The Nativity/Christmas Fast begins tomorrow for Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox Christians on the Gregorian and revised Julian calendars. We prepare for the nativity of Our Lord by fasting, praying and almsgiving. it might not feel as rigorous as Great Lent before Pascha (Easter), but we do try and live a quiet, repentant season of preparation and save the Christmas parties for the Christmas season that begins on December 25th.
"In anticipation of the advent or “coming” of the Messiah that we celebrate during the feast of the Nativity on December 25, Byzantine Christians enter into a time of preparation known as the “Nativity Fast” (“St. Philip’s Fast” or “Pilipiwka” since it begins each year on November 15, the day after the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle).
As with most periods of fast before the great feasts, the Nativity Fast is a time for a deeper interior conversion to Christ by embracing the four forms of Christian praxis. Below we offer some suggestions for ways to put into practice the four forms of Christian praxis or asceticism during the Nativity fast.
- Spend at least 15 minutes in the morning and evening in prayer each day.
- Pray the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” 100 times a day.
- Display an icon of the Nativity in the prayer corner of your house or room and spend 10 minutes each day meditating on the saving mysteries surrounding the story of Christ’s Birth.
- Receive the Mystery of Repentance (Confession) at least once during the fast.
- Use the prayer guide with family or friends.
- Abstain from meat and dairy products on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. Dairy is allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but still no meat.
- Fast from certain foods, such as soda, alcoholic beverages or candy.
- With each meal, eat only an amount that is sufficient for nutritional needs, without feeling full.
- Fast from select forms of entertainment (television, movies, radio, internet, novels, etc.).
- Give your time, talent and/or treasure to a parish outreach or a special charity.
- Increase your parish tithe for the season.
- Clean out your house of any excessive items or possessions and share them with the poor and needy.
- Purchase gifts for homeless or needy children or families.
- Meditate on the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes and identify one or two of these to put into practice each week.
- Examine your conscience each night, asking for forgiveness from God or others as needed.
- Find opportunities to share your faith with others."