Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Dearest Spiritual Ohana,
I wish all of you a Most Blessed Nativity Season! I would like to share with you a portion of a beautiful article I found on the true purpose of the Orthodox Church Fasting and the Breaking of the It during the Nativity Period. Enjoy!
The Orthodox Nativity Fast Can Prevent Post-Holiday Blues by Lis Deluca
Much of the post-holiday blues that occur in the United States may have something to do with the way Americans celebrate Christmas. The Orthodox Nativity fast may be the remedy many people need.
When people are suffering in their lives with things like divorce or other losses‚ financial stress‚ aging or illness; the sudden onset of pre-Christmas cheeriness may leave them feeling even more isolated and deprived‚ because the rest of world is portrayed as happy and fulfilled in stark contrast to how they feel.
Others who do embrace pre-holiday celebrations often feel let down and weighed down by food and debt shortly after Christmas day. The novelty of the new material things wears off quickly‚ friends and family go home‚ and people may be left feeling blue.
This is the feeling known as post-Christmas letdown. The Orthodox way of celebrating Christmas can yield completely different results.
The Nativity Fast Addresses Pain as Well as Pleasure
“The birth of Christ brought joy and hope to those who had been in darkness and the way the Orthodox celebrate Christmas is designed to let people feel that hope again‚” states Father Jonathan Ivanoff‚ an Orthodox Christian Priest and Pastor of St. John the Theologian Orthodox Church in Shirley‚ New York.
The Orthodox Church teaches that Advent represents the time before Christ‚ when God’s people were lost and disconnected from God. Experiencing this loss and disconnection in some way is seen as a necessary pre-requisite to embracing the joy of Christ’s birth in its fullness. To achieve this‚ instead of “precelebrating” the Christmas holiday during Advent‚ Orthodox Christians participate in a solemn‚ six-week fast during this time.
What is the Nativity Fast?
Those who are fasting eat less and avoid all meat‚ cheese‚ eggs‚ fish and wine on most days. They keep a primarily vegetarian diet. The faithful do not get caught up in the “letter of the law” and do not freak out if they have to have a piece of meat. The spirit of the practice is more important than what is eaten. There is no threat of eternal damnation. In place of food‚ drink and partying during Advent‚ the Orthodox are asked to nourish their souls with increased prayer‚ communion with their fellow parishioners‚ and drawing closer to God. For those who are struggling with personal problems‚ this period can give them a spiritual boost. Their brothers and sisters are experiencing the somber reality of the human condition with them‚ through the fast. They are not alone.
According to Fr. Ivanoff‚ Christmas parties are put off until Christmas day when the fast is finally broken. The “famine” ends and the celebration begins. In fact‚the Orthodox continue to celebrate for 10 days after Christmas.
The Spirit of the Fast
Participating in the fast helps people tame their worldly appetites. It is an exercise in transcending the body and not being ruled by impulses. People who are fasting begin to feel that regardless of their worldly limitations or deprivations‚ they have a connection to God that sustains them through the fast and always. In addition to increased prayer‚ almsgiving is expected to increase during the Nativity fast.
According to Fr. Ivanoff‚ this means‚ specifically‚ giving money to relieve poverty and material need. Doing this offers a counterbalance to people’s urges to overspend on material goods during Christmas. It brings people in contact with others who are far worse off financially‚ quelling feelings of wanting more than they already have.
Feeding the Soul
These acts of almsgiving can restore feelings of connection with fellow human beings and even with our greater purpose. It reminds people that life means more than the consumption of material goods. It helps people out of the rut of day-to-day life. If people stick to the fast‚ they will find themselves feeling more somber. A certain mental clarity can dawn. They may have even shed excess pounds. They can feel much more in control of themselves and their appetites‚ and therefore more hopeful. They may feel closer to God and have more love and compassion towards others.
To read the article in full, go to the following link: orthochristian.com/43144.html
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
With Love in Christ,