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‘Christ is born! Glorify him!’

08 Lrg1.11.18_Byzantine.incense PAGEDeacon Kyrill Pagacz incenses an icon of the Nativity at Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church in San Francisco Jan. 7. The Eastern-rite parish follows the Julian Calendar and celebrated Christmas 12 days after the Roman Catholic celebration on Dec. 25. (Photos by Debra Greenblat/Catholic San Francisco)


Archbishop joins celebration of ‘Russian Christmas’

January 11, 2018
Christina Gray

As discarded Christmas trees lay in heaps on city sidewalks surrounding Our Lady of Fatima Russian Byzantine Catholic Church in San Francisco, parishioners of the Eastern-rite parish observed Christmas Day which they call The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone was a special guest and participant in this year’s Divine Liturgy celebrated by Father Kevin Kennedy, pastor, with Deacon Kyrill Pagacz and three altar servers. Our Lady of Fatima Russian Byzantine Catholic Church is a parish of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Divine Liturgy is the name for the Mass in the Russian Byzantine Church. Congregants are separated from celebrants by a curtained altar during the liturgy and remain active and standing throughout it.

In his homily, Father Kennedy said the Byzantine liturgy is very specific with very exalted language for God. “God is incomprehensible, almighty, omnipotent, eternal,” he said. “And he is all those things.”

But God created us for a “transforming union” with himself by becoming one with his own creation and human realities, he said.

“God enters into that reality as a baby, as a child. And there is no room for him,” Father Kennedy said. “That’s the first reality.”

Christ experiences all our vulnerabilities except for sin, he said. “That vulnerability is God’s Christmas gift to us so that the omnipotent one might also be the one who can be touched and seen. We are not alone. He journeys with us and is part of us, sharing with us all that it is to be human.”

After the Divine Liturgy, guests and visitors were invited to a sit-down Nativity feast. Christmas Day marks the end of the 40-day Nativity fast which started Nov. 15. It is not an obligatory fast, but for faithful in the Russian Byzantine church it is a time to purify both body and soul to partake of the great spiritual reality of Christ’s coming, much like the preparation for the celebration of his resurrection.

According to its website, the mission of Our Lady of Fatima Russian Byzantine Catholic Church is to preach the Gospel, celebrate the mysteries of Christ and to serve those in need. Roman-rite Catholics are welcome to attend Byzantine Catholic liturgies.

The parish website is byzantinecatholic.org.


01 Byzantine.girl2 PAGEA little girl stares up during the Divine Liturgy of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Christmas Day) on Jan. 7 at Our Lady of Fatima Russian Byzantine Catholic Church.


08 L 1.11.18_Byzantine.Father K greets ABC PAGEFather Kevin Kennedy waits at the door to the church with gifts for Archbishop Cordileone, who attended the liturgy.


08 R 1.11.18_Byzantine.congregants PAGEParishioners and guests at the Divine Liturgy for the Nativity of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior.

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