Nov 15 - St Philip the Apostle+. His feast day launches the Fast of St. Philip / Filipovka to prepare for Christmas. He brought others to Christ; we should be imitating him and bringing others to find Jesus in the fullness of revelation in the Catholic Church.
Philip says to Nathaniel in John 1:46 Come and see, inviting him to meet Jesus. He does the same with Greeks in Jerusalem, bringing them to Jesus. To him, Jesus said "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). Philip the Apostle continued his evangelizing after Pentecost, and is traditionally said to have preached in Phrygia. As the ancient stories said, his tomb was discovered in the ancient city of Hierapolis, in what was southwest Phrygia in Roman times, now in Turkey.
In our eparchy of the Holy Protection of Mary of Phoenix, the church in Sacramento is dedicated to Saint Philip.
+ He is not Philip the Deacon, found in the Acts of the Apostles; they are two separate men
*Prosphora is the special bread baked to use in the Eucharist.
** A martyrium was a shrine to a saint, usually built over the actual tomb.
Through the mystery we celebrate in the Nativity, we too are invited to become the children of God, sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. But this transformation does not occur overnight. Rather, it requires a rediscovery of the essential disciplines of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
For Saint Paul, Christian discipleship is like an athletic contest in an arena, which requires bot training and effort. This is the root of the Christian understanding of asceticism and praxis.
By training our body, mind and spirit with the help God's grace to seek and follow His commands and cultivate the virtues of the saints, in turn we help to extract the poison of corruption, sin and death within our own lives and to realize the saving and transforming power of Christ's life given to us in Holy Baptism.
This is from the website of the Archeparchy of Presov, in Slovakia:
The fasting is designed to help us to prepare to see Christ come into the world, and the beginning of His public ministry on Theophany (January 6). The Nativity and the Theophany are two sides of one coin. So, when we arrive at Bethlehem on December 25, we should begin to prepare for the Baptism of the Lord. Our enjoyment of Christmas should drive us forward to see the Theophany. With Theophany, the mystery of God is fully revealed to us. The mystery long awaited in the Old Testament comes true in Jesus Christ.
Tomb of St. Philip the Apostle in Hierapolis, Turkey.
The Protection of St. Philip
Platytera Icon - Our Lady of the Sign, feastday on Nov. 27.
The Sign Icon has two different connotations. One is from the old Roman imperial court. It was the custom that those who served in the palace in the imperial household wore an emblem of the emperor on their outermost robe. Thus, Our Lady serves God the Word in a unique way as the God-Bearer (Theotokos) and she therefore has the emblem of the Christ Child, our true King, on her robe.
However, the more obvious way is in her role as the Mother - Jesus is shown inside her virginal womb, as a small Man (to show His Divine Nature is present from conception) and holding a rolled up scroll in His left hand, to show that He is the Word "through Whom all things were made." He blesses with His right hand. The sacred letters of His Name, IC XC, Jesus Christ, tell us Who He is and His role as the Messiah (Christos). In His halo is the abbreviation for "He Is Who Is" , or "I AM WHO AM", the Name which God gives to Himself at the Bush that would not burn on Mt. Sinai, in answer to Moses' question.
Our Lady is standing, with her hands raised up, in the orans position. This is how the early Christians prayed, especially when facing East, to show their readiness to accept the Second Coming of the Lord. She is usually found in this style on the apse wall, immediately behind the holy altar. Thus, above the tabernacle in which Our Lord is present in the Most Holy Eucharist, Mary rises above it as the original tabernacle of God.
Mary is the only human person who can be show in the colors of blue (humanity) and red (divinity) because of her unique status as Theotokos. Her robes are usually marked by three stars: on her right and left shoulders, and above her face. These proclaim that she is ever-virgin: before, during and after the Incarnation of Christ. Thus, no human being was involved in conceiving Jesus on March 25, and no other children were ever carried in her womb, which had contained the Most High God. As the living Ark of the Covenant, Saint Joseph would never have considered having intimate relations with her, and like her, he remains virginal and celibate.
In the Kursk version of the icon, Our Lady and Jesus are surrounded by Old Testament prophets who foretold the virginal conception or the coming of the Messiah. Going clockwise from the top right, they are: King Solomon, Prophets Daniel, Jeremiah, Elijah, Habakkuk, Judge Gideon, Prophets Isaiah, Moses, and King David.
