michael parish office.

St Michael Orthodox Church is located at 3333 Workman Mill Road, across the street from Rio Hondo College.


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Bless This Home

The blessiHouseBlessing3ng of a home is an ancient Christian practice that helps us remember that our Christian life of faith and love is lived not only in Church on Sundays but also in the home daily.

The Orthodox tradition (Western and Eastern) is to bless homes in the days and weeks after Epiphany. The connection to Epiphany is important.

At the first Epiphany, the Magi entered the home of the Holy Family to present their gifts. Blessing the home opens our eyes to see that Christ already lives in our home; and it acknowledges that our entire life—even the most mundane, routine, and intimate aspects—is a gift that we offer and ask Our Lord to bless.

Additionally, the Gospel reading for the first two Sundays after Epiphany center around the home. On the first Sunday, we hear of the Child Jesus in His Father’s home, doing His Father’s business. On the second Sunday, we hear of Christ blessing a wedding (and thereby, the establishment of a new home and family) with His presence. Blessing the home teaches us that we must also focus more on our heavenly Father’s business of prayer, fasting, faith and love; and less on seeking pleasure in this world. It also teaches us that the Lord’s marriage blessing extends beyond the wedding day, and is intended to enrich, strengthen, and encourage all aspects of family life.

The words of blessing ask the Lord defend and protect the home from discord and strife; to fortify and grant healing when we suffer any affliction at home; and to inspire the family to teach, model, and live Christian values. With these words, the blessing of the home hopes to bring calmness and serenity in the place where you live.

When the prayers are said, holy water is used together with incense. The incense indicates that the prayers and the Lord’s blessing pervade the entire house, and remind us that we are the fragrance of Christ (2 Cor. 2.15), called to live a holy life in every part of our home, with every member of our family.

The holy water is used to chase away all devilish thoughts and desires, to protect from harm, and to bring tranquility to the home. The prayer used in blessing the water says it this way: “Let this water serve thee, O God, in expelling demons and curing diseases. When it is sprinkled in the homes of the faithful, may they be cleansed and delivered from harm. Let these homes enjoy a spirit of goodness and an air of tranquility, freed from baneful and hidden snares.”

In addition to the prayers, the door is marked with chalk as a daily and annual witness (mostly to the inhabitants) that the home is also the Lord’s residence. Applied are both the numbers which indicate the year of blessing, and the letters C, M, B. These letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.”

The blessing of the home is not limited to the days after Epiphany. The blessing should also be used whenever Christians move into a new residence, or whenever there is external or internal strife in the home or family. Toward this end, there are also other rites for blessing the home which the priest may use as suggested by the particular situation.

Whether it is done annually or when there is a distressing time, the blessing of the home is another why of asking God’s grace to overcome the fallout of sin, even in our homes. It’s all part of living as God’s people and being sustained by His mercy.

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Joining the Magi

Let us take to heart that the Light of the World, the Light to lighten the Gentiles, the Light and glory of the Lord, the One who is the Light of all men—let us marvel in godly wonder that He was found by Magi who followed a bright shining star through darkness.414_epiphany_3rd_version

For darkness covered the earth—and not just the earth; for the souls of the Lord’s own people were shrouded in darkness; Herod was governed by dark desires; and thick darkness covered hearts and minds of the chief priests and scribes of the people so that they could not comprehend the very words that they declared to Herod and the Magi.

And so darkness did not comprehend the appearance of the Light of men. Darkness did not comprehend Him; but neither did it envelop Him or snuff Him out. For how can the darkest night extinguish even the dimmest star?

Our Lord’s Spirit is by no means a dim star, but a gleaming light which shines in the east. And Our Blessed Lord is the light which shineth in darkness. Therefore, as the prophet says, the brightness of the Lord’s glory arose and was seen so that even Gentiles walked by His light, and kings in the brightness of His rising.

This, then, is the mystery that we celebrate today: that our mortality, our propensity toward death, desire for things that eventually kill the soul—these always develop in darkness; yet Our Lord mercifully insists on shining through with His mercy so that we “may not lose through ignorance what [He] has wondrously made [us] worthy of holding and possessing through [His] great grace.” (St Peter Chrysologus)

For he who willed to be born for us did not want to remain unknown by us; and so he discloses himself in a way, that the great mystery of his merciful kindness may not become a great occasion of error. (ibid)

Therefore, today we rejoice that Our Lord graciously overcame the dark desires of King Herod, and the darkened hearts of the chief priests and scribes, and the uncomprehending shadows of the Magi.

But most of all, we rejoice this day that our own darkness—our dark desires and benighted plans; and our faith and promises and resolutions that are so easily extinguished—these have not caused Our Lord to withdraw the brightness of His glory. Rather, by His gracious appearing and His determined desire to enlighten our hearts and illumine our minds, and thereby burn away our sinful dross and purify our filthy wills—by His grace, we find ourselves standing with the Magi.

And with them, we “find crying in a cradle the One whom [we were] seeking as he shown among the stars. Today [with] the Magi [we] admire evident in his swaddling clothes the One whom they experienced as hidden for a long time within the constellations. Today [with] the Magi [we] ponder with deep amazement what they see…: heaven on earth, earth in heaven; man in God, God in man; and the One who is not able to be contained in the whole world, [we] see confined in a tiny body.” (ibid)

Let us not let this sight, this vision, this marvel quickly pass us by. Let us not dismiss it as fanciful images, or motivational speech. Let us instead take to heart the Truth that is set before us—the Truth who deigns to love us with such great love, with the love that He truly is, which then enables us to rise above our base desires and escape the grip of death, since He warmly draws us into Himself.

  • As we contemplate this mystery of God’s love and mercy for us miserable and unworthy men;
  • as we take to heart the appearance and manifestation of the goodness and kindness of God our Savior;
  • as we marvel at the mystery of the Light of all men shining into our hearts so that we are no longer enveloped in pitch-darkness;
  • as we weep with joy over the mystery of the grace of God our Savior [which] hath appeared to all men, and which instructs us to live no longer for ourselves but in His newness and life—

As we meditate on these things, let us also not forget, but rather imitate, the Magi. For when they had seen the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Let us also rejoice with exceeding great joy. Let us enter into the Lord’s house often to give thanks.

And let us find here not a mundane routine or a common occurrence. Instead, let us see, by faith, Christ the Lord with Mary His mother.

And then let us fall down and worship Him. And let us, by the mercy of God, offer Him gifts by presenting [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, [which is our] reasonable [liturgy].

For Our Lord arrives and appears and manifests Himself to us, not for His sake, but so that we might always stand with the Magi before Him.

Toward this end, He has instructed us that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Therefore, let us not be conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of [our] mind[s], that [we] may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.

That we might do so with earnest and true hearts, and never depart from the holy light which beams brightly upon us today, let us pray to our patron St Michael; and to the holy Mother of God; to the Holy Apostles; to the martyrs and confessors; and to all the saints. For, by God’s grace, they have attained that for which we still endeavor.

Let us pray that they may strengthen us by their prayers, so that we are not dissuaded by dark desires; and so that, with the aid of their merits, we may persevere in worshiping the Light of all men, Jesus Christ Our Lord, who with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns God, throughout all ages of ages.


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The Best Thing about Christmas

img_20161224_124607320To understand what Christmas is really about, let’s imagine something.

Imagine that Adam and Eve had never sinned. Imagine that nothing bad ever happened. Imagine that no one fell for temptations. Imagine there is no evil. Imagine there are no wars, no disasters, no tragedies. Imagine that there is no death.

But subtracting all the bad does not yet add up to the best. Making all the negativity disappear does not mean that goodness appears. Because life is not about avoiding sin, and living the best you can.

