Friday, December 25, 2009

For This is All My Hope

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

"Since, therefore, all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice! I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival! But I take my part, not plucking the harp nor with the music of the pipes nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ! For this is all my hope! This is my life! This is my salvation! This is my pipe, my harp! And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels and shepherds, sing: Glory to God in the Highest! and on earth peace to men of good will!" - St. John Chrysostom

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

St. Leo on Nativity and the Christian

"Although, therefore, that infancy, which the majesty of God’s Son did not disdain, reached mature manhood by the growth of years and, when the triumph of His passion and resurrection was completed, all the actions of humility which were undertaken for us ceased, yet today’s festival renews for us the holy childhood of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary: and in adoring the birth of our Savior, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life. For the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body. Although every individual that is called has his own order, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time, yet as the entire body of the faithful being born in the font of baptism is crucified with Christ in His passion, raised again in His resurrection, and placed at the Father’s right hand in His ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity."

Getting ready

One of the things I try to do with my kids, and I am nt very good at it, is to prepare them for the services. It is really easy for them to go though the services and think they are all the same. One has to pay attention to hear what is going on. So I was really happy when I found this. I'm using it to help the boys get ready to hear what is different about the Nativity services. Maybe it will be useful to you, too.


Christmas hymns in the Orthodox Church
by Alexander A. Bogolepov

The observance of a special period of preparation before the Feast of the Nativity of Christ has long been an established part of Christian practice. In the Orthodox Church this period is made up of the Christmas Fast and the special days of preparation before Christmas itself, with the week of the Holy Forefathers and the week of the Holy Fathers. The Church services for these days of preparation commemorate the patriarchs, the prophets and all who had lived by faith in the Saviour who was to come and had prophesied about Him long before His coming. The hymns for the Feast of the Nativity are full of the original joyful excitement at the thought of God's appearance on earth. The Christmas canon1 begins with a joyous declaration, gradually swelling in volume, of the Saviour's birth:

"Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Christ descends from the heavens, welcome Him!
Christ is now on earth, O be jubilant!
Sing to the Lord, the whole earth,
And sing praises to Him with joy, O ye people,
For He has been exalted!" (1)

In her Christmas hymns, as in her other hymnody, the Orthodox Church does not limit her vision to earthly happenings alone. In these hymns she contemplates the events of Christ's life on earth from a dual perspective. Beyond the birth of a child in the poverty of a squalid cave, beyond the laying of the infant in a manger instead of a child's crib, beyond His poor mother's anxiety and alarm over His fate, supermundane events emerge -- events which are outside this world's natural order:

"Today doth Bethlehem receive Him
Who sitteth with the Father for ever". (2)

This was not the first birth of the One "who lay in a manger." First He was begotten of His Father "before all ages" as God; moreover He was begotten of the Father alone, without His Mother. In Bethlehem He was born as men are born, but in contrast to all the sons of earth He was born of His Mother alone, without an earthly father. Having proclaimed "Christ is born!" in the 1st Song of the Christmas canon, the Church next calls upon the faithful to praise

"...the Son who was born of the Father
Before all ages, and in this latter day
Was made incarnate of the Virgin
Without seed; Christ our God". (3)

In the last Song of the Christmas canon the feeling of the human mind's powerlessness to comprehend this union of Divine majesty and human insignificance, this glorious mystery, is expressed even more brilliantly and eloquently.

A dark cave had replaced the resplendent heavens; the earthly Virgin had taken the place of the Cherubim as the "throne" of the Lord of Glory; a little manger had become the receptacle of the omnipresent God Who could never be contained in space:

"I behold a strange but very glorious mystery:
Heaven -- the cave;
The throne of the Cherubim -- the Virgin.
The manger -- the receptacle in which Christ our God,
Whom nothing can contain, is lying". (4)

But nowhere does the attitude of reverence before this incomprehensible union of things heavenly and earthly find a more forceful expression than in the Kontakion for Christmas written by the greatest Greek hymn-writer, St. Romanos Melodus. Every word in it is full of meaning and one brilliant image follows another:

"Today the Virgin brings forth the Supersubstantial One
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One".

