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20120502_St_Philip_Bethsaida    On November 14, Eastern Christian communities are celebrating the Feast of St. Philip, the Apostle, which also marks the beginning of the traditional St. Philip’s Fast on February 15th, 40 days before the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ.  According to legend, St. Philip the Apostle called down the wrath of God upon those who were torturing him to death. As a penance for presuming on the vengeance of God, it was revealed to him by an angel that he would not enter paradise until forty days after his death. Philip then sent word to the other living Apostles and begged them to fast for forty days after his death. Phillip is known as the patron saint of bakers and hatters.

Message from Fr Vasyl about the Nativity Fast and his suggestions for observing the Fast: Philip’s fast message Fr Vasyl Nov 2022

To learn more about the Christmas Liturgical Season and the Nativity Fast (Metropolitan Cantor Institute):

THE TRADITIONAL BYZANTINE CELEBRATION of the FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD (from the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh):


Explanation of the Philip’s Fast from the Ukranian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton:

“Nativity Fast in the Home” (from 1995-2016 Melkite Eparchy of Newton) –

The Phillip’s Fast – The Nativity Fast, Awaiting the Savior Workbook: pilipivka-workbook

St. Phillip’s Fast for Families Week by Week Plan: st-philips-plan

EMMANUEL MOLEBEN – A Service of Prayer for the Christmas Fast: EmmanuelMoleben

Additional information about history of Moleben (from St. Mary Byzantine Catholic):

The Emmanuel Moleben is a Service Prayer to prepare for the birth of Christ.  “The time of the Christmas Fast (also known as Philip’s Fast, the period from November 16 through December 24) calls Byzantine Catholics (and all Eastern Christians) to fasting, prayer, and the giving of alms. This service is set up so that it can be served once during the Fast, or once a week … . The chant as noted above is a combination of traditional Carpatho-Rusyn melodies and some new compositions from Slovakia and the United States. The intention is to help all who pray the Moleben to enter more deeply into the Scriptures (both those which prophesy the coming of the Messiah and those which give the Gospel details leading up to his birth).” (Copied from: Metropolitan Cantor Institute, Byzantine Catholic Seminary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 2007)


To count the long days until Christmas, Eastern Christians have a number of beautiful customs. A candle holder in the shape of a six-pointed Star of David holds six red candles to be lit for each week before Christmas and one white Christ candle in the center to be lit on Christmas Eve. A 40-day Advent Calendar gives children a surprise for each day before Christmas.  A “St. Philip’s Chain” is made out of strips of paper containing  good deeds or prayers offered by children during the fast or the creation of a “Jesse Tree”.

(picture from “A Catholic Life” blogspot)

The Phillip’s Fast may be observed voluntarily, partially, or in its entirety. There are different levels of fasting:

Minimum fast is abstain from meat products on Wednesdays and Fridays, and take each fasting period to grow in your spiritual life. This means to eventually grow in fasting to the ascetic fast where no animal products are consumed but fish, wine and oil are allowed on the weekends. This takes time, effort and especially prayer to develop. Remember, “fasting, done with a specific purpose and accompanied by prayer, will bring you closer to God and give you blessings and spiritual strength.”(see Isaiah 58:6–11).

Law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, permitting dairy and egg products.  Abstinence is to be observed on all Wednesdays and Fridays

Strict abstinence is abstention from meat, dairy, eggs, fish, wine and oil. 

If you never get to the Ascetic Fast, do not feel guilty.

The Ascetic fast guidelines are:

MONDAYs, WEDNESDAYs, and FRIDAYs of this fast are Strict Fast days. On these days we abstain from meat, dairy, fish with backbones, fowl, alcoholic beverages, and olive oil.

TUESDAYs and THURSDAYs of the fast are Wine and Oil days. On these days the fasting discipline is relaxed a bit to permit wine and olive oil.

SATURDAYs and SUNDAYs of the fast are Fish, Wine, and Oil days. On these days the fast is relaxed even more to permit fish with backbones in addition to wine and oil.

Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, November 21, is always kept as a Fish, Wine, and Oil day, no matter what day of the week it falls on.

Please remember that abstaining from food during this period of preparation does us no good if we do not also, as St John Chrysostom teaches us, fast with:

…the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast by being free of avarice (extreme greed for wealth or material gain).

Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.

Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.

Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.

Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.

For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?

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