Pylypivka (Advent) Pastoral of the Ukrainian Catholic Hierarchy of the USA to our clergy, hieromonks and brothers, religious sisters, seminarians and beloved faithful,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
We, the faithful experience the life of the Church by means of the unending cycle of the liturgical year. The liturgical year is not simply how we mark the passage of time in the church calendar year. The liturgical year tells the story of God’s life in the world, a story in which we are participants, not just spectators or listeners. It is a re-living of the life of Christ, His Most Holy Mother and the Saints. And liturgy is the means by which we tell, live, and experience the story. Through liturgy it becomes real to us and becomes part of our own lives.
It has been said that liturgy is humanity’s yearning for God, and that grace is God’s yearning for humanity. Liturgically, this story of holy yearning – God’s yearning for us and our yearning for God – begins at the point in the liturgical year that we find ourselves at the present moment: Pylypivka: the 40-day period of waiting and watching for the fulfillment of God’s promises, and the coming together of humanity and divinity in the Christ child, who, with his nativity, will bring new life and new hope into our world and our lives.
Too often we see this time of Pylypivka, through the secular lens of our modern post-Christian society, as the final countdown to Christmas, the time when we get things ready for the holidays. By now the malls and stores have long been decorated for Christmas. Christmas gift lists are growing and the number of shopping days is shrinking. Party menus are being planned. Travel plans are being made. Families are gathering. Expectations and hopes are growing. Christmas trees need decorating and presents need wrapping. The pressure is mounting. There is so much to do and so little time to do it in. We feel stressed and distracted.
This is not the liturgical or spiritual understanding of Pylypivka proposed by the Church. This is not the ideal way of spending this holy time. Pylypivka is not the time when we prepare for Christmas. It is the time in which we are prepared for Christmas. It is the time not so much for action as for reflection, a time not for doing but for being open and receptive. Pylypivka is the time when the Church offers to us an alternative to the secular model of “getting ready for the holidays” and asks us to slow down, be still, and be quiet. We are called to keep awake, to be looking and listening for the God who is coming to us. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts. It is a time to watch and reflect on who we are. It is a time to look for Christ in all the unexpected places – in the ordinary events of everyday life, in the poor, the hungry, and the needy. And we wait and watch for the angelic messenger who will tell us of the birth of the Christ child.