Mary gave birth but remained a virgin, and gave existence to the One who is above all that exists in the world. And in the cave the earth provided a sanctuary for the One whom, as a general rule, men may not even approach. Next, the second part of this kontakion gives us two pictures of events which unfolded simultaneously and harmoniously on earth and in heaven. In heaven the angels glorify God in unison with the shepherds on earth, and the Wise Men move across the earth according to the direction taken by the heavenly star. The meaning of all this is that the Child whose life on earth was as yet only a few hours old is at the same time God, who existed before time itself and yet was born now for our salvation:

"For for our sakes, God, Who is before all the ages, is born a little Child". (5)

What does the coming to earth of the Son of God really mean? Above all it means that people are illumined, that spiritual light is bestowed upon them. This idea is continually being put forward in the Christmas hymnody of the Orthodox Church. The Troparion for the Christmas Feast explains the basic meaning of the Feast, there is this direct statement:

"Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has illumined the world like the Light of Wisdom".

God enlightens each of us in the way that is most accessible and understandable to the particular person. And when He wished to enlighten the Wise Men, whose custom it was to observe the stars and their movements, He sent them an unusual star which guided them to the Christ.

"... They who worshipped the stars were through a star,
Taught to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness,
And to know Thee, the Day-Spring from on high".

The star of Bethlehem gave the Wise Men an opportunity to see the rise of the Sun of Righteousness. But the light of Christ's righteousness is not an earthly light. Its motion was not from out of the earth towards the firmament of heaven, but from above downwards. Shining high above the earth, it descended thereon from the heights of heaven and illumined the world with Divine light. It was the Day-Spring from on high. And all who have sat in spiritual darkness and waited for the true light have, like the Wise Men, come to know this extraordinary Day-Spring of the Sun of Righteousness.

"Our Saviour hath visited us from on high...
And we who were plunged in darkness and shadows
Have found the truth,
For the Lord hath been born of the Virgin". (6)

The Church addresses this prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the Infant born in Bethlehem:

"Glory and praise to the One born on earth Who hath divinized earthly human nature." (7)

The gifts of grace in the Holy Mysteries which strengthen enfeebled humanity, cure men, and regenerate them to a Godlike life, were imparted by Christ in the final, culminating days of His earthly mission and are linked to His death on the cross and Resurrection. But these last things were prepared for by Christ's entire earthly life from Bethlehem to Golgotha. The Coming of Christ was the beginning of the salvation of mankind. And the Orthodox Church sings of Christ's Nativity as the morning of men's salvation, as the dawn after a long and anxious night -- the dawn with which the new, shining day in the life of the human race has already started.

The triumphal hymn of the Feast of Christmas is the "Gloria" sung by the angels to the Shepherds, to herald the coming of the Messiah.

"Glory in the Highest to God, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (Luke 2:14).

It is just as characteristic of Christmas as the hymn "Christ is Risen from the dead" is of Pascha (Easter).

According to the text of the second chapter of St. Luke's Gospel the "good tidings" proclaimed by the angels was not a repetition from the heavens of things that were well-known before. The innumerable heavenly host which appeared suddenly in the wake of the Angel who had stood before the shepherds of Bethlehem confirmed his "tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke2:10). They also sang of the new, marvelous act of God's goodwill, His sending the Saviour to this earth. This was the meaning of their good news: "Glory to God in the Highest; salvation had come to a sinful earth with the birth of the Christ Child, the loving-kindness of God had descended upon men."

The extraordinary and wondrous Birth from a Pure Virgin is one of the fundamental themes of Christmas hymnody; at the same time the Mother of God, whom the Orthodox Church venerates with such pious devotion, is given in this hymnody a special place of honour. A number of examples from sacred history are used in these hymns in order to glorify Her perpetual virginity, Her conception by the Holy Spirit and Her "supermundane act of giving birth to God." The most important of these are the prophet Jonah's sojourn in the belly of the sea-monster and the Babylonian fiery furnace." The fiery furnace of Babylon did not burn the young men, who were covered with its flames, likewise:

"The fire of the Godhead scorched not the Virgin,
When He entered into Her womb". (8)

Despite the birth Mary was preserved a virgin like the Burning Bush on Mt. Sinai which could not be consumed but remained green in the flames. (9) The Church sings praises to Mary alike for Her virginity and Her touching maternal love. Her tenderness as a mother toward Her wondrous Infant Child, whom as Her son She held in Her arms at Her breast, but before whom She bowed in worship as before "the Son of the Highest," is expressed in the following lullaby which Church hymnody assigns to the lips of the Lady Most Pure, calling upon us men "to magnify Her without ceasing":

"O my child, child of sweetness,
How is it that I hold Thee, Almighty?
And how that I feed Thee,
Who givest bread to all men?
How is it that I swaddle Thee,
Who with the clouds encompasseth the whole earth". (10)

She who "knew not a man" and yet gave birth to the Incorporeal God is for the Orthodox Church at once mother and virgin.