Life is about love. And love requires relationship. An intimate relationship. A relationship that never grows old, because it always grows deeper. A relationship that does not die, that cannot die, because at least one person won’t let it die.

So that we might have a relationship with our Father—that’s why the Virgin gave birth to God. So that we might grow closer to and more intimate with God—that’s why God’s Son knitted our flesh to His divine nature. So that we might have a full, abundant life—that’s why the Creator of our life freely chose to live our life. So that we might know what love truly looks like, what love truly is—that’s why Christ was born.

With Our Lord’s birth, we can begin to understand the full extent of what it means when we call him “Our Savior.” It’s not just that Jesus came to lead us in the right path. It’s not just that Jesus became man so that He could die to forgive our sins. It’s not just He died to release us from the grip of death.

All of this is certainly true. And certainly good. And certainly saves us. But our salvation is much deeper than being rescued or liberated. Being saved means being able to live with God, in God, and with God living in us.

And to live with God, to live in God, and to have God live in us—that is why God melded his nature to our nature. That is why Christ was born.

For Christ’s birth means that we can now draw near to the Unapproachable One. That we can be consumed with God without God consuming us. That we can have God’s nature in us without losing who we are. That we can have a real, authentic, intimate relationship with God.

For Christ is both God and human. God, begotten of the Father before any time, before any creation. And human, born of the Virgin Mary in our time, clothed in our nature. Christ is human, capable of temptation, suffering and death; and He is God, capable of resisting temptation, living through suffering, and overcoming death. And Christ Jesus is God, able to relate to and communicate with all humans, across times and locations; and He is human, able to sympathize with us in our weakness, and connect with us individually.

The best thing about Christ Mass, then, is not that a child is born. Not that child will rescue us from sin, and deliver us from death. The best thing about Christ Mass is that this little child is born in order to make a home in us, so that we might come home to our Father in His kingdom.

And that is made plain in the details of the story. As you know, Christ is born in Bethlehem—the city of David. But more importantly, the city whose name means ‘House of Bread.’ And this little Child is laid in a manger. A feeding trough. A bread box.

Why do these details matter? Because they tell us that Christ is born to be our Bread. To be the Bread of Life. The Bread which renews, and reinvigorates, and re-energizes our life—even as He also keeps us alive. And the Bread by which we receive God. For when we receive the Holy Eucharist, we receive God. When the communion is placed on our tongues, God enters not only our heart and mind, but our very flesh. When we receive from the Chalice, God mingles Himself with our blood.

And that is why Christ is born. So that God might draw near to us, with an intimacy that exceeds our best desires, an intimacy that is closer than we can believe, an intimacy that exceeds our imagination.

All of this is what lies behind the words the angel says to the shepherds. It’s not just about salvation from sin. It’s even more so about life in with the Lord.

And so, ‘for you is born this day in the city of David the Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe, wrapped in your flesh, lying on the altar.

By the prayers of His holy and immaculate Mother, may we draw near to Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was made man in order to bring us to Our Father; who lives and reigns with His Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.


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Christ Mass at St Michael’s

Christ Mass Eve

24 December, Saturday

Vigil of Christ Mass, 10 a.m.

1st Vespers of the Nativity, 6 p.m.

Lessons & Carols, 10 p.m.

Christ Mass at Midnight, 11 p.m.

Christ Mass Day

25 December, Sunday

Nativity Lauds, 9:15 a.m.

Christ Mass Day, 10 a.m.

Octave of Christ Mass

1 January, Sunday

Octave Lauds, 9:15 a.m.

Octave Mass, 10 a.m.

Day X of Christ Mass

3 January, Tuesday

Lauds, 7:30 a.m.

Mass, 8 a.m.

Epiphany of Our Lord

5 January, Thursday

1st Vespers of Epiphany, 6 p.m.

Blessing of Waters, 6:30 p.m.

Epiphany Mass, 7 p.m.

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