Lent begins

Some very encouraging things happened this week. We have been teaching and practicing fasting (Wednesdays, Fridays, and appointed fasts) here in the Philippines for the past two years. But Filipino culture is not familiar with fasting, so it has been quite strange to the hearers. Certainly a few have been practicing fasting according to the Church’s calendar. But in recent weeks, speaking with the Orthodox Christians who have been received in the past few months, I see that many are now seriously planning how to eat, how to pray, and intentionally planning to undertake the Lenten struggle for the virtues.

It was an enormous adjustment for our people to begin coming to the Liturgy without breakfast first, but that has now become the norm. It was strange when the catechumens were told that we come to Confession every time we Commune, but this is now the practice throughout the Russian Orthodox mission.

And now, through the teaching of Orthodox clergy and visiting missionaries, and through exposure to worldwide Orthodoxy on Facebook, the newly-illumined are for a change asking us how to fast.

The liturgical life of the Church cannot exist apart from the ascetical life: that which is done in secret, where no one can praise or applaud. This was the lesson of the Gospel readings from Matthew 6 in the Divine Liturgy this Saturday and Sunday.

I taught in several churches about the rite of Forgiveness practiced on the Sunday evening before the Great Fast begins. The service of Vespers with all its verses is not ready yet, But after Sunday’s Typika service, a number of mission parishes asked and received forgiveness of all, just as your church did this Sunday at Vespers. And, for the first time, there was enthusiasm when I promised that next year we will have the proper service of Vespers in Cebuano, so that we can serve this rite in its fullness. It is this growing hunger for real Orthodoxy – in practice as well as in words – that makes me hopeful for the future of the Orthodox mission here.

Teaching on fasting has been a slow process, and I’m sure it will continue slowly. But what a pleasant experience it has been lately to see the Orthodox actively seeking to learn and embrace the life of the Church, not merely as a new denominational label but as the Faith that can save their souls.

Prostrations The prayer of St Ephraim

Father Silouan


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  • Dear father Silouan,

    Christ is in our midst!

    Could you please let me know where your mission church meets? My brother lives in the Philippines, and he cannot make it to a Greek church regularly because it is too far away (several hours, I understand).

    Thank you!

    May God’s rich mercy be with you always for the wonderful work that you do for His church!

    In Him,

    Areti Stylianopoulos

    • Dear Areti,

      Our parish of St John of Shanghai is in Santa Maria, about three hours by bus from Davao City, on the island of Mindanao: https://goo.gl/maps/FFFTvu1bdv92

      There are more than twenty Orthodox parishes and missions in southern Mindanao; if your brother happens to be in our region, I will be happy to help him find a place to worship!

      If he is on the northern island of Luzon, then he might want to contact Fr Constantine Lautillo, an Antiochian priest whose deanery has several parishes on Luzon. You can reach him at dinolautillo@yahoo.com.

      I hope that is helpful!

      In Christ,
      Fr Silouan

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