Standing tall and majestic, the newly erected Christmas tree stretched out its green branches, as if reaching up towards the beautiful icon of the Protection of the Mother of God which hung on the wall above it. This tree followed the centuries-old tradition, which began with the “Jesse Tree”, of decorating homes during the Christmas Season.
The Sunday before the Nativity, the Reading is from the Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew1:1-25) which lists the genealogy of Christ. As far back as Byzantine times, these ancestors of Christ, as well as the prophets who foretold of the Virgin Birth, were depicted on the ornaments of the “Jesse trees” that were placed in churches during the Nativity Season. Traditionally an icon of the Prophet Jesse (who was the father of David) was placed towards the bottom, on the top would be a star, and in the middle of the tree would hang an icon of Christ blessing with His two hands.
The tree which was located in the atrium of the Consistory Offices at the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, in South Bound Brook, New Jersey, would be no different, as it too would be decorated with a myriad of icons and symbolic ornaments.
As the sun began to set outdoors, the lights within the atrium began to twinkle, and the halls began to echo with happy voices. With smiles and joyous laughter, the hierarchs, clergy, staff and faithful who had gathered for the annual event of decorating the official tree, made their way in to the atrium carrying packages, boxes and envelopes which held tiny treasurers within.
This was the second year that His Eminence Archbishop Daniel petitioned the tiniest of his flock, the children of the parishes, to create the ornaments that would decorate the Christmas Tree that graced the Atrium and greeted the guests who visited the Metropolia Center during the Christmas Season.
Fulfilling their hierarch’s request were the children of:
- Mary Protectress Parish, Spring Valley, CA
- The Anderson’s, Effort, PA
- Peter and Paul, Palos Park. IL
- Andrew’s Cathedral, Silver Spring, MD
- POKROVA parish, Allentown, PA
- Volodymyr Cathedral, Chicago, IL
- Assumption of the Virgin Mary parish, Northampton, PA
- Nicholas parish, Troy, NY
- Michael’s parish, Woonsocket, RI
- Mary Dormition parish, Jones, OK
- Peter and Paul parish, Wilmington, DE
- John the Baptist parish, Portland, Oregon
- Peter and Paul parish, Carnage, PA
- Mary the Protectress Parish, Southfield, MI
- Luke Parish, Warner, NY
As His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Metropolitan & Prime Hierarch of UOC of the USA and Diaspora, decorated the tree with lovingly handmade wooden ornaments, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, President of the Consistory and Prime Hierarch of the Western Eparchy, scurried up the ladder to place the shining star atop the tree. With laughter and joy the plain green tree began to drip with ornaments – sparkling pasta stars, popsicle stick wooden churches, saints, prophets, snowmen, angels and bedazzled spiders with their golden webs.
Within minutes the tree proudly stood displaying the efforts of the children who painstakingly and lovingly created the tiny masterpieces that now decorated its stately branches. Standing back to admire the beautiful tree, everyone began pointing out their favorite ornaments, smiling and contemplating the creativity of young minds, and tiny hands.
We invite you to come and see the tree in person at the Metropolia Center atrium. You will be struck by its beauty, by the unique ornaments, and the creativity. Come and witness the love of the children which surround you, who fill your parishes, and fill our hearts with joy.
Photos and Text by Elizabeth Symonenko