The month of January begins with the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. The feast is also known as the Feast of the Holy Circumcision. Falling eight days after Christmas, this would have been the day for Jesus to be circumcised under Jewish Law, but is a day used to commemorate that our Lord’s Name is holy. The name Jesus means “the Lord saves” in Hebrew, and in an ancient calculus a name connotes power; a name effects what it says, and for this we give thanks.
In Advent the emphasis is on the season rather than on feast days. Nonetheless, the calendar remains filled with observances to mark. The first week of the month includes three important fathers of Church doctrine. The first is St. John of Damascus (d. 760), whose teaching still forms the principal base for the catechism used in many Orthodox churches, and whose writing on icons was instrumental in the resolution of the Iconoclastic Controversy at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. Clement of Alexandria (d. 210) was an important early figure in biblical interpretation.
We begin the month on All Saints’ Day. The commemoration of All Saints originated in Ireland, and spread from there to England. After the late 6th C. arrival in England of St. Augustine of Canterbury, the Celtic commemoration of All Saints was learned on the Continent, being observed eventually in Rome by the ninth century. In the East, from the third century a day commemorating all martyrs had been observed. All Saints’ Day is the only principal feast on the Calendar that may be observed twice. It must be observed on its given date, but may also be observed on the following Sunday.