"Magnify, O my soul, the Virgin Most Pure,
The God-Bearer, who is more honourable
And more glorious than the heavenly hosts". (11)

The best and holiest of earthly creatures, exalted above the angels, the God-Bearer is the pride of this earth, a fitting gift from mankind to the Creator and Saviour:

"What shall we present unto Thee, O Christ,
For Thy coming to earth for us men?
Each of Thy creatures brings Thee a thank-offering:
The angels -- singing; the heavens -- a star;
The Wise Men -- treasures; the shepherds devotion;
The earth -- a cave; the desert -- a manger;
But we offer Thee the Virgin-Mother. O Eternal God, have mercy upon us". (12)

In rendering "maternal-virginal glory" to Mary Full-of-Grace the Church venerates Mary because, through Her unspotted purity, She was made worthy to bring the Saviour into this world and Herself became the door of salvation and deliverance from the curse of sin which had weighed upon men:

"Magnify, O my soul, Her who hath delivered us from the curse". (13)

Paradise is now once again opened to us. If sin entered the world through Eve, it is also through the New Eve (the Mother of our God) that victory over sin has come into the world.

The Church likewise summons us:

"Let us glorify in song the true God-Bearer
Through who sinners have been reconciled with God". (14)

The Mother of God represents the point at which the Godhead came into direct contact with Old Testament humanity. She is in this respect the living symbol of all the triumphant joy of Christmas, which is the celebration of God's reestablished union with men. God, who had driven our forefathers out of Paradise, had set them far apart from Himself. Now, with the birth of Christ, He has again come to men, just as He once came to them in Paradise. It has become possible again for men to be in communion with God. The barrier between,Heaven and earth has fallen and so we sing along with Adam and Eve:

"The wall of partition is destroyed,
The flaming sword is dropped,
The Cherubim withdraw from the Tree of Life,
And I partake of the fruits of Paradise,
Whence, for my disobedience, I was driven forth". (15)

The underlying feeling of the Christmas Feast is one of peace. This is a result of the reconciliation and new unity between heaven and earth:

"Heaven and earth now are united through Christ's Birth!
Now is God come down to earth
And man arisen to the heaven". (16)

This unity is the source of general exultation -- a note which resounds vigorously in the Christmas hymnody:

"Today Christ is born in Bethlehem of the Virgin.
Today He who is without a beginning begins,
And the Word is made flesh.
The powers of Heaven rejoice,
The earth and her people are jubilant;
The Wise Men bring gifts to the Lord,
The shepherds marvel at the One who is born;
And we sing without ceasing:
"Glory to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, (God's) good will toward men". (17)

There is one solitary note, however, which breaks into these hymns of general rejoicing like a forewarning of future lamentations. The Wise Men -- according to the Christmas Eve stichera -- came toworship the Incarnate God and devotedly offered Him their gifts -- gold, because He is the King of ages; frankincense, because He is the God of all men; but then they also brought Him myrrh, with which the Jews were accustomed to anoint their dead, because He was to "lie three days in death."

The heart of the Mother of God must have been seized by a premonition of that which awaited the innocent Child who was sleeping peacefully in the manger. This minor note of sadness is drowned, however, in the general chorus of exultation. Heaven and earth rejoice together and this does not mean simply that the angels' singing harmonises with that of the shepherds. The Church does not even view so-called "inanimate nature" as indifferent to the higher world. The Creator has willed the existence of a special link between them. At an earlier time man's sinfulness had brought general disorder into nature, but now all nature leaps for joy, rejoicing at the overcoming of this sin:

"Today the whole creation rejoices and is jubilant,
For Christ is born of the Virgin". (18)

