St. Philip’s Nativity Fast


Source (UOC)

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,


+ Yurij
Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ Antony
Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora

+ Jeremiah
Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, South America Eparchy

+ Daniel
Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

+ Ilarion
Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ Andrij
Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Homily: What to Expect from a Priest

November 26 (November 13, OS), 2017: 25th Sunday after Pentecost (Tone 8): St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople (407); Martyrs Antoninus, Nicephorus, and Germanus of Caesarea in Palestine (308). Martyr Manetha of Caesarea in Palestine (308).

Ss Cyril & Methodius Ukrainian Orthodox Mission
Madison, WI

Epistle: Ephesians 4:1-6/Hebrews 7:26–8:2
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37/John 10:9-16

Today the Church commemorates our father among the saints, John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople. Just as Pope St Gregory the Great (Gregory Dialogos) is the model pastor in the West, Chrysostom is the model in the East. What each man taught about the priest’s duties is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Gregory’s  Pastoral Rule helps the priest understand how he is to care for the myriad personalities and characters he will encounter in his ministry. John’s On the Priesthood offers the priest insight into the importance of his office and why he so felt inadequate to the task. As he says “the priesthood is offered to me… exceeds a kingdom as much as the spirit differs from the flesh” (III.1)

Chrysostom here is not being romantic or sentimental. Much less is he speaking out of pride. Rather, he is keenly aware that though “the priestly office is indeed discharged on earth, but it ranks among heavenly ordinances.”.This is why he says the priest “ought to be as pure as if he were standing in the heavens themselves in the midst of those powers” (III.4).  The spiritual purity of the priest is not simply for his own sake but for the salvation of all those he meets. The priest should live he says in such a manner as “to gladden and to enlighten the souls of those who behold” his service (III.14).

The saint makes two observations that I think are especially important.
First, the priest must realize that he will face judgment from those around him. Everyone he meets is “ready to pass judgment on the priest as if he was not a being clothed with flesh, or one who inherited a human nature, but like an angel, and emancipated from every species of infirmity” (III.14)

Often the priest–and those responsible for forming and guiding him–will seek to avoid this judgment by feigning indifference to society. Or, he might adopt a false intellectual simplicity that professes ignorant of secular learning or the practicalities of everyday life. But, as St John reminds us “ the Priest ought not only to be … skilled in many matters, and to be as well versed in the affairs of this life as they who are engaged in the world,… yet to be free from them all more than the recluses who occupy the mountains” (VI.4)

In other words, the priest must be as well educated and experienced in worldly matters as his congregation while at the same time remaining detached from them. Purity of heart not a substitute for the priest being poorly educated or “so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good” (Oliver Wendell Holmes).

With this in mind, let’s turn briefly to today’s readings.

St Paul describes himself as not simply “a” prisoner but “the priest of the Lord.” He understands that true freedom is found not in willfulness but in obedience to God. And so he tells the Ephesians to be “worthy” of their calling as Christians. They must be humble, gentle, longsuffering, patient and loving with each other to maintain “the bond of peace.” It’s worth noting two things here.

First, Paul is concerned not with the evangelical witness of the Church, not with how the Ephesian treat outsiders. Rather, his concern is with what happens in the Church. However the world thinks of us, we must love each other.

Second, to return to the priesthood, the defense and strengthening the bond of peace, the love we have for one and other, is the fundamental work of the priest. Everything that I do a priest is or should be, in the service of you growing in love for each other.

This means the priest’s primary obligation is for the health of the parish. Like the Samaritan in the Gospel, he is called to bind up wounds and offer comfort to his parishioners. But, again like the Samaritan, he isn’t called to heal them but to bring them to Christ our High Priest and (as we say in the Unction service) “the Physician of our souls and bodies.”

The prayer, the education, all that the priest has, he has to point his flock to Christ. It is in this way that he comes to share in the priesthood of Christ.
And what is true for the priest, is also true for the laity. By virtue of baptism, all Orthodox Christians are members of the “royal priesthood” of all believers (see 1 Peter 2:9). All that the Christian has is in the service of drawing others to Christ.

But where the ordained priesthood draws others to Christ through the sacraments, the laity draw others to Christ by progressively sanctifying the world. This means bringing the family, the work world, education as well as cultural and politics into ever closer conformity to Christ.
We miss the point if we think we can fulfill our baptismal vocation simply by voting for this or that candidate. Likewise, we misunderstand what Christ has called us to do if we imagine we can limit ourselves to cultivating our own garden. While the exact mix will be different for each of us at different times in our lives, our baptism calls us to sanctify both our own hearts and the world around us.

Like me conclude by returning once more to what you can–and should–expect from the priest, from me.

Because the priest is first a Christian, he too has an obligation to grow in holiness and to sanctify the world. This is why, as Chrysostom says, the priest must be as knowledgeable about the world as any layman. The priest who either through lack of education or indifference is ignorant of culture, politics or the myriad struggles that make up the daily lives of his parishioners is frankly failing not simply as a priest but, more fundamentally, as a Christian.

