The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is the cornerstone of Christianity in the western world and its construction was followed by erection of other famous religious edifices in Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Rome. Bethlehem is the acknowledged birthplace of Jesus Christ and accordingly represents the early foundation of Christianity on the ground, the narrative of his birth in Nazareth. The church was constructed in 326 AD, following the facilitation for its construction by Queen Helena. Queen Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great…
Constantine the Great, a/k/an Emperor of Rome had consolidated Christianity by way of the first ecumenical council (Council of Nicaea) in 325 AD under Roman Catholic domination. Emperor Constantine was a recent convert to Christianity following his mystical vision of the cross, which he attributed to his victory in the battle to unite Rome. Hence, Christianity became infused in the battle cry of the conquering Roman Empire going forward, as outlined in the historical narrative of secular and the history of Christianity in the western world.
There is interesting irony in the fact that Constantine, a new convert to Christianity was able to convene all of the bishops in world Christendom at the Council of Nicaea, under the circumstances… The Roman Empire had a colourful history spanning the previous 300 years of persecuting and crucifying Christians. Constantine reportedly converted to the faith in 312 AD, and in 313 AD, he signed the Treaty of Milan, which halted the persecution of Christians and confiscation of their property. Subsequently, the emperor in 325 AD was inspired to convene the first ecumenical council, which was obviously an intriguing proposition offered to his invited participants.
The council resulted with the bifurcation of world Christianity in the framework of eastern and western divide. The western historical narrative is a linear process wherein the Roman Catholic Church was dominant for 1500 years, until the advent of the Protestant Reformation, and current day denominational Christianity. The Protestant Reformation occurred in conjunction with the “age of enlightenment” in Europe and the dawning of the industrial age. European countries began to challenge the authority of the Papacy which began with King Henry IIIV, when he established the Church of England, which precipitated the protestant movement. Christianity in the west observes Christmas Day on December 25.
On the other hand, the eastern Christian historical narrative, referred to in the west as “Orthodox Christianity,” continues to express the Faith in the framework of their respective countries, traditions and cultures. An example of the countries in the Eastern Orthodox communion includes, but not limited to: Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Coptic (Egyptian) Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Armenian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, etc. The Orthodox Christian Churches observe Christmas Day on January 6.
The Orthodox, oriental Christian communion, predates the Roman church by three centuries and was the brunt of the Christian community that endured the wrath of Rome’ persecution. Nevertheless, while maintaining their respective traditions the Orthodox branch of churches generally acquiesced to Rome’s domination and they were invited to subsequent ecumenical councils throughout the centuries. On the contrary, however, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was branded as heretical during the Council of Nicaea and was excommunicated from all future councils… But the fact remains that Ethiopia has a unique connection to Judeo-Christian heritage and tradition that continues from the earliest days to the present time.
The historical dichotomy between the observances of Christmas Day in the west on December 25, and January 6, in the east is reconciled by the 12 days of Christmas. The 12 Days song is a popular Christmas Carol reconciles the two dates as official days of observing the occasion. Therefore, the world is united during the Christmas observance season… The Ethiopian Orthodox Church observes Christmas Day on January 6, but also continues to adhere to its traditional Judeo-Christian theology and heritage.
By way of a full disclosure Gary James completed his sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church at the age of 12, and studied Ethiopian heritage and theology under the guidance of HE Dejazmatch Amaha Abera Kassa, from 1983 to 2003.