In the Christmas hymnody the Star is not merely the voice which made known to the world the Saviour's appearance. It is also a sign, a symbol of this appearance, just as the Cross is the symbol of victory over the forces of darkness. Then, too, the Star is a symbol of Christ Himself, "the Star which rose from Jacob". (19)

For more than 19 centuries Christ has been shining down upon mankind as a guiding star, not as a myth or mirage, but as the living God, who has been on earth and spoken with men. There have been many subsequent attempts to obscure the pure silver light of the Star of Bethlehem in human consciousness. But the centuries of the Christian era have not passed by in vain. And if the Christmas hymns continue to resound each year in churches scattered all over the world and to be sung as they were sung many hundreds of years ago by the grandfathers and forbears of the present generation, this means that the light shed by the Christmas Star is deeply rooted in human hearts and shines on in them undimmed.

from Orthodox Hymns of Christmas, Holy Week and Easter,
published by the Russian Orthodox Theological Fund Inc

1. Christmas Canon, 1st Song, Irmos
2. Christmas Matins, stichera after the Gospel
3. Christmas Canon, 3rd Song, Irmos
4. Christmas Canon, 9th Song, Irmos
5. Kontakion
6. Christmas Matins, Protagogion
7. Christmas Matins, Sedalen
8. Christmas Canon, 8th song, Irmos
9. 2nd Christmas Canon, 1st song, Troparion
10. Pre-Christmas,, 9th song, Troparion
11. Christmas Canon, 9th song, verse
12. Stichera by Patriarch Anatolios on "O Lord, I have cried unto Thee"
13. Christmas Canon, 9th Song, verse
14. Christmas Canon, 5th Song, Troparion
15. Stichera by Patriarch Hermanos on "O Lord, I have cried unto Thee"
16. Stichera on the Litiya
17. Stichera before the great Doxology
18. Christmas Canon, 9th song, verse
19. Christmas Canon, 6th song, Troparion

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Activities

Life sure has been busy around here. I think it was Thursday night or maybe Friday night Devon, Anselm and I wen to see the Nutcracker. And then on Saturday Athanasia, Anselm, Basil, and I made salt dough Christmas Tree ornaments.

Sunday evening we made the sausage for Christmas morning. (We eat it after Divine Liturgy. Our parish has Liturgy in the morning instead of the middle of the night. I've experienced both and like it in the morning more. It's just so much easier than hauling the kids to church for a Great Vespers at 11 followed by Matins and Divine Liturgy sometime after Midnight. I can understand wanting to do it at Midnight, and if I didn't have kids I'd be totally into it.)

Well, yesterday was Sunday of the Forefathers, St. Herman's Day, St. Lucy's Day (if my last child had been a girl we were going to name her Lucy and have her do that whole candles on the head thing), and several other Saint's days. Because I was the only one on my family not sick, and had to deal with a flood I only popped into church long enough to light some candles for my sick family and then ran to the hardware store to buy hoses and a pump.

On Saturday night I read a childrens book about St. Herman of Alaska to the boys (It is one of the books on the Advent/Christmas shelf.) and we talked about St.Herman for a while. Even though he is sometimes called the first American Saint, that is not the case. There were some American martyrs before St. Herman was glorified. One thing that the boys were really curious about was the heavy iron cross St. Herman wore. Unfortunately, I do not know anything about it. I've seen it in icons, but I would like to know more. Why did he wear it? I've never seen other monks wear anything like that. Was it a penance? How heavy was it? How did he prevent pressure sores from developing on his shoulders and chest?

On Sunday evening, after a supper of salmon (last fish day before Nativity), rice, and green beans we read the Epistle and the Gospel for the day and talked about it. It was a pleasant. Then Athanasia left the house to do homework at her office and the boys and I made the Christmas Sausage.

The recipe is kind of ill-defined, but goessomething like this.

2 pork butt roasts chopped into 1" to 2" cubes. (Do not remove the fat!!!)
Zest of four large oranges
Juice of one orange
A couple of hand fulls of sea salt or kosher salt. (No iodized)
1 finely chopped fennel bulb
A healthy sprinkling of dried thyme (maybe a table spoon or 2?)
Same amount of dried fennel seed
A goodly number (10-15) of peeled and minced garlic cloves.
Sausage casings

1. Rinse all the salt off the the casings, running water over the outsides and through the insides of the casings. Set them aside on a paper towel or a paper plate until you need them.

