A Prayer for the Nativity Fast

Lord Jesus, You have come so many times to us and found no resting place; forgive us for our overcrowded lives, our vain haste, and our preoccupation with self. Come again, O Lord, and though our hearts are a jumble of voices and our minds overlaid with many fears, find a place however humble, where You can begin to work Your wonder as You create peace and joy within us. If in some hidden corner, in some out-of-the-way spot, we can clear away the clutter and shut out the noise and darkness, come be born again in us, and we shall kneel in perfect peace with the wisest and humblest of men.

Help us to enter into this Christmas Fast with humility yet with You. And, finally, Lord, give us Christmas from within that we may share it from without, on all sides, all around us, wherever there is need. God help us, every one, to share the blessings of Jesus in Whose name we keep Christmas holy. Amen.

(From: Daily Meditations & Prayer for the Christmas Advent Fast and Epiphany by Presbytera Emily Harakas and Father Anthony Coniaris)

Philip’s Fast (Pylypivka)

All Christian churches prepare for the feast of the birth of Christ by some sort of period of penance. The Western church calls this the period of Advent, connected with the Latin word for “come,” since we are waiting for Christ to come into our lives. We may be celebrating an event in the past, the birth of Jesus, the first coming of God into our world, but we are also celebrating the present, God coming into our own lives and into the world of today, and the future expectation of Christ’s second coming, when he will come in glory to judge tote world in righteousness.

The Roman Church once began the Christmas preparation on St. Martin’s Day, Nov. 11, which gave forty days until the winter solstice on Dec. 21, and the church of Milan in Italy still has a forty-day preparation beginning on Nov. 15.

Traditionally, the Byzantine Church also begins its Christmas preparation on Nov. 15. Since this follows the feast of St. Philip the Apostle, it is called the Philip’s Fast. There is a legend about St. Philip, that when he was about to be martyred, he delayed his entrance into heaven by forty days in order to do penance for the sake of his persecutors. This is certainly only a legend, since Philip was not connected with the pre-Christmas fast until the ninth century, but it does point out one aspect of fasting – it is an act of charity for others. Some contemporary groups have expressed this by introducing the custom of setting aside the money they save by fasting to buy food for the poor. St. Philip is the apostle who leads us to Christ. When Jesus called him to be a disciple, his first action was to go and tell Nathaniel. When Nathaniel questioned him about Jesus, Philip replied, “Come and see” (Jn 1:46). Later in the Gospel, some Greeks (Gentiles, representing all nations) wanted “to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21), and it is Philip and Andrew that lead them to Christ. At the Last Supper, it is Philip that asks the question, “Master, show us the Father,” and Jesus replies, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:8¬9). In the face of Jesus our Lord, we are able to see the love of the Father for us. The holy Apostle Philip, therefore, leads us to Christmas, to see for the first time the face of God, who came into the world to break down the barriers between humanity and God (Eph. 2:14).

The Sunday Before Christmas: The Genealogy of Jesus

The Gospel this Sunday presents us with an abundance of names, all those who were the ancestors of Christ. By this we see that on this feast, the Son and Word of God becomes a part of the human family and a part of human history. In this Gospel Jesus is also given a name, the final verse tells us that the child will be known as Jesus – Savior. In verse 22, though, he is given the name “Immanuel,” “God with us.” This gives us the theological meaning of the feast, the incarnation signifies our deification.

We all have names, but for the ancients, names had meanings, they did not simply give us an identification tag, but told us something of who we were. In that sense, we do not name ourselves, but we are given a name, we are all “called by name” by God, and so we enter into the ancestry of Jesus. The names are the forefathers of Jesus, but also the foremothers are mentioned: Tamar, who bore a son by trickery of Judah; Ruth, the grandmother of David, who left her people to follow Naomi; the unnamed wife of David, Bathsheba, who David married by arranging for the death of Uriah. We see, then, that even trough questionable and evil actions, as well as by faithfulness, Jesus becomes “the son given to us.” The greatest of the woman in his genealogy is, of course, Mary, his mother, who by her obedience cancelled the curse of Eve, and united God with humanity in her womb.

Today, we celebrate the Son of Abraham, according to the Law, and the Son of David, the everlasting King, to whom even David bowed, and even the Son of exile, for we are all citizens of the spiritual, not the earthly, Jerusalem. Today we must be named as a follower of Christ.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

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The Nativity Fast Calendar 2019

The Advent/Nativity Fast journey has begun! See how this journey unfolds on a daily basis by walking this calendar to Christmas. Follow the Nativity calendar with your spouse  and children as daily an Advent discipline! 

Join the many of us who do this every year and prosper your soul in the effort. You won’t be the same. Begin today!!!

The attached Nativity Fast Calendar a beautiful thing to follow.

The 2019 New Testament Challenge

Beginning, today, November 15th (the beginning of the Advent/Nativity Fast), we will once again be embarking on our annual challenge event to read through the entire New Testament (aloud) by Christmas! This is a great endeavor and exercise and you should join it! Read with your spouse as an Advent discipline! Even children can do this, and they have. You can do it, too.

Join the many of us who do this every year and prosper your soul in the effort. You won’t be the same. Begin today!!!

The New Testament Challenge is kind of a tradition. We invite you to join us in this 40 day offering and make more time for the reading of Holy Scripture this Advent.

Here is schedule (a .pdf) for The 2019 New Testament Challenge

As our bishops said in the message for the Philips Fast 2019, 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. No better way to see God’s promises than to pray, read, study sacred Scripture!

