To the Venerable and Christ-loving clergy and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, South America, the United States of America and in Ukraine.
May the Grace of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!
We are currently living through the Pre-Nativity Fast – also known as Philip’s Fast because it begins on 15/28 November, the day following the Feast of the Holy Apostle Philip and known in the Western Church as Advent. This fast continues to the Great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ – the Incarnation – God becoming one of us for no other reason than to prove the depth of His Love for us.
This is a period, which is often not the focus of contemporary Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, secularized and smothered in the over-commercialization of the “Xmas” season. The fast is, according to the Church Fathers, a time of mercy, kindness, compassion, self-examination – a time, which challenges us to personal renewal in the Light of Christ’s Gospel. It is a sacred season, during which we are called to make a spiritual journey from wherever we are in the world – from the “now” in our parish churches, which we all too often have difficulty seeing beyond – to the City of Bread – Beth-lehem and into a cave, the “Holy of Holies”, and to a manager, pre-figuring the Chalice of the Eucharist, in order to bring the gift of ourselves to the Jesus Christ, Who is the Bread of Life.
In ways that we may never fully comprehend, we make this journey like the Magi, like the shepherds. We each bring our gifts and we dedicate them to Christ. These are gifts willingly given for the good of others – the gold, frankincense and myrrh of our parenting, teaching, healing, friendship and compassion – in other words, our Love for one another.
We must live through this fast period and each day of our lives in a prayerful attitude of openness to the empowering and unending Presence of the Loving and Living God. Living an Orthodox Christian life makes heavy demands on us. But, God gives us His strength. The Power, the Love and the Grace of God are always with us – in our “community work”, the Liturgy and all other Divine Services, in our private prayer life, in all creation and every single one of His human creatures! That living Presence makes all things new!
Such an attitude of openness, of awe and wonder and joyful expectancy is what it takes to receive the strength to fulfill our life’s purpose. Our God is the God of Life and He never stops with a sense of self-satisfaction to say: “We’ve got it!” It is always a movement on into the future. It is always His Presence with us now, doing some new thing. We may be in the depths of despair and we may feel ourselves caving in, but that is precisely when He moves in and the Light breaks through and the hope and the power and the healing come.
Simply put, our goal during this Pre-Nativity Fast is to mature in Christ, to attain to spiritual quality and excellence in our profession of the Orthodox Christian Faith, to invite Christ Jesus into our very being, to proclaim to an increasingly nominal and apathetic Christian society that, which it would rather not hear: “I bring you tidings of great joy…a Savior is born…He is Christ the Lord!” and He can be found in the hearts and homes of those who proclaim Him by their willingness to “let our light so shine before men, that they might see our good works and give glory to our Father Who is in Heaven” [Matthew 5:16].
We call you all, as our spiritual children, to pray fervently during this season for the leaders of the world we live in today. It is a secularized world full of strife, economic weakness and political instability. Evil often manifests itself in the cleverest of ways during such times. Pray for the maturity of those who lead all our nations and most especially those who lead in Ukraine, that their heart’s desire will always be to build a strong nation based on a system of law, peace and justice. Pray that our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church unites and returns to its historical role as the moral conscience of the nation.
May He, Who so loved the world that He sent His Only-Begotten Son to be our Lord and Savior, assist us in our resolve to mature and be nourished by the word of Truth and Life-giving mysteries. May we grow and mature in Faith as Ukrainian Orthodox Christians so that others, having witnessed the Faith manifested in our personal lives and in our parish communities, will be drawn to Christ and like the shepherds of Bethlehem, will glorify and praise God for all that they had seen and heard through us.
Assuring you of our prayers and love and requesting yours, we remain your servants in the Lord,
Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora
Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, South America Eparchy
Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada