At College Conference, several of the speakers mentioned how in Orthodoxy we continue celebrating Christmas past December 25 until Theophany on January 6 and that’s where we get the Twelve Days of Christmas. I thought that was pretty neat and just meant we got to keep up our tree and lights longer. However, I realized that from the Wednesday before Christmas to yesterday, Sunday, January 3, I had gone to church for twelve straight days. And in those twelve days, I had gone to Vigil, Royal Hours, Compline, Orthros, two kinds of Liturgy, Vespers, Paraklesis, and a supplication to St. Raphael.
Upon this realization, two things struck me. The first is that we are so blessed to have such a variety of services for every occasion. They’re already there, waiting for us. My mom used to teach at a Lutheran preschool and once a semester she had to go to their services to sing songs with her students. She always marveled at how they simply made up their worship. The beauty of our services is they are unchanging, eternal. It’s not for us to choose. And as we practice them, we get to know them. At College Conference, 300+ voices joined together in chanting the Paraklesis or reciting the Creed because all 300+ of those people knew the words and songs. We can pray together.
The second thing that struck me was the sheer blessing and opportunity I had to go to so much church. I don’t live in a monastic community, I live on a college campus. Church every day isn’t feasible. But thanks to the cycle of services for Christmas and the timing of College Conference, I could go to church every day for those 12 days. And I love church. It brings me peace and joy; it comforts me. It’s also exhausting, but in the most rejuvenating sense of the word. Our church gives us the tools we need – orthros in the morning, compline at night, liturgies and supplications and paraklesis for the in between. All you really have to do is show up.
I don’t think that’s how most college students spent their break. But it certainly is a good way to recharge for the new semester and the New Year.