Pylypivka (Advent) message 2019

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.

Philip’s Fast –Pylypivka

Today begins the Philip’s Fast (Pylypivka), the pre-Christmas fast – the day after the feast of Saint Philip, which was yesterday. The Byzantine Church identifies The Holy and All-Praiseworthy Apostle Philip as one who prepares us for the great time of the year: the Nativity/Theophany of Our Lord.

Saint Philip is known as having a deep knowledge of the Sacred Scripture, who had the capacity of discerning the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies in light of the coming of the Messiah. Key to this period of preparation is connected to the Apostle Philip because one of the things he is remembered for is the bringing of Nathaniel to Christ, and thereafter Nathaniel becomes an Apostle. Likewise, and critically, Philip brings us to Christ and we become apostles of Christ. He exposes our betrayals of faith and heals them. Thus, you can say that Philip leads all of us into greater communion with the Lord, THE only source of our salvation. Let is ask Saint Philip for the grace of conversion for Pylypivka.

The Philip’s Fast (Pylypivka) is a 40 days period of spiritual preparation for the celebration of the Nativity/Theophany cycle of the church year. It is a voluntary fasting and works of penance and charity but it was once a period of strict fasting.

Some further information with the prescriptions for following the Fast found here.

At the Divine Liturgy, Father Iura will wear dark vestments because it is the norm for this penitential season with exception of Saturdays, Sundays and feasts of the first class.

Philip’s Fast (Pylypivka) begins

The Philip’s Fast (Pylypivka), the pre-Christmas fast, begins today. The Church begins the Fast the day after the feast of the Holy and All-Praiseworthy Apostle Philip. The Fast is a period of 40 days of spiritual preparation for the celebration of the Nativity/Theophany cycle of the liturgical (Church) year.

Historically, the Philip’s Fast (Pylypivka) was a period of strict fasting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday –days of strict fasting without meat, dairy products or oil (in Slavic countries).

Now the bishops have indicated that the Fast is lessened a bit also to include fasting, works of penance and doing charitable work. BUT today we observe the Fast on Wednesdays and Fridays by an abstention from meat and foods that contain these ingredients.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church teaches her faithful that “Penitential fasting practices, repentance and abstinence that aim to satisfy the sins committed and to achieve the highest level of perfection is the oldest tradition in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church” (CCEO: 882, § 1).

Recall, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church maintains that “Abstention from meat and meat products is to be observed on all Fridays of the year except for compact weeks, patronal feasts and the twelve major feasts” (CCEO: 882, § 4).

Definitions

Abstinence means that we do not eat a certain type of food, for example meat and oil, or any other foods that have that as an ingredient.

Fasting means that we eat less food. A general rule is that for a day of fast, the amount of food of the main meal is less than the other two meals combined.

Those exempt from fasting and abstinence are:

  • Children under the age of 14
  • Adults over the age of 60
  • those who are gravely ill
  • pregnant women
  • post-partum mothers
  • breast-feeding mothers
  • travellers (if travel time exceeds 8 hours)
  • those engaged in heavy labour
  • those who eat from the table of others
  • the poor who live from charity

On December 24, the Vigil of the Nativity, there is an abstention from meat, dairy and eggs, and foods that contain these ingredients.

When we arrive at the Nativity on December 25, until January 4, there is no fasting or abstinence.

We keep the Philip’s Fast because we believe that doing so it can help us to better understand and appreciate all of God’s saving plan for each of us.

At the Divine Liturgy you will notice that the priest will wear dark vestments as the norm for this penitential season with exception of Saturdays, Sundays and first class feasts.

Advent message from the US Ukrainian Catholic Bishops

The Ukrainian Catholic bishops of the United States offer the following message for Advent (Pylypivka). It is signed, as you will note below, by all bishops. On the feast day of St. Philip Byzantine Christians begin their preparation for the Birth of Jesus. This 40-day preparation period is before the Christmas / Theophany season. the Philip fast begins at sundown on November 14th (when the Church begins a new day) and concludes at Christmas. History tells us that the fast was introduced to prepare us for a more worthy celebration of the great and holy day of the Birth of Jesus. The regulations for the fast were far more lenient than the Great Fast before Pascha. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are days of strict fasting without meat, dairy products or oil (in Slavic countries).  On Sundays fish was permitted. The Phillipian fast prepares us to receive the public ministry of Christ announced at Theophany.

What follows is a good message to begin our preparation for the Nativity of the Lord.

philipWith the commemoration of St. Philip on November 14th (Gregorian Calendar) or November 27th (Julian Calendar), we begin the customary fast or preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of the Birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It coincides with the hectic season of pre-Christmas preparations, shopping for gifts for others, and invitations to participate in many social festive events. It truly becomes a challenge for us to withdraw ourselves from our earthly appetites, as we attempt to facilitate more time for prayer and meditation. When we become overwhelmed by such preparations, many of us step back and wonder whether all these things really add to our happiness and our feelings of contentment. We reflect on why we are here in this world.

Pope Francis, in the Apostolic Exhortation, “Joy of the Gospel”, says that you and I are “a mission on this earth”, and that is the reason why you and I are here in this world. We are called to live as missionaries who feel genuine happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness. It is who we are. The Holy Father calls us to draw nearer to others and to seek their welfare. In turn, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts. “Whenever our eyes are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith and knowledge of God”.