Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Worshipers Celebrate Their Holiday at Church; Members Gather at St. Justin to Mark Christmas, Observed Jan. 7 by Some Orthodox Christians

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Worshipers Celebrate Their Holiday at Church; Members Gather at St. Justin to Mark Christmas, Observed Jan. 7 by Some Orthodox Christians

Article excerpt

Byline: Jessie-Lynne Kerr, The Times-Union

The pungent odor of incense filled the air. Evergreen sprigs and colorful bows adorned a multitude of framed icons. Candle flames sparkled everywhere.

Wednesday may have been Jan. 7, but to the two dozen souls worshiping at St. Justin the Martyr Orthodox Church in Jacksonville, it was Christmas -- the second in two weeks for most of them.

The Rev. Ted Pisarchuk, rector at St. Justin, said the majority of the 200 or so members of his church are converts from other faiths, so most also celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25.

Christmas falls on Jan. 7 for Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land, Russia and other Eastern Orthodox churches that use the old Julian calendar instead of the 16th-century Gregorian calendar adopted by Catholics and Protestants and commonly used in secular life around the world.

Other Orthodox Christians celebrated the holiday on Dec. 25, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew -- the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox -- and the church in Greece and the Americas.

The largest American Orthodox jurisdictions are the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Orthodox Church in America, which has Russian roots, and the Antiochian Archdiocese, which has Middle Eastern roots.

A brochure given to visitors and newcomers at St. Justin, a part of the Orthodox Church in America, warns they may sneeze if unaccustomed to incense.

"All around you, people will be doing things -- lighting candles, kissing icons, making the sign of the cross, bowing, standing in prayer, everything but sitting still," it said.

While Pisarchuk preached the service in English, a small a capella choir sang the liturgical responses in Russian.

The little parish, presently housed in the rear of the Baymeadows Commerce Center, a business complex on Baymeadows Road, had its first service in 1994 and attained parish status in 1998. In 2001, it purchased more than 10 acres in the 12400 block of St. …

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