Nativity Fast

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The Nativity Fast is a period of abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Jesus (December 25). [1] The corresponding Western season of preparation for Christmas, which also has been called the Nativity Fast [2] and St. Martin's Lent, has taken the name of Advent. The Eastern fast runs for 40 days instead of four (Roman rite) or six weeks (Ambrosian rite) and thematically focuses on proclamation and glorification of the Incarnation of God, whereas the Western Advent focuses on the two comings (or advents) of Jesus Christ: his birth and his Second Coming or Parousia .

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. Roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

Eastern Catholic Churches Autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.3 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.

Nativity of Jesus Birth of Jesus

The nativity of Jesus or birth of Jesus is described in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts differ, but agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of King Herod the Great, his mother Mary was married to a man named Joseph, who was descended from King David and was not his biological father, and that his birth was caused by divine intervention.

The Byzantine fast is observed from November 15 to December 24, inclusively. These dates apply to those Orthodox Churches which use the Revised Julian calendar, which currently matches the Gregorian calendar. For those Eastern Orthodox Churches which still follow the Julian calendar (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Russian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, Polish Orthodox Church, Georgian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Macedonian Orthodox Church, and Mount Athos), the Winter Lent does not begin until November 28 (Gregorian) which coincides with November 15 on the Julian calendar. The Ancient Church of the East fasts dawn til dusk from the 1st December until the 25th of December on the Gregorian calendar.

The Revised Julian calendar, also known as the Milanković calendar, or, less formally, new calendar, is a calendar proposed by the Serbian scientist Milutin Milanković in 1923, which effectively discontinued the 340 years of divergence between the naming of dates sanctioned by those Eastern Orthodox churches adopting it and the Gregorian calendar that has come to predominate worldwide. This calendar was intended to replace the ecclesiastical calendar based on the Julian calendar hitherto in use by all of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Revised Julian calendar temporarily aligns its dates with the Gregorian calendar proclaimed in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII for adoption by the Christian world. The calendar has been adopted by the Orthodox churches of Constantinople, Albania, Alexandria, Antioch, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, and Romania.

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582.

The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar in 708 AUC (46 BC/BCE), was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect on 1 January 709 AUC (45 BC/BCE), by edict. It was the predominant calendar in the Roman world, most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was gradually replaced by the Gregorian calendar, promulgated in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

Sometimes the fast is called Philip's Fast (or the Philippian Fast), as it traditionally begins on the day following the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle (November 14). Some churches, such as the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, have abbreviated the fast to start on December 10, following the Feast of the Conception by Saint Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Philip the Apostle Christian saint and apostle

Philip the Apostle was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Later Christian traditions describe Philip as the apostle who preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia.

Melkite Greek Catholic Church Eastern Catholic Church

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. It is headed by Patriarch Youssef Absi, S.M.S.P., headquartered in Cathedral of Our Lady of the Dormition, Damascus, Syria. The Melkites, Byzantine Rite Catholics, trace their history to the early Christians of Antioch, formerly part of Syria and now in Turkey, of the 1st century AD, where Christianity was introduced by Saint Peter.

Saint Anne mother of Virgin Mary in Christian and Islamic traditions; unnamed in the New Testament or Quran

According to apocryphal Christian and Islamic tradition, Saint Anne was the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus. Mary's mother is not named in the canonical gospels. In writing, Anne's name and that of her husband Joachim come only from New Testament apocrypha, of which the Gospel of James seems to be the earliest that mentions them. The mother of Mary is mentioned, but not named, in the Quran.

The purpose of fasting

Through the discipline of fasting, when practiced with prayer, repentance, and almsgiving, it is believed that by tempering the bodily desire for food, other passions are tempered as well, and that the soul can orient more away from worldly needs and more towards spiritual needs. Through this practice one is better enabled to draw closer to Christ, and engage in the continuous and synergistic process of becoming more Christ-like. While fasting is practiced with the body, it is important to note that emphasis is placed on the spiritual facet of the fast rather than mere physical deprivation. Orthodox theology sees a synthesis between the body and the soul, so what happens to one can be used to have an effect on the other. [3]

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period. Other fasts may be partially restrictive, limiting only particular foods or substances, or be intermittent.