It is only because he takes seriously his baptismal vocation to grow in holiness and sanctify the world, that a man can be ordained to the priesthood. A priest who neglects his baptismal vocation is incapable of helping the laity fulfill their vocation.

Often the priest will ask us to pray for him. We should. But, if I may speak personally, you must also expect me to help you discern and fulfill your vocations. You have a right to require from me assistance in growing in holiness and in sanctifying the world. If I fail you in this, I fail as a priest.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, help me to succeed!

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

On the 84th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Holodomor

Source (UOC):

It is with a heavy heart that we call to recollection one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century, namely, the tragic events in Ukraine during the years 1932-1933. Today, our Ecumenical Patriarchate joins Ukrainians across the globe in prayerful commemoration on the 84th anniversary of the Holodomor. Surrounded by the members of our local Ukrainian Orthodox Community and representatives of various nations serving in our City, we will preside over the celebration of the Divine Liturgy as well as personally offer a memorial service for the millions of people who inhumanely lost their lives during the orchestrated man-imposed famine.

Our Mother Church of Constantinople—which transformed centuries ago the river waters of the Dnieper into the sanctified living waters of rejuvenation and life eternal—was forever bonded spiritually to the Christ-loving nation of Ukraine, continuing to actively share in its pride and its joys, but also in its sorrows, always demonstrating Pauline ecclesiology: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

In the spirit of sharing intimately in the life of Ukraine, the Holy and Great Church of Christ stands in prayerful silence and solidarity with the victims of the Holodomor, contemplating the magnitude of death and destruction carried out by the oppressor.

“You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” And it is the truth of the Lord that liberates. For, the world witnessed in Ukraine the destruction and death of millions of people due to falsehood and a godless ideology, but it continues to recognize the rejuvenation, baptism, and eternal life offered centuries ago by our holy predecessors, the saintly and wise Patriarchs of Constantinople. The “water road” of the Dnieper River system was transformed into a bridge leading to heaven.

While prayerfully commemorating the atrocity of famine, we would also like to make a prayerful appeal to all people of goodwill for the cessation of the war, aggression and ongoing violence in Ukraine, as well as to underscore the importance of respecting human rights and dignity, most especially of the prisoners of war, for whose safety and release we Orthodox pray for at every divine service. The aggressions and crimes witnessed in the early 20th century should not be repeated once again; rather, we should strive to be mechanisms of reconciliation and rapprochement, especially having fresh in our minds the disastrous results of the conflict and hostility 84 years ago. Let us all, each from our own standpoint, personally and collectively, work to de-escalate tension and cultivate dialogue and mutual understanding, so that the dark chapters of the early 20th century will never reappear before us.

Eternal be the memories of the victims of this travesty. And may peace and prosperity be granted unto Ukraine.

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “On the 84th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Holodomor,” Phanar, November 25, 2017.

Support St. Sophia Seminary on Giving Tuesday

Source (UOC):

Invest in the Future of the Church:

Support St. Sophia Seminary on Giving Tuesday, November 28

Our Seminary is once again participating in the #GivingTuesday global charitable movement by encouraging the alumni, faculty, students, staff, clergy and all the faithful of the #UOCofUSA to kick-­off the holiday gift­-giving season with a donation to St. Sophia Seminary Fund. Giving Tuesday is the global day for giving back created in response to the commercialization and consumerism of the holiday season and as a reminder of the need to support nonprofit institutions like our own Seminary.

On November 28, 2017 charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to freely give and to promote generosity.

As the primary academic institution of the Church we have a lot to be grateful for. Numerous graduates of our St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary are serving the needs of Orthodox Christians and communities around the world. Our enrollment continues to grow as committed men and women heed the call to pick up their Cross and follow Christ.

Our Church’s own #GivingTuesday efforts will support St. Sophia Theological Seminary; now with largest enrollment in more than a decade; expanded curriculum for men AND women; new distance learning component; the future of our Church; mentoring the committed men and women of the student body in their spiritual and academic formation. “Giving back to St. Sophia Seminary provides for scholarships, physical facility improvements and technology upgrades for current students, creating a better student experience for our future spiritual leaders,” said Archbishop Daniel, Academic Dean. “A gift of any amount can make a difference. Recently, we appealed through mailing to the membership of the Church to support our St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, – now for the second time, Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary is taking part in the global charitable movement – Giving Tuesday. Any gift, no matter the size, will help the Seminary thrive.”

How to Donate:

Contributions via check:
St. Sophia Seminary
Memo: GivingTuesday
PO Box 240
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880

After Donating

Please spread the word of your investment in the future of our Church and encourage your friends and family to do so! Share the attached graphic, the link to contribute, and be sure include these hashtags in your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: #GivingTuesday #ISupportedStSophia.