Nativity Fast

On November 15th the Orthodox Church begins a period of preparation leading up to the Nativity of Christ on December 25th.  The period of abstinence, called the Nativity Fast or St. Philip’s Fast, is a period similar to the western Advent but rather than 4 weeks it is 40 days.  This time of year needs to be different than the rest of the year.  There is a pull and desire to attend parties and other such festive events but we need to remember that the Christmas Season does not begin until December 25th.  The Advent Season is penitential just like Great Lent leading up to Pascha.

The abstinence during this period of the year is a bit more relaxed than during Great Lent.  Fish, Wine, and Oil are allowed on certain special feast days and on all Sundays.  Meat and dairy products are not allowed at any time during the course of the Advent Season although it has become the custom for this to be relaxed for Thanksgiving.    The amount we eat should also be less than we would normally eat during the rest of the year.  These are guidelines to be followed to the best of our ability.  All of this should be done in consultation with your spiritual father.

When we fast with humility and repentance it draws us closer to God.  We need to think of this time not of what we are not supposed to be eating but the spiritual side of our lives.  Orthodox theology looks at what happens between the body and soul as a single unit so what happens to one, happens to the other.  Our Holy Church teaches that it is simply not enough to fast from food but also from anger, greed, and covetousness.  There is also almsgiving involved during this period of time.  Do something for someone else without expecting anything in return.

We tend to spend an enormous amount of time focusing on the food part of the fast period.  We cannot neglect the spiritual in all of this.  To that end consider going to confession during this period of time.  These penitential seasons are a great time to get back in the habit of going to confession.  Frequent confession is good for the soul but it also helps keep us on track.  We become accountable to another person on our spiritual life and we can use these times of confession to check in with our spiritual father.

As mentioned, almsgiving should be part of our practice during this season.  We have two opportunities to put the Gospel message of love your neighbor into practice.  The Community Meal will be served on Thursday, December 6th and Thursday, December 20th.  Come and serve a meal and have a conversation with someone.  There will also be a box at the entrance to the church to place nonperishable food items that we can distribute at our meals for the needy in the Community.  We should practice this all year long but we should make a special effort during the Nativity Fast.

Scripture reading should be a part of our lives every day but if we do not have a time that we read Scripture use this time of the fast to begin.  There is a 40 day Scripture Challenge that will get you through the entire New Testament in the time of Advent.  Commit to expand your Scripture reading or start reading during this time of the year.

We will be adding Liturgical Services during the week and several special Vesper services during Advent as well.  I will be praying the Morning Hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 7:30 am in the Monastery Chapel and will serve Vespers on Wednesday night at 6:00 pm in the Chapel.  I will also serve compline each night during the week.

Along with the services I mentioned we will serve Great Vespers on Tuesday, November 20th for the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.  On Thursday, November 29th for St. Andrew and for St. Andrei Saguna.  Monday, December 3rd for the Great Martyr Barbara.  Wednesday, December 6th for St. Nicholas.  Wednesday, December 12th for the Repose of St. Herman of Alaska.  All of these services will be held in the monastery Chapel with the exception of November 30th.  There may be other services added as well.  They will be posted prior to the day of the service.

We will serve the Royal Hours on Monday, December 24th at 9:00 am in the Chapel.  Some of the hymn of the Royal Hours are the same as those of the Theophany and Good Friday.  This ties the symbolism of Christ’s Birth, Baptism, and death into one feast.  The Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St. Basil at 5:00 pm in the Church.  At this service eight Old Testament parables are read that prefigure the Incarnation of Christ.

As with all spiritual disciplines we need to do the best we can.  I have made some suggestions for you to follow if you choose you can follow them all or start small and work your way up.

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