Repentance is the activity of reviewing one's actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs, which is accompanied by commitment to change for the better. In modern times, it is generally seen as involving a commitment to personal change and the resolve to live a more responsible and humane life. In other words, being sorry for one's misdeeds. But it can also involve sorrow over a specific sin or series of sins that an individual feels he or she has committed. The practice of repentance plays an important role in the soteriological doctrines of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Analogous practices have been found in other world religions as well. In religious contexts, it often involves an act of confession to God or to a spiritual elder. This confession might include an admission of guilt, a promise or intent not to repeat the offense, an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible. As such it can be seen as being similar to therapeutic practices though it clearly differs in its particulars.

Jesus in Christianity Jesus in Christianity

In Christianity, Jesus is believed to be the Son of God and the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Christians believe that through his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, God offered humans salvation and eternal life. He is believed to be the Jewish messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament. These teachings emphasize that as the Lamb of God, Jesus chose to suffer on the cross at Calvary as a sign of his obedience to the will of God, as an "agent and servant of God". Jesus died to atone for sin to make us right with God. Jesus' choice positions him as a man of obedience, in contrast to Adam's disobedience.

Fasting rules

The Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace, celebrated during the Nativity Fast as a reminder of the grace acquired through fasting (15th century icon of the Novgorod school). Otroki novgorod.jpg
The Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace, celebrated during the Nativity Fast as a reminder of the grace acquired through fasting (15th century icon of the Novgorod school).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the fast traditionally entails fasting from red meat, poultry, meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine. Fish, wine and oil are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, and oil and wine are allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, except in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Red meat

In gastronomy, red meat is commonly red when raw and a dark color after it is cooked, in contrast to white meat, which is pale in color before and after cooking. In culinary terms, only flesh from mammals or fowl is classified as red or white.

Poultry domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, their meat or their feathers. These birds are most typically members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes

Poultry are domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, their meat or their feathers. These birds are most typically members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes.

Broth liquid food preparation

Broth is a savory liquid made of water in which bones, meat, or vegetables have been simmered. It can be eaten alone, but it is most commonly used to prepare other dishes, such as soups, gravies, and sauces.

The fasting rules permit fish, wine and oil on certain feast days that occur during the course of the fast: Evangelist Matthew (November 16), Apostle Andrew (November 30), Great-martyr Barbara (December 4), St. Nicholas (December 6), St. Spiridon and St. Herman (December 12), St. Ignatius (December 20), etc. The Nativity Fast is not as severe as Great Lent or the Dormition Fast.

Herman of Alaska 18th and 19th-century Russian Orthodox monk and saint

Saint Herman of Alaska was a Russian Orthodox monk and missionary to Alaska, which was then part of Russian America. His gentle approach and ascetic life earned him the love and respect of both the native Alaskans and the Russian colonists. He is considered by many Orthodox Christians as the patron saint of North America.

Ignatius of Antioch Early Christian writer, Patriarch of Antioch and martyr saint

Ignatius of Antioch, also known as Ignatius Theophorus or Ignatius Nurono, was an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch. En route to Rome, where he met his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote a series of letters. This correspondence now forms a central part of the later collection known as the Apostolic Fathers, of which he is considered one of the three chief ones together with Pope Clement I and Polycarp. His letters also serve as an example of early Christian theology. Important topics they address include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.

Great Lent observance in Eastern Christianity

Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important fasting season in the church year in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Byzantine Rite Lutheran Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches, which prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha (Easter).

As is always the case with Orthodox fasting rules, persons who are ill, the very young or elderly, and nursing mothers are exempt from fasting. Each individual is expected to confer with their confessor regarding any exemptions from the fasting rules, but should never place themselves in physical danger.

There has been some ambiguity about the restriction of fish, whether it means the allowance of invertebrate fish or all fish. Often, even on days when fish is not allowed, shellfish may be consumed. More detailed guidelines vary by jurisdiction, but the rules strictly state that from the December 20 to December 24 (inclusively), no fish may be eaten.

The Eve of Nativity (December 24) is a strict fast day, called Paramony (lit. "preparation"), on which no solid food should be eaten until the first star is seen in the evening sky (or at the very least, until after the Vesperal Divine Liturgy that day). If Paramony falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the day is not observed as a strict fast, but a meal with wine and oil is allowed after the Divine Liturgy, which would be celebrated in the morning.

Liturgical aspects

The Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, the Great Feast which falls during the course of the Nativity Fast (16th-century Russian icon). Presentation of Virgin Mary (icon).jpg
The Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple , the Great Feast which falls during the course of the Nativity Fast (16th-century Russian icon).

