The Opportunity To Say, "YES" To Christ
Though our pre-Christmas secular commercialized atmosphere often diverts our attention from the meaning of St. Philip's Fast, growing and developing in Christ is the essence of this holy season. Even the external trappings of the pre-Christmas season, the lights and decorations, the carols, often seen as distracting from the real message conveyed by the Incarnation of Christ, can serve to remind us, the observant, that we celebrate, not a winter festival, but the renewal of all creation by the Nativity of the Only-Begotten Son of God, Who gave Himself freely and without reservation for the life of the world and for the salvation of all.
|Volume 17, No. 1||Winter 2014|
The holy days of St. Philip's Fast challenged us to be spiritually mature, to prepare ourselves as a new spiritual Bethlehem, making room in the manger of our heart for the Savior, so that we might become the instruments through whom He works for the sanctification and salvation of all mankind.
It is during this sacred time, that Christ Himself calls upon us to put off the old, the corrupt and all else that defiles our nature. He lifts us up through the good gift of repentance crowning us with new life through the second laver of regeneration – the Holy Mystery of Penance – and bestowing upon us strength and unity in Holy Communion, the Eucharist.
This season, through prayer and good works, challenges us to change our lives by reflecting the sacred image according to which we were created and fashioned. The sacred season of St. Philip's Fast, the spiritual springtime of the Winter Pascha, provides us with the opportunity to say, "yes" to Christ and to let the light of our good works shine so brightly that others, in beholding it, might be led to Christ as the Three Kings were led to Him by the star of Bethlehem.
As we all come to a conclusion of this humble and sacred journey of faith and renewal, we must be guided and strengthened by the words of the penitential prayer of the Venerable Efraim the Syrian, a prayer which Orthodox tradition utilizes during this season as well as during Great Lent: "remove from me the spirit of laziness, lust, power and vain speech ... Grant unto me the spirit of prudence, the spirit of meekness, of patience and love ... that I may see my own sins and not judge my brethren ..."
I greet you all, the readers of this publication and supporters of IOCC, during this Holy, Sacred Season and pray that all the LOVE, Peace and Joy of the Christ-Child will fill your homes and lives throughout the New Year.
Bishop of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
(Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)