Orthodox Christmas for thousands in Ottawa

Thursday was Christmas for thousands of Ottawa residents who belong to the Orthodox Church, and a two-hour liturgy service at Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church was one of the city’s celebrations.
Tom Spears | 08 January 2016
Orthodox Christmas for thousands in Ottawa
A young girl kisses the Virgin Mary at the front of the church. Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church held their Christmas service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Father Maxym Lysack estimates there are probably more than 25,000 Orthodox Christians in the city, divided among Greek, Antiochian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Russian, and Romanian Orthodox parishes, and a multicultural church at Christ the Saviour.

Some celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 while others — including the various Slavic and Coptic churches — celebrate it on Jan. 7.

A young boy lights a candle for the living and the dead as a means of paying homage to both at the front of the church upon entering. Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church held their Christmas service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

A young boy lights a candle for the living and the dead as a means of paying homage to both at the front of the church upon entering. Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church held their Christmas service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Christmas begins at sunset the night before, Father Maxym said.

“We have a 12-course ritual meal in our homes.” Following that is a prayer service at night, and the liturgy on Christmas morning.

“Following that we break our fast, because we have a fast of 40 days, meaning we’re not eating meat and dairy products for 40 days before the feast.”

He called the mood of the liturgy “joyful.”

A young girl kisses the Virgin Mary at the front of the church. Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church held their Christmas service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

A young girl kisses the Virgin Mary at the front of the church. Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church held their Christmas service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Deacon Michael La Libertie leads Father Maxym Lysack on a procession through the congregation during the service. Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Deacon Michael La Libertie leads Father Maxym Lysack on a procession through the congregation during the service. Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Coming up is a series of celebrations lasting through most of January, including the Feast of St. Basil and the Feast of Theophany, or Epiphany.

“It’s a busy month but it’s a beautiful month. It’s a month of great joy and spiritual beauty.”

The long service – more than a couple of hours – was too much for young Stephane Rusu, who slept in his mother’s arms through some hymns. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

The long service – more than a couple of hours – was too much for young Stephane Rusu, who slept in his mother’s arms through some hymns. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Altar boy Nicholas La Libertie (centre) sits with other church members at the front while listening to the service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Altar boy Nicholas La Libertie (centre) sits with other church members at the front while listening to the service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

A young boy gets comfy on his mom’s lap as the service wears on. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

A young boy gets comfy on his mom’s lap as the service wears on. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Altar boys Nicholas La Libertie (front) and Thomas Howarth lead Deacon Michael La Libertie and Father Maxym Lysack (rear) on a procession through the congregation during the service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Altar boys Nicholas La Libertie (front) and Thomas Howarth lead Deacon Michael La Libertie and Father Maxym Lysack (rear) on a procession through the congregation during the service. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Parishioner Marta Santanilla lights a candle for the living in front of the church altar. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Parishioner Marta Santanilla lights a candle for the living in front of the church altar. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Father Maxym Lysack leads the service with prayer. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Father Maxym Lysack leads the service with prayer. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN

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