2. Mix all non-casing ingredients together in a large bowl until all spices and herbs are evenly distributed through the pork.

3. Run the pork through the grinder. It is now sausage and can be cooked like this. But we like it in casings so we take the blade out of the grinder, ad the stuffing attachment, and stuff some sausages. Also, at this point you need to fry about a tablespoon of the sausage and taste it to make sure it is good before you go through the work of stuffing. Make any adjustments before stuffing because you can't after the sausage is stuffed.

4. Slide a whole casing over the stuffing tube. (This goes better it you rub some vegetable oil on the tube first.)

5. Tie a knot in the end of the casing and begin stuffing.

6. As one person cranks and feeds the machine another person has to monitor the sausage and twist the links. I always start with two twists away from me, then the next link gets two twists toward me. This way each link is separated from every other link by 4 twists. Any more than that is just showing off.

7. Then, when you reach the end of the casing, tie it off.

Repeat steps 4-7 until all sausage is cased.

The boys had a great time making the sausage. Here are my sons Devon, Anselm, and Basil posing with some of their finished product.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Happy Happy Joy Joy!!!

My oldest living son just moved in with me. He's 20 and is only here because the company he worked for lost a lot of clients so they downsized and he ran out of money. But I am so thankful that he is here. I have hardly seen him since he was 2. I am very happy.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Saturday Soundtrack: An Advent Song

I was wondering how I was going to fit the Saturday Soundtrack and Advent together, and I am happy to announce that I have done it. Soon and Very Soon by Andre Crouch belongs to Advent because it is about anticipating the arrival of Jesus, specifically his second coming, which is the main emphasis of Advent in the West.

In the 1960's the senior class of the Christian high school where my mother taught wanted to have Andre Crouch perform at a party but they didn't have enough money to pay Andre's fee. My mother wrote to him and offered what little money the students had. He came, brought his whole band, performed, and then refused any payment at all.

I remember seeing this album cover when I wasa boy. I can't remember hearing this song for the first time. It must have belonged to one of my siblings, who are all older than I am.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Holy Prophet Habakkuk

Today we have another of the Holy Prophets to commemorate. I think many of us don't even think of him except on Pascha when we hear (Paschal Canon, Ode 4, Eirmos) the thrilling news that he is standing vigil with us to testify to the Resurrection. But here just 22 days from the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus we are supposed to commemorate him. Why? Three reasons:

He prophecied the coming Jesus with these words:
יצאת לישע עמך לישע את-משיחך
"You went out to save your people, to save (with) your Anointed."
(You should read Eric Jobe on this verse.)

Also Habakkuk's book's theme of theodicy, and God using evil invading empires (e.g. the Babylonians & Chaldeans) to work His indomitable will on the earth is in a complementary key to what would happen 600 years later. As we will hear during the Feast of Nativity, "When Agustus ruled the world" God, as unlikely as it seems to the natural eye, used the might of Rome as a tool to get a pregnant woman and her betrothed from Galilee to Bethlehem.

Finally, after talking about the total foolishness of worshiping idols in Chapter 2, the Holy Prophet says "God is in his temple, let the earth keep silent". This was expanded in the Liturgy of St. James...

Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and with fear and trembling stand. Ponder nothing earthly-minded, Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and with fear and trembling stand. Ponder nothing earthly-minded, for the King of kings and Lord of lords advances to be slain and given as food to the faithful. Before him go the choirs of Angels, with every rule and authority, the many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim, veiling their sight and crying out the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Interestingly, an early 19th Century English translation of this hymn has found its way into many Protestant hymnals, where it is usually classified as an Advent Hymn because of the line about the Lord advancing toward us, and is popular with choirs more than it is with congregations.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Reading to the boys

A big part of the life of my family is reading. When we were newlyweds we read the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord of the Rings, and all the then published Harry Potter books aloud to each other. We don't read to each other very often anymore, but we do read aloud to the boys and have since they were too young to understand language. I'll never forget the time, when Anselm Samuel was still a tiny baby, when we read to him A.A. Milne's Pooh stories. Athanasia and I wept at the end of it. (It is an interesting fact that the best children books are really for adults.) Our shelves are stuffed with books. But there is a part of our collection that is only read between the November 15 and January 5 of each year. Tonight from that special shelf I read (sang, really) The Friendly Beasts: An old English Christmas Carol by Tomie de Paola, and two selections from Richard Scarry's The Animals' Merry Christmas, which is a collection of poems.

