Fasting before Christmas? Really…REALLY?

Fasting before Christmas? Really…REALLY?

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Greetings in the Lord.  I want to welcome you to Generation ICXC, a new initiative that is pretty exciting!  Coming to this very spot, you will be able to submit questions about the Orthodox Christian Faith that we will try to answer.  The answers will not be Theological expositions (I can recommend many other resources if you want that), but straightforward and practical.  We anticipate your questions, and you can simply email them to generationicxc@myocn.net.  All questions will be answered at least via email, and one question will be highlighted in each article and answered on this site for everyone to read.

All that being said, I am going to get the ball rolling by answering a question that I am certain many people have in their minds during this time of year. The Nativity Fast.  It may seem strange to you to try and fast before Christmas, especially with being invited to Holiday parties on a nearly daily basis.  But the Orthodox Church teaches us to fast in preparation for Christ’s Nativity according to the flesh.

WHY?

For starters, if you’re anything like me, you think about food…A LOT.  I know personally that, if I am not careful, I wake up thinking about what I am having for breakfast, then when finishing breakfast, my thoughts move towards lunch.  Of course, thinking about snacks and dinner begins to take over.  I am willing to bet I’m not alone in this.  Judging by the amount of shows, blogs, videos, and television networks dedicated to food, I am pretty sure that we are OBSESSED with food.

Fasting is a way to hit the brakes on those thoughts.  If we spend time worrying about our next fasting meal, we miss the point because we fall into that same trap.  Likewise, if we spend inordinate amounts of time reading ingredient labels (take some of that time to read Holy Scriptures or writings of the Church Fathers instead), we miss the point and get hung up on the letter of the Law.

That being said, fasting is a highly personal matter.  There are plenty of resources available, including calendars that outline exactly how to fast each day, but not everyone can fast the exact same way.  Any fasting should be done in consultation with your spiritual father (if you don’t have one, get one…NOW…seriously, email your priest!!), and with medical/physical limitations in consideration of how strictly you fast.

So back to why…

Christmas is just like Pascha (Easter), the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and the Synaxis of the Apostles; all require preparation and cleansing before celebrating. Church Fathers also speak of how in the time before the Virgin Mary gave birth to Christ, she experienced tribulation via questioning of how she became pregnant, since she was betrothed to the elderly Joseph to protect her virginity.  In the end, she was exonerated, but we still remember her struggle, and we “struggle” with her.>

If you aren’t yet convinced to fast before Christmas, consider holiday let-down.  Remember that feeling after you opened that last toy on Christmas morning?  How you felt sadness even though you got everything that you wanted?  If we are fasting and preparing for the feast of the Birth of Christ, the day itself becomes even more joyful…not to mention a fast-free week after (no let down there)!!

One more thought, for your consideration, fasting without confession, increased prayer life, participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and helping the less fortunate, is just a diet.  The beautiful thing about fasting is that it’s not too late!  Try to begin your fast today…and don’t forget to go to confession!! Wishing a blessed remainder of the Nativity Season,

+Fr. Luke


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Fr Luke Melackrinos

Father Luke is currently serving on the Youth and Young Adults Committees of the Archdiocesan Council and the Direct Archdiocesan District Council as an adviser on Young Adult ministries. He also is currently assisting with Young Adult Ministries such as Orthodoxy on Tap and various Young Adult retreats for the New York Area.