December 24, 2012

Dedicated to my friend, Porphyrogenitum

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people. Those who are separated from family and friends find this season emotionally difficult. People who have lost loved ones can find that putting on the holiday cheer is a cumbersome task. Christmas time can also be emotionally difficult particularly for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. Those that have partners may not be “out” to members of their families and therefore might be forced to celebrate the holidays without their spouse. LGBT people who have never found a partner to share their life and love with, carry around a silent wound as they must endure another holiday alone.  Although they might be surrounded by family and friends, inside they feel alone.  This is especially acute during the time of year which is all about celebrating with family and loved ones. Everyone expects you to be cheery and celebratory and yet, in the words of one of my friends, “while others are feasting, I am fasting”. I understand his sentiment.

The Nativity of Christ has always been one of the most joyous as well as one of the saddest holy days in my life. My family always celebrated Christmas twice. On December 25 we had the traditional decorated tree, and the exchange of presents and a big family dinner. Since my mother was not Orthodox until later in her life, we frequently attended a local Protestant Church to celebrate the Birth of Christ. My family celebrated a second Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7, adhering to many of the Ukrainian traditions of the feast. For me it was a sacred and festive time. My aunt worked for days preparing the delectable twelve course dinner of Christmas Eve.  My uncle always led us in the singing of numerous Ukrainian Christmas carols.  In later years he was worried that these inspired hymns might be forgotten by some of the younger members of the family and so he provided us with the text of many of the carols in both Ukrainian and English phonetics. There was an added bonus to the holiday as we were allowed to skip school on January 7. Sure, we went to church, but it was still a special day off.

While in Seminary, I began to understand the theological implications of the mystery of the Word becoming flesh, the Nativity of our Lord, and how that sacred event had been so passionately woven into the holy traditions of numerous cultures around the world. Once ordained and assigned to a parish, I was humbled to serve the liturgical services, but it also meant that I was separated from my family during the holy season. Although my last parish hosted a wonderful Holy Supper on Christmas Eve, meant to provide holiday joy for those unable to have their own traditional twelve course dinner, I was still without my family. Even though I was celebrating Christmas with numerous loving, dedicated and faithful members of my parish, I was still essentially alone. Over the years this feeling became more sensitive as I slowly began to realize a fundamental truth, that God did not call me to be alone.

My Christmas wish for the LGBT Orthodox community is that you might find some solace this holiday season. I would urge you to go and re-read or listen to the Christmas message of hope found in the Gospel. The message can be life transforming. The services of the Church as well as the carols of the season are replete with the messages of love, hope, assurance, peace and true joy. Even though you might find yourself alone during this season, know that you are never truly alone. During the difficult moments of this and every season, light a candle, talk to God, talk to one other person, write to us here at orthodoxandgay.com

For those of you lucky enough to find a spouse, treasure them, but also find some time to reach out to the LGBTQ person who is alone during this holiday season and make that reaching out a New Year’s resolution.

My Christmas wish and hope for Orthodox families is that we might greet and welcome all of our family members during this sacred season and all year round.  All of our family members need to be embraced and valued for who God made them to be.  We want to be seated at the Christmas table, with our spouse if we are blessed to have one, and for us to be honestly intricate members of our family.

My Christmas wish and hope for the Orthodox Church is that she begin to recognize the fact God created gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in His own image, and carved in their hearts the desire and ability to not only love, but to express that love in meaningful relationships. We need to be welcomed and embraced and invited to be seated at the table of the Lord.

-For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son” – John 3:16

-The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God with us” – Matthew 1:23

Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior is born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

  1. Antoinette Herrera Said,

    Dear Father Andre:

    Thank you for this timely post. The holidays have been a trying time for me, for many years: this year has been especially difficult. I was evicted from the studio where I had been living, and only just managed to find a place. (This move came at a loss.) I’ve been trying to find work, and have been stymied at every turn. Thank God my roommate has been patient about rent–still, I cannot take advantage of her kindness forever. I’ve also been depressed, and missing my parents and my grandmother, who have all passed away. Some days, I just wanted to stay in bed, lock the door, and keep the shades drawn.

    I’m still a little shaky, but hanging on in hope and prayer. Thank you for passing on a bit more light.

    Wishing you a blessed Nativity, and a wonderful 2103.

  2. andre Said,

    Thank you for your kind comments. The holidays are indeed trying days for many people, not only for some members of the LGBTQ community.
    You are in our prayers. I wish you inner peace, good health and true joy in 2013.
    Andriy

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