An Advent tradition among Eastern Catholics has taken on a deeper meaning amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. The Fast of St. Philip is observed by Eastern Catholics and Christians worldwide to prepare for the joy of Christ’s birth, beginning prior to Advent on 15th November, the feast day of St. Philip, and ending on Christmas Eve.
During the fast, faithful typically abstain from meat on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while observing a lesser form of abstinence on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On 18th November, the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the U.S. issued a pastoral letter for this year’s fast, saying the observance marks the start of “a journey that culminates in the contemplation of an indescribable mystery — God’s condescension to humanity.”
But “for the second consecutive year, we, Ukrainians in the U.S., find ourselves preparing for Christmas amidst a full-scale war with the Russian aggressor,” the bishops said. “Our Ukrainian soil is soaked in the blood of heroes, and our cities and villages under occupation are shrouded under the black pall of the ‘Russian world.'”
Amid the atrocities, said the bishops, “we continually pose questions to each other and to God: ‘How much longer will this endure? Why, O God, does this war persist?'” The story of Christ’s birth provides solace and an eternal perspective on human history.”
Picture: A priest distributes Communion by intinction at a Byzantine Catholic hurch. Eastern Catholics prepare for Christmas with the traditional Nativity Fast (sometimes called St. Philip’s Fast), a practical preparation for the joyful expectation of Christ’s birth. (OSV News photo/James Baca, Denver Catholic Register)