We are half-way through the six weeks of preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord. At this point, we celebrate several feasts, including the prophets Nahum (Dec. 1), Habakkuk (Dec. 2), Zephaniah (Dec. 3); the apostle Andrew (Nov. 30); the great-martyr Barbara and also the last Father of the Eastern Church, John of Damascus(Dec. 4); the holy wonderworking bishop, Nicholas of Myra (Dec. 6). Finally at this time also comes the great feast of the Conception of Our Lady, known in the East as the Conception of Saint Anne, and in the West as the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 7, East; Dec. 8, West).
Spend at least 15 minutes in the morning and evening in prayer each day.
Pray the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." 100 times a day.
Display an icon of the Nativity in the prayer corner of your house or room and spend 10 minutes each day meditating on the saving mysteries surrounding the story of Christ's Birth.
Receive the Mystery of Repentance (Confession) at least once during the fast.
Fast from certain foods, such as soda, alcoholic beverages or candy. With each meal, eat only an amount that is sufficient for nutritional needs, without feeling full.
Fast from select forms of entertainment (television, movies, radio, internet, novels, etc.).
Give your time, talent and/or treasure to a parish outreach or a special charity.
Increase your parish tithe for the season.
Clean out your house of any excessive items or possessions and share them with the poor and needy.
Purchase gifts for homeless or needy children or families.
Meditate on the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes and identify one or two of these to put into practice each week.
Examine your conscience each night, asking for forgiveness from God or others as needed.
Find opportunities to share your faith with others.
By now we are coming close to "the holidays" - the current politically correct term for the Christmas celebration. The Visitation of Our Lady to Saint Elizabeth is not part of the Filipovka cycle, but it is important for us as we prepare to welcome the Savior. Our Lady goes to what is now called Ein Karem, which is traditionally seen as the hometown of St. John the Baptist. When Mary greets her elderly cousin, who has been granted a child by God in her old age who will prepare the people for Jesus' coming by his preaching, Elizabeth proclaims that the baby in her womb has leapt for joy. In icons, this moment is shown with St. John inclining his head toward Christ in the womb. Thus, when Elizabeth is six months pregnant and Mary is just a few days into her miraculous pregnancy: on some Eastern calendars, the Visitation is on March 30, just five days later. The babies communicate to one another, and establish their unique relationship: John filled with joy, Jesus "speaking" to His cousin of their mission.
What is my response when I hear that Christ is coming to me? He comes in so many ways: His Word, in the Mystery of the Eucharist, in other people. His mere presence in His Mother's womb electrifies the unborn John! How much more should we, as born individuals with faculties of hearing and reason among other things, be electrified by Jesus' Presence in our lives. This week, let us take a moment to reflect on this awesome mystery: Jesus Christ is coming to me. He wants to be with me, He desires to come into me, He hungers to be with me. Do I desire Him? Do I really want Him? When I come to church, am I starving to be fed with His Sacred Body and Life-giving Blood?
Since the Nativity / Theophany events hold less importance than Pascha - the Feast of Feasts - (the Resurrection), a detailed structure never evolved for the Phillipian Fast. Yet the Phillipian Fast is an ancient practice in preparation for the Incarnation and Theophany of the Lord Jesus Christ. This 40 day fast is important and should be preserved and practiced. The Phillipian Fast can help us to better understand and appreciate all of God's saving plan.
Without the structure and public events to guide us, the practice of the Phillipian Fast has gradually fallen off. Theologically, the birth and the public ministry of Christ are inextricable linked. The Phillipian Fast was created to prepare us to receive Christ into the world and begin His public ministry. They are two sides of a single coin. The Phillipian fast prepares us to receive the public ministry of Christ announced at Theophany.
On arriving at Bethlehem and the Nativity on December 25th, we begin to prepare for the Theophany. We do not stop at the Nativity. In our joy at God's arrival, we press forward and see the Theophany. With Theophany we experience the beginning of Christ's revelation to us of the mysteries of God. Most important of all, this event points out the Mystery of the Trinity, a mystery long hinted in the Old Testament.