Old calendar, new hope for Christmas

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As he wishes his parishioners a Merry Christmas today, according to the Julian calendar, Rev. Eugene Maximiuk also offers prayers of hope for a safer future in 2022.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/01/2022 (216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As he wishes his parishioners a Merry Christmas today, according to the Julian calendar, Rev. Eugene Maximiuk also offers prayers of hope for a safer future in 2022.

“The world is not a perfect place. There’s always some adversity,” says the priest at Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral.

“No matter what challenges we face as humanity, the Christ child brings hope.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ‘Every family has to make their choice and do what they feel they need to do to keep safe,’ says Rev. Eugene Maximiuk at Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral.

Some of Winnipeg’s Ukrainian community, as well as a few Orthodox groups, follow the Julian calendar for their liturgical practice, and celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, 13 days later than the more commonly used Gregorian calendar.

With COVID-19 cases surging since most Christians celebrated Christmas on Dec. 25, Maximiuk expected lower attendance at the North End cathedral for his Christmas services. Parishioners can choose to celebrate at a vaccinated-only service today or tune into the livestreamed liturgy.

“Every family has to make their choice and do what they feel they need to do to keep safe,” he said.

Current public health restrictions limit capacity of vaccinated-only religious services to 50 per cent or 250 people, whichever is lower. Services with unvaccinated people are limited to 25 people, or cohorts of 25 up to 25 per cent of capacity or 250 people.

Parishioners at Sts. Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral planned for a less restricted Christmas after celebrating from home last year, says Rev. Ihor Shved.

“It’s not what we expected. We expected it would be a fuller, joyful celebration as usual,” he said.

The 1,000-seat McGregor Street cathedral held a vaccinated-only Christmas Eve service but today’s Christmas service will be open to unvaccinated people, following limits set under public health guidelines.

This second pandemic Christmas season had some unexpected blessings, said the Ukrainian-born Shved. During the 40 days of prayer, reflection and fasting preceding Christmas, parish families took turns sharing daily videos of readings and songs on the cathedral’s YouTube channel, and more people participated in daily livestreamed services than would normally attend in person.

“We would never have 30 people praying on the morning of Christmas Eve,” he said about Thursday’s virtual congregation.

Although they also follow the Julian calendar, parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral on Manitoba Avenue won’t celebrate together because their priest is still recovering from COVID-19. Instead, they are encouraged to mark the holiday by praying at home, said Rev. Roman Pavlov.

“It will be a prayer of sadness, but it will also be full of hope,” he said about closing the church for several weeks.

“Hard times are just part of life.”

Despite a second year of limited holiday celebrations, Shved hopes people can soon return to their traditions of large family dinners, carolling, and attending services together.

“I hope the peace and hope and understanding of Christmas is here with us. It doesn’t matter what is going around,” he said.

“We believe we will be able to celebrate Christmas (as usual) next year, or the next year.”

brenda.suderman@freepress.mb.ca

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