Monday, December 1, 2008

The Pre-Christmas Fast

The Orthodox Church encourages people to fast for the 40 days prior to Christmas. They abstain from meat, cheese, oil and wine from November 14 until Christmas. Lisa DeLuca says that this pre-Christmas fast "is a spiritual practice that helps people grieve their losses, endure their sadness, feed their souls, and, ultimately, experience joy on Christmas day."

From a Catholic perspective, we can use this time of depriving ourselves to offer up our inconveniences for the safe return of our loved ones to the faith.

Especially if Christmas is a sad time for you, try turning to God and away from worldly over indulgence and continue to pray for your loved ones.

The manger, in spite of being filled with animal food, is empty for us until we fill it with Jesus.

1 comment:

Hira Animfefte (Xera Anymphefte) said...

Advent, sometimes referred to as Christmas Lent or Winter Lent in Orthodoxy, lasts 40 days in the Orthodox Church, just like (Great) Lent. The 40-day fast before Christmas was modeled after the 40-day fast before Pascha (Easter)--Great Lent was the original fasting period in the church, coming as it does before the Feast of Feasts, Holy Day of Holy Days.

Orthodox Christians also have a fasting period called the Apostles' Fast, which usually occurs in June, in honor of Saints Peter and Paul. There's another summer fast period, consisting of most of the month of August, in preparation for the Feast of the Dormition (Falling-Asleep) of the Holy Theotokos (Virgin Mary), which Catholics know as the Feast of the Assumption. (It's celebrated on the same date, fwiw.)

Besides all of that, Orthodox Christians are expected to fast from meat and dairy products (basically, go vegan) on every Wednesday and Friday of the year. Except the fast-free weeks, which come the week after major feasts. So there is a fast-free week after Christmas, and another fast-free week after Pascha.

There are some who practice fasting more strictly, others more loosely. Ideally, one should confer with one's spiritual father (usually one's parish priest) before modifying fasting practice (such as eating dairy products or fish during Lent).

Someone once calculated how many days per year an Orthodox Christian is supposed to be fasting from meat an dairy products...I think it's at least about being countercultural...