Monday, November 15, 2010

A Proverbs 31 Philip's Fast (Advent)

Advent (St. Philip's Fast) is upon us! Byzantine Catholics consider this season a time of both penance and preparation, a fast before the feast of the nativity. Different eparchies (dioceses) have different guidelines for the fast; my family is going meatless except for the Imperial feast on Sundays. Besides the issue of food, one should try to either give something up or do something positive to build one's character during the fasting season- like Roman-rite Catholics do during the Lent before Easter. I am going to try an experiment: to live Proverbs 31 during this St. Philip's Fast. I pray that I am up for the challenge. I believe this will be a positive experiment for my family- even if the Proverbs 31 woman may seem a bit- just a bit, but more authentically holy- like the Perfect Catholic Mom.
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
   She is worth far more than rubies. ...Wear the garnet earrings given to me
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
   and lacks nothing of value.                  
12 She brings him good, not harm,
   all the days of her life.  ...Bring him a good coffee at work
13 She selects wool and flax
   and works with eager hands. ...Find my knitting bag and start a project
14 She is like the merchant ships,
   bringing her food from afar.  ....Make and follow menu plans
15 She gets up while it is still night;
   she provides food for her family
   and portions for her female servants. ....Wake up earlier...
16 She considers a field and buys it;
   out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. ....Plant herbs in pots
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
   her arms are strong for her tasks. ...Exercise with free weights
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
   and her lamp does not go out at night. ...Make sure bills are paid
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
   and grasps the spindle with her fingers. ...Do kid crafts for Christmas
20 She opens her arms to the poor
   and extends her hands to the needy.   ...Research charities to give to
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
   for all of them are clothed in scarlet....Go through kids' clothes
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
   she is clothed in fine linen and purple....Do a project with fabric stash
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
   where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
   and supplies the merchants with sashes....Do lesson plans for classes
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
   she can laugh at the days to come. ...Buy new skirts  for Divine Liturgy
26 She speaks with wisdom,
   and faithful instruction is on her tongue. ...Finish Orthodoxy
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness....Fast from Facebook & Drudgereport
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her: ...Start circle time with children
29 “Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
   and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. 

It will be difficult, but not impossible, to be my modern interpretation of a Proverbs 31 woman for the fast. The most challenging verse will be "she gets up while it is still night." All mothers know that we will sleep if we are able. A bit of work and prayer before the bustle of the day is fine as well. I am praying to achieve more persistence, discipline and consistency during this fasting time. 

The beauty of fasting is this- it makes the feasting all the more glorious! So many people get depressed at the let-down after December 25th. All that is left from the preparation is a garbage can filled with cardboard and wrapping paper. Forgotten toys are left on the floor; the family might be back at the mall on the 26th, returning gifts that didn't fit or weren't exactly what was hoped for. But when you have been preparing and fasting, there is a season of feasting that begins on the holiday. This is the beginning of the twelve days of Christmas, and the feasting should continue beyond those first twelve days to 'balance out' the time spent fasting.

Our spiritual life is a see-saw. First we fast, and then we feast, and then we fast again. God and His Church are wise in that it is known that we humans need constant renewal in soul and body. The fast-feast cycles give us these periods of renewal if we take the seasons seriously. Our children are being introduced to these fast-feast cycles at the level in which is appropriate for their ages (there's that illusive balance again) and will be hosting an Epiphany/Theophany party for their friends. In the meantime...on with the fast...!


  1. This is such a wonderful idea! I think I will steal this, and maybe even share it with a couple of my friends. I am personally "stuck" in a nether world between the East and the West. We have a tremendous priest at the Latin parish 4 miles from my home and have been going to daily Mass, but husband and I decided we had to start the black coffee today. Just doesn't feel right to have that cream during Philipovka. Do keep writing on this Nativity Fast project, to encourage the rest of us who have been inspired.

  2. Oregon Mom- I think it feels about right to start the fast now- and it will keep us from being overly indulgent during our Christmas preparations!

    I tip my (invisible) hat to you- a Latin Catholic who knows we Byzantines exist! :)

  3. This is a wonderful blueprint to put into action. Even though it might take a bit of modification, it's beautiful.

  4. I'm thinking you're talking Proverbs 31, not Psalm 31?

  5. Thanks Shannon- maybe you can be my proofreader- :)

  6. I am so interested to read of the different customs and traditions of Eastern Catholicism! Six weeks' fast seems like a good idea :) But what do you do about Thanksgiving? I am shockingly ignorant :)

  7. Lynn- some people might wait until Sunday to celebrate Thanksgiving- we are going to have it as normal on Thursday- I think Thanksgiving is a lot like St Patrick's for Western-rite Catholics during Lent...just decide with your priest BEFORE the season how you'll handle the holidays and make a different sacrifice to 'make up' for the feasting. We will probably celebrate St Nicolas day that Sunday (it's really a Monday)

  8. This is a great post! And I definitely agree that the hardest part for me would be getting up early! I'm so desperate to sleep as late as possible (as late as possible being 7ish on a good day!) since the girls still don't sleep through the night.

    I do like the idea of the fast before Christmas too! I wonder what my husband would think... I have a feeling he might actually like the idea too!


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