Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops
Beyond the Borders of Ukraine
St. Philip’s Fast in Anticipation of the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ
"Let us not speak, indeed of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not mere abstinence from meats - but from sins, too, for the nature of a fast is such that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it unless it be done according to a suitable law…The honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawal from sinful practices. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. What kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see an enemy, be reconciled to him. If you see a friend gaining honor, envy him not…For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the foot, and the hands, and all members of the body. Let the hands fast from being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing to run to unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast from such as is unlawful or forbidden. Let the ear fast, also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to listen to evil speech and calumnies. Let the mouth, too, fast from disgraceful speeches and railings.” (Holy Father, John Chrysostom)
Dearly beloved Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches beyond the borders of Ukraine and those of our Holy Church in Ukrainian lands:
GLORY TO OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST!
We have begun the Fast of St. Philip, called such because it commences the day after the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle, which falls on 27 November (14 November on the Gregorian or New Calendar) and continues through the Eve of the Holy Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on 6 January (24 December on the Gregorian Calendar). The pace of life and the rabid secularization of our Western society has, unfortunately, affected the lives of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians along with the rest of society in lessening the importance of this period of preparation for the Nativity of Christ and for Theophany – the manifestation of the Holy Trinity – followed by the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry. We appeal to you all, however, to take a step back from that process of de-Christianizing the world, to discover who you are as the inheritors of an incredible spiritual legacy in, which is our Ukrainian Orthodox Church, along with all the Orthodox world, and it’s profound devotion to Christ through the some of the most difficult and horrific moments of human history. Our forefathers and mothers provided us with example after example of devotion and dedication to Christ, the Word of God, even to the point of martyrdom.
This Philip’s Fast must be a time when we offer our very lives as gifts to Christ, bearing in mind that we may lose all that is dear to us because we dare to proclaim to the world who we are and why we love the Christ-Child and follow His Way. In our fasting we lay up treasures for ourselves, not here on earth, but in Heaven, where we will never need to worry about a place to store or defend them from attack or theft. Our fasting must be based on the comprehension that we cannot simply deny ourselves a few of the “good” things of life – like the foods we love the most – hoping to gain eternal life, if at the same time we devour our brother or sister alive with our lack of sensitivity, our jealousy, our harsh words or painful deeds. It has simply become too easy for us in the day of the “Internet” or “Facebook” or “Twitter” and the like to anonymously accomplish the most hurtful things in life – to ourselves and others – things that we would dare not do if forced to identify ourselves – and to “desensitize” ourselves to the consequences of our behavior.
We ask you to seriously examine your lives – as must we as your Spiritual Archpastors – and to compare your everyday behavior with that of our forefathers and mothers – or to that of your Grandparents or Great-Grandparents, whose lives you may have some familiarity with. If such an examination is accomplished honestly, seeking positive consequences for our lenten journey, then this Philip’s Fast will have served its spiritual purpose. It is not a period when we begin to sing Christmas carols (if we can call them that) and shop in anticipation of the holiday. It is a period when we begin to sing praises to the Christ-Child and offer ourselves in service to Him in anticipation of the HOLY DAY of His Nativity – the Incarnation – God lowering Himself to become one of us in order to lift us up to become one with Him!
May yours, our dear ones, be the firm decision to prepare for the Holy Day, rather than the holiday. As we approach this Great Feast, may you become more aware as each day of your fasting brings you something new spiritually, in understanding our complete humility before our Loving God. May the Light that shines forth from the Star of Bethlehem enlighten not only the manger in the cave, but the depth of your hearts and souls and all your homes and lives throughout the coming New Year and all thereafter. You are our children and we embrace you in the Love of this Holy Season – the all-encompassing LOVE of the Christ-Child, the Holy Birth-Giver of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary and all the Saints who rejoice in Heaven. Please keep us in your prayers as we do you on a daily basis.
GLORY FOREVER TO OUR LORD!
+ YURIJ, Metropolitan – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
+ ANTONY, Metropolitan – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Locum Tenens Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora
+ IOAN, Archbishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora
+ JEREMIAH, Archbishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of Brazil and South America
+ ILARION, Bishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
+ ANDRIJ, Bishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
+ DANIEL, Bishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA