Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For me, the fall is really the best, most pleasant and enjoyable time of the year
here in the Valley of the Sun. The mornings and evenings are pleasantly cool and
the days are generally not too warm. In addition to the fine weather, this time
of the year also signals the imminent approach of the holiday season—from the Nativity
Fast (which starts on November 15), Thanksgiving Day later this month (November 27),
the Feast of the Nativity (December 25), the Civil New Year (January 1), to our annual
celebration of the Great Feast of the Theophany (January 6). Before we know it,
the evening and morning will grow cold, the days will be shorter, and our appreciation
for the warmth of our homes will grow stronger.
In addition to the coming weeks signaling a time of preparation for the holidays,
for me, personally, this year brings with it an even more heightened sense of preparation.
As you are aware, I was recently elected by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church
in America as the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of the West, with the title “Bishop
of Santa Rosa.” My consecration to the episcopacy has been scheduled to take place
at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco, California, the weekend of January 23-25,
2015. However, in the weeks leading up to this awesome and life-changing moment,
I must also add additional preparation to my calendar. There is much to prepare,
much to do, many details to be seen to. But the most important preparation for me
to undertake is the personal spiritual preparation that is necessary. Prayer, reflection,
and study will be an important part of my spiritual preparation.
In the eight-plus years that I have served the parish community of Saints Peter and
Paul, I have always depended on your prayerful support. And I do so now more than
ever. And so, I ask you to share in this imminent preparation through your prayers
and, in the coming weeks, by entering into the full spirit of the Nativity Fast.
As we journey toward the celebration of the Nativity of Christ- and as I prepare
for my Consecration and for episcopal service in the Church- let us hold one another
in prayer, asking the Lord that we may be granted to fully embrace, understand, and
share the meaning of His coming into the world as the Prince of Peace and Savior
of our Souls.
Be assured that I will provide regular updates on the events surrounding the consecration
in the days and weeks to come.
With love in the Lord,
Father Daniel’s Message for November
Apostle Andrew, the Holy and All-Praised First-Called
The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first of the Apostles to follow
Christ, and he later brought his own brother, the holy Apostle Peter, to Christ (John
1:35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from his youth he turned with
all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and he worked with his brother
as a fisherman. When the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John began to preach,
St Andrew became his closest disciple. St John the Baptist himself sent to Christ
his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian, declaring
Christ to be the Lamb of God.
After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, St Andrew went to the Eastern
lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he
reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea,
the Black Sea region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place where the
city of Kiev now stands.
He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those
disciples that were with him: “See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth
the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise
up many churches.” The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up
a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement
of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land
of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where
in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the Church
of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother, the Church of Constantinople,
with her daughter, the Russian Church.
On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from
pagans: they cast him out of their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted
him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persistant disciple of Christ continued
to preach to people about the Savior. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the Lord
worked miracles. By the labors of the holy Apostle Andrew, Christian Churches were
established, for which he provided bishops and clergy. The final city to which the
Apostle came was the city of Patra, where he was destined to suffer martyrdom.
The Lord worked many miracles through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made
whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the
illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness; he healed Maximilla, wife
of the governor of Patra, and his brother Stratokles. The miracles accomplished by
the Apostle and his fiery speech enlightened almost all the citizens of the city
of Patra with the true Faith.
Few pagans remained at Patra, but among them was the prefect of the city, Aegeatos.
The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of the Gospel. But even
the miracles of the Apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy Apostle with love
and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery
of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The
angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought he might undo
St Andrew’s preaching if he were to put him to death on the cross.
St Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the prefect with joy and with
prayer to the Lord, and went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong
the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail the saint’s hands and
feet, but to tie them to the cross. For two days the apostle taught the citizens
who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied
him and tried to take St Andrew down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people,
Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that
the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold
of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having
given glory to God, said: “Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit.” Then a blazing
ray of divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the
light faded, the holy Apostle Andrew had already given up his holy soul to the Lord.
Maximilla, the wife of the prefect, had the body of the saint taken down from the
cross, and buried him with honor.
A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the
holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the
church of the Holy Apostles beside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and St
Paul’s disciple St Timothy.
The Nativity Fast – Fasting Rules
The Nativity Fast traditionally entails fasting from red meat, poultry, meat products,
eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine. Fish, wine and oil are allowed on Saturdays
and Sundays, and oil and wine are allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The fasting rules permit fish, and/or wine and oil on certain feast days that occur
during the course of the fast: Evangelist Matthew (November 16), Apostle Andrew (November
30), Great-martyr Barbara (December 4), St. Nicholas (December 6) and St. Herman
(December 13), St. Ignatius (December 20). The Nativity Fast is not as severe as
Great Lent or the Dormition Fast.
As is always the case with Orthodox fasting rules, persons who are ill, the very
young or elderly, and nursing mothers are exempt from fasting. Each individual is
expected to confer with their confessor regarding any exemptions from the fasting
rules, but should never place themselves in physical danger.
There has been some ambiguity about the restriction of fish, whether it means the
allowance of invertebrate fish or all fish. Often, even on days when fish is not
allowed, shellfish may be consumed. More detailed guidelines vary by jurisdiction,
but the rules strictly state that from the December 20 to December 24 (inclusively),
no fish may be eaten.
The Eve of Nativity (December 24) is a strict fast day, called Paramony (lit. "preparation"),
on which no solid food should be eaten until the first star is seen in the evening
sky (or at the very least, until after the Vesperal Divine Liturgy that day). If
Paramony falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the day is not observed as a strict fast,
but a meal with wine and oil is allowed after the Divine Liturgy, which would be
celebrated in the morning.
Liturgical aspects of the Nativity Fast
In some places, the services on weekdays during the fast are similar to the services
during Great Lent (with some variations). Many churches and monasteries in the Russian
tradition will perform the Lenten services on at least the first day of the Nativity
Fast. Often the hangings in the church will be changed to a somber, Lenten color.
Red or a deep maroon color is the tradition of the Orthodox Church in America and
other Churches with Slavic roots.
During the course of the fast, a number of feast days celebrate those Old Testament
prophets who prophesied the Incarnation; for instance: Obadiah (November 19), Nahum
(December 1), Habbakuk (December 2), Zephaniah (December 3), Haggai (December 16),
Daniel and the Three Holy Youths (December 17). These last are significant not only
because of their perseverance in fasting, but also because their preservation unharmed
in the midst of the fiery furnace is interpreted as being symbolic of the Incarnation—the
Virgin Mary conceived God the Word in her womb without being consumed by the fire
of the Godhead.
As is true of three of the four Orthodox fasts (The Apostles' Fast is the exception),
a Great Feast falls during the course of the fast; in this case, the Entry of the
Theotokos (November 21). After the apodosis (leave-taking) of that feast, hymns of
the Nativity are chanted on Sundays and higher-ranking feast days.