Se nella Chiesa cattolica – come abbiamo già rilevato in altri contributi inseriti di recente nel nostro sito – novembre è, per tradizione, dedicato alla memoria dei defunti, nella Chiesa ortodossa il penultimo mese dell’anno è scandito da importanti feste liturgiche. Le ripercorre, nel brano che proponiamo nell’originale inglese, lo studioso ed esperto di Ortodossia John Sanidopoulos, che vi si sofferma anche con dovizia di particolari. Una precisazione: l’autore rispetta, nella sua analisi, il calendario gregoriano in uso anche presso la Chiesa latina.
November is the eleventh and penultimate month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars, the fourth and last of four months to have a length of 30 days, and the fifth and last of five months to have a length of less than 31 days. November was the ninth month of the ancient Roman calendar. November retained its name (from the Latin novem meaning “nine”) when January and February were added to the Roman calendar. November is a month of late spring in the Southern hemisphere and late autumn in the Northern hemisphere.
The month of November in the Orthodox Church is full of major events and great saints. In this month the forty-day Nativity Fast begins leading us to Christmas, and a Great Feast of the Mother of God is celebrated that focuses on her Entrance into the Temple. Among the many great and beloved Saints we celebrate this month are Kosmas and Damian the Unmercenaries (Nov. 1), the Archangels Michael and Gabriel (Nov. 8), Nektarios the Wonderworker (Nov. 9), Menas the Great Martyr (Nov. 11), John Chrysostom (Nov. 13), Philip the Apostle (Nov. 14), Matthew the Apostle (Nov. 16), Katherine of Alexandria (Nov. 25) and Andrew the Apostle (Nov. 30).
The first great festival of the month of November takes place on the 8th when the Archangels Michael and Gabriel are celebrated. These Archangels are highly honored in the Orthodox Church, with numerous churches dedicated to them throughout the world, having played a major role in the history of our salvation. Traditionally, the most pious of Orthodox Christians would even keep a fast from November 1st to the 8th in their honor and in imitation of their angelic life. Though the Archangels Michael and Gabriel are primarily honored on this day, with them the Church honors all the nine Angelic Orders.
The second major event in the month of November falls on the 15th, when the forty-day Nativity Fast begins. Though this fast is not as strict as Great Lent, and throughout the history of the Church various lengths were given to it, in the year 1156 it was established as a forty-day fast by Patriarch Lukas of Constantinople. Remnants of the shorter seven-day fast still remain as a rule for this fast, since after December 17th fish is no longer permitted. Also, hymns in anticipation of Christmas do not begin until the Apodosis of the Entrance of the Theotokos on November 25th.
Which leads us to the last major event of November, which is numbered among the Twelve Major Feasts of the Ecclesiastical Year – the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple on November 21st. We remember on this day when the Virgin Mary was a young girl, she was brought by her parents Joachim and Anna to be dedicated to the service of the temple, and was received by the High Priest Zechariah, who brought her prophetically into the Holy of Holies, in anticipation of becoming herself the Holy of Holies who contained within her womb the Lord himself. This feast contains some of the most beautiful hymns of the Church, and is celebrated for five days until the Apodosis. November is a month of many festivals in the Orthodox Church, allowing us to daily reflect on the meaning of our salvation, especially as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord next month.