Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Prepare for Christmas by fasting, not feasting

It is common knowledge that we observe Lent before Easter; but did you know that there is also a Nativity Fast before Christmas called Pylypivka or Philip’s Fast? It always begins the day after the Feast of St. Philip (Nov. 15/28) and lasts through Christmas Eve.

The Latin Rite Catholic Church observes a 28-day period of joyous anticipation of Christmas called Advent. Pylypivka lasts longer – 40 days – and has a more serious tone to it. Yet, both have the same goals: to prepare spiritually for Christ’s Nativity, the “Incarnation,” when God is born in the flesh.

We get ready for His Nativity during Pylypivka through the complementary actions of increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Fasting is an act of will and a form of self-denial which, when combined with prayer, increases our spiritual awareness. Our Church prescribes a strict fast (no meat or dairy products) on the first and last days of the Fast. Ideally, we should abstain from meat on all Wednesdays and Fridays.

Prayer and fasting naturally leads to almsgiving – expressing love for others in practical form, like visiting the lonely and offering acts of kindness to those in need. The money saved by eating less can be used to help the poor.

Though less strict than Great Lent, Pylypivka can be a greater challenge to observe given the many “Christmas parties” at that time of the year. Daily prayer can help strengthen our resolve to resist the temptation to join secular holiday celebrations and wait until Christmas to begin feasting and merry-making.

Involve your children in all aspects of Pylypivka. For more information on how to do this, read through and print up a copy of the “Pylypivka Action Plan,” which includes scripture readings, reflections and activities for each week of the fast.

Marian feast is reminder that God dwells in each of us

The Presentation of the Theotokos into the Temple, one of 12 major liturgical feasts in our Church, is celebrated on Nov. 21 (Julian) or Dec. 4 (Gregorian). Theotokos, a Greek word, means “God bearer” (as Bohorodytsya does in Ukrainian).

Holy Tradition teaches us that Mary’s elderly parents, Joachim and Anne, were childless for many years when they received a message from heaven that they would have a baby. In gratitude, Mary’s parents brought her as a young girl to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her to God. She remained there until puberty in preparation for her role as the Mother of God.

When Mary enters the temple, she herself becomes the Living Temple of God. This occasion marks the beginning of the New Testament, in which God’s promise outlined in the prophesies of old that foretold that “the human person is the sole proper dwelling place of the Divine Presence,” are fulfilled (Ezekiel 37:27; John 14: 15-23). The texts of the liturgical services for this day emphasize Mary’s role as Theotokos (God bearer) and the role of each human being as a dwelling of the Lord.

We observe this feast by participating in Vespers (evening service) and Divine Liturgy. To involve children, parents can ask them to make a reasonable promise to God and explain that He keeps his promises to us and is pleased when we keep ours to Him.

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