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Our Journey to Christmas begins on November 15th

Filed in News by on November 15, 2016 • views: 1036

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016, is the beginning of this year’s Nativity Fast. The Nativity Fast is one of the four Canonical Fasting Seasons in the Church year. This is a joyous fast in anticipation of the Nativity of Christ.

In the weeks between now and December 25, Orthodox Christians prepare themselves to celebrate the birth in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ.

About the establishment of the Nativity Fast we can observe that for the Orthodox Church, it appears that local regions developed different observance periods at least as early as the fourth century. Most point to the year 1166 as the official (Orthodox) Church-wide establishment (by a synod of bishops at Constantinople) of the Nativity fast for 40 days prior to the annual celebration of feast of Christ’s incarnation.

St. Symeon of Thessaloniki (c. AD 1381–1429) writes:

The Nativity Forty-day Fast represents the fast undertaken by Moses, who—having fasted for forty days and forty nights—received the Commandments of God, written on stone tablets. And we, fasting for forty days, will reflect upon and receive from the Virgin the living Word—not written upon stone, but born, incarnate—and we will commune of His Divine Body.

Guidelines for the Nativity Fast

 

The Nativity Fast is one of the four Canonical Fasting Seasons in the Church year. This is a joyous fast in anticipation of the Nativity of Christ. That is the reason it is less strict than other fasting periods. The fast is divided into two periods. The 1st period is November 15th through December 17th when the traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, fish, wine, and oil) is observed. There is dispensation given for wine and oil on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Similarly, fish, wine, and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays. The 2nd period is December 18th through 24th when the traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, fish, wine, and oil) is observed. There is dispensation given for wine and oil only on Saturday and Sunday during this period. Here are the guidelines:

Meat

beef, chicken, pork, turkey, elk, veal, lamb, deer, rabbit, buffalo, and so forth

Abstain.

Dairy

milk, eggs, cheese, butter, yogurt, cream, and so forth

Abstain.

Fish

fish with a backbone (not including shrimp, octopus, shellfish, squid, or other seafood which is permitted to eat all the days).

Permitted all the days except Wednesdays and Fridays before 17 December.

Wine

Permitted all the days except Wednesdays and Fridays before 17 December.

Oil

Permitted all the days except Wednesdays and Fridays before 17 December.

Abstinence includes refraining from the food and drink mentioned above. The Eucharistic Fast means abstaining from at least the previous midnight for communing at a morning Liturgy.

The Purpose of Fasting

 

The purpose of fasting is to focus on the things that are above, the Kingdom of God. It is a means of putting on virtue in reality, here and now. Through it we are freed from dependence on worldly things. We fast faithfully and in secret, not judging others, and not holding ourselves up as an example.

* Fasting in itself is not a means of pleasing God. Fasting is not a punishment for our sins. Nor is fasting a means of suffering and pain to be undertaken as some kind of atonement. Christ already redeemed us on His Cross. Salvation is a gift from God that is not bought by our hunger or thirst.

* We fast to be delivered from carnal passions so that God’s gift of Salvation may bear fruit in us.

* We fast and turn our eyes toward God in His Holy Church. Fasting and prayer go together.

* Fasting is not irrelevant. Fasting is not obsolete, and it is not something for someone else. Fasting is from God, for us, right here and right now.

* Most of all, we should not devour each other. We ask God to “set a watch and keep the door of our lips.”

Do Not Fast

*between December 25 and January 5 (even on Wednesdays and Fridays);

* if you are pregnant or nursing a newborn;

* during serious illness;

* without prayer;

* without alms-giving;

* according to your own will without guidance from your spiritual father.

 

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