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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nativity Fast

Nativity Fast is observed by Eastern Catholic Churches, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox in anticipation of the Nativity of Christ. The Fast extends over a period of 40 days, beginning November 15, till December 24. This fasting is one of the four fasting followed by the churches annually. The Nativity Fast is also sometimes known as Philip's Fast since it usually starts after the Feast of St. Philip. According to Eastern Orthodoxy, fasting helps one to get closer to God as it restricts the interaction of the body with worldly delights, thereby impacting the mind and soul in a positive way. There is also emphasis by the church not only to refrain oneself from food but also from greed, anger, animosity and materialism. It also encourages one to engage in almsgiving for the poor and needy during the period. However, the Fasting is not allowed for people who are sick, pregnant, too young and aged.

Nativity Fast Guidelines

Fasting Rules
The Nativity Fast is generally divided into two periods. November 15 to December 9 forms the first period where foods such as oil, wine, dairy products and meat are strictly exempted from consumption however, one is allowed to consume oil and wine on Tuesday and Thursday; fish, oil and wine on Saturday and Sunday. The second period of fasting lies between December 10th to 24th where all aforementioned foods are again barred from regular consumption, however, consumption of oil and wine is permitted on Saturday and Sunday for this period.

According to the Eastern Orthodox Church, fasting includes non-intake of fish, oil, eggs, dairy products, red meat, poultry, meat products and wine. The rules allow one to consume oil, wine and fish feast on certain feast days, namely Evangelist Matthew, Apostle Andrew, Great-martyr Barbara, St. Nicholas, St. Spiridon, St. Herman and St. Ignatius. A strict fast day called Paramony is observed on the eve of Nativity where no solid food is taken till the first star is noticed in the evening sky.

The Purpose Of Fasting
  • The purpose of fasting is to raise one's consciousness level from mundane to the spiritual. The practice of abstinence is seen as a way to end our utter reliance on materialism.
  • Fasting enables one to take a righteous path and practice virtuous deeds during the holy month and set an example for others to follow and benefit from.
  • Fasting is not meant as a way of appeasing God or divine, instead its main purpose is to contain our own shortcomings, passions and non-virtuous thoughts and deeds.
  • By fasting, one seeks to achieve control over one's own mind which is the ultimate goal of the practice.
  • Saying prayers during fasting period helps in the overall practice of delving in virtuous thoughts.
Nativity fast brings people closer to the concept of simple living and instills higher thinking in them. It is as they say, "you are what you eat" and abstaining from heavy, complicated food only brings you closer to simpler things in life.

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