The Holy Prophet Nahum

You know how the Holy Prophet Jeremiah is called "The Weeping Prophet?" Well, I've often thought Nahum should be called "The Angry Prophet of Doom." His little book is full of predictions of calamity. And, to bad for Nineveh and the Assyrians, those prophecies of destruction were fulfilled.

But today, just 23 days from the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus, the Church Fathers put this huge downer of a Prophet on the calendar. Why? Well, he has to go somewhere, doesn't he? After, St. Paul commanded us to give honor to whom honor is due. So we must honor Prophet Nahum sometime during the year. But I think there is more to it than the Fathers pulling a date out of a hat and assigning it to this Prophet. I think the Holy Prophet Nahum being commemorated during Advent is no accident of chance. Rather, it is because the Word of the Lord Nahum received bears directly on the the Incarnation and the ministry of Jesus. At the beginning of a long list of horrible pronouncements against Nineveh are these words:

Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off. (Nahum 1:15)

So, in a few weeks when we mourn again with the mothers of Bethlehem, or when we only a few days ago were aghast at the martyrdom of St. Daniil of Moscow we continue on. We can keep our vows, and we can keep the solemn feasts - Nativity, Theophany, Annunciation, Pascha and the others - because even in the face of death The Gospel has been preached. The good news has been spoken by the Prince of Peace, and though we might die, that death is gain. Death is cut off as surely as the line of the kings of Assyria, as surely as Goliath's head.

The same event Nahum saw was revealed to another prophet who tells us a little bit more than did Nahum. We shall not just keep the solemn feasts solemnly. They shall be kept with happiness! The Holy Prophet Isaiah wrote:

How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7)

It is not just solemnity, but happiness. It is not just the defeat of the enemy, but the victory of God. It is not just the ability to keep vows, it is salvation! That is what the Prophets saw. Well, not Nahum. He didn't have a vision as complete as Isaiah's. But he knew good was coming. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born he saw Jesus preaching on the mountain sides of Judah. He didn't hear the whole message but he knew it was good. And he waited for it. And that is why he is commemorated during Advent.


I didn't really like the vasilopita (That's Greek for Basil's bread) I made on last St. Basil the Great's day (Also known as the 8th day of Christmas/Feast of the Circumcision of Christ). In a month I'll be making this recipe given to me by Matuskha Angela Alesandroni. It looks really good.

1/2 c water
3/5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. aniseeds
3/4 tsp fresh grate orange peel... See More
2 bay leaves
1/2 c milk
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp. salr
3/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c warm water (110 degrees)
2 T sugar
2pkgs. yeast
3 eggs. lightly beaten
sesame seeds
whole blanched almonds, walnut halves and/or maraschinos for top

Heat 1/2 c water to boiling. Add cinnamon, aniseeds, orange peel and bay leaves. Remove from heat and steep.

Scald milk. Add 3/4 c sugar, the salt, and 3/4 c butter. Cool.
Pour warm water into bowl. Stir in 2T sugar and years. Let stand until frothy ( perhaps 10 mins)

Pour milk/butter mixture into yeast mixture. Add lightly beaten eggs and mix well. Stir in spice liquid, removing bay leaves. stir in 3 c flour, alittle at a time and beat until smooth. Add only as much flour as needed to make a smooth, nonsticky dough.

Turn onto floured board and knead 15-20 mins until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, brush top with melted butter. Cover lightly and allow to rise in a draft free, but warm place until doubled - perhaps 2 hours.

Punch down, knead again briefly about 5 mins. Remove an orange sized piece from dough and form rest into one large round loaf. Insert coin. Place loaf on a lightly greased sheet or silpat covered baking sheet.

Divide reserved dough and form into numbers of the new year or a cross. set on bread pressing gently.

cover lightly and let bread rise again for about 1 1/2 hrs. or until almost doubled in bulk.

When risen.brush loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle w/sesame seeds. Decorate with almonds, walnuts or cherries, if you like. Bake at 350 for 45-60 mins. done when golden bronw and bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

For a more pronounced anise flavor, add 1 T ouzo when you add the spice liquid to the dough.