In some places, the services on weekdays during the fast are similar to the services during Great Lent (with some variations). Many churches and monasteries in the Russian tradition will perform the Lenten services on at least the first day of the Nativity Fast. Often the hangings in the church will be changed to a somber, Lenten colour.

During the course of the fast, a number of feast days celebrate those Old Testament prophets who prophesied the Incarnation; for instance: Obadiah (November 19), Nahum (December 1), Habbakuk (December 2), Zephaniah (December 3), Haggai (December 16), Daniel and the Three Holy Youths (December 17). These last are significant not only because of their perseverance in fasting, but also because their preservation unharmed in the midst of the fiery furnace is interpreted as being symbolic of the Incarnation—the Virgin Mary conceived God the Word in her womb without being consumed by the fire of the Godhead.

As is true of all of the four Orthodox fasts, a Great Feast falls during the course of the fast; in this case, the Entry of the Theotokos (November 21). After the apodosis (leave-taking) of that feast, hymns of the Nativity are chanted on Sundays and higher-ranking feast days.

Forefeast

The liturgical Forefeast of the Nativity begins on December 20, and concludes with the Paramony on December 24. During this time hymns of the Nativity are chanted every day. In the Russian usage, the hangings in the church are changed to the festive color (usually white) at the beginning of the Forefeast.

Sunday of the Forefathers

Two Sundays before Nativity (hence, between 11 and 17 December of each year [4] ), the Church calls to remembrance the ancestors of the church, both before the giving of the Law of Moses and after [5] , like Adam [6] , "and on through Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David, and other" biblical raighteous [7] [8] . Seth, son of Adam, started the descendance of the Sons of God [9] .

The Menaion contains a full set of hymns for this day which are chanted in conjunction with the regular Sunday hymns from the Octoechos. These hymns commemorate various biblical persons, as well as the prophet Daniel and the Three Young Men. There are also a special Epistle (Colossians 3:4-11) and Gospel (Luke 14:16-24) readings appointed for the Divine Liturgy on this day.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers

The Sunday before Nativity is even broader in its scope of commemoration than the previous Sunday, in that it commemorates all of the righteous men and women who pleased God from the creation of the world up to Saint Joseph. [5] The Menaion provides an even fuller service for this day than the previous Sunday. At the Vespers portion of the All-Night Vigil three Old Testament "parables" (paroemia) are read: Genesis 14:14-20, Deuteronomy 1:8-17 and Deuteronomy 10:14-21. The Epistle which is read at the Divine Liturgy is a selection from Hebrews 11:9-40; the Gospel is the Genealogy of Christ from the Gospel of Matthew (1:1-25)

Paramony

Christmas Eve is traditionally called Paramony (Greek: παραμονή, Slavonic: navechérie). Paramony is observed as a strict fast day, on which those faithful who are physically able to, refrain from food until the first star is observed in the evening or after the Vesperal Divine Liturgy, when a meal with wine and oil may be taken. On this day the Royal Hours are celebrated in the morning. Some of the hymns are similar to those of Theophany (Epiphany) and Great and Holy Friday, thus tying the symbolism of Christ's Nativity to his death on the Cross. The Royal Hours are followed by the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St. Basil which combines Vespers with the Divine Liturgy.

During the Vespers, eight Old Testament lections ("parables") which prefigure or prophesy the Incarnation of Christ are read, and special antiphons are chanted. If the Feast of the Nativity falls on a Sunday or Monday, the Royal Hours are chanted on the previous Friday, and on the Paramony the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated in the morning, with its readings and antiphons, and the fasting is lessened to some degree—a meal with wine and oil being served after the Liturgy.

The All-Night Vigil on the night of December 24 consists of Great Compline, Matins and the First Hour. One of the highlights of Great Compline is the exultant chanting of "God is with us!" interspersed between selected verses from the prophesy of Isaiah 8:9-18, foretelling the triumph of the Kingdom of God, and 9:2-7, foretelling the birth of the Messiah ("For unto us a child is born...and he shall be called...the Mighty God....").

The Orthodox do not normally serve a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve; rather, the Divine Liturgy for the Nativity of Christ is celebrated the next morning. However, in those monasteries which continue to celebrate the All-Night Vigil in its long form—where it literally lasts throughout the night—the conclusion of the Vigil at dawn on Christmas morning will often lead directly into the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. When the Vigil is separate from the Divine Liturgy, the Lenten fast continues even after the Vigil, until the end of the Liturgy the next morning.

Fasting during the afterfeast

On December 25, the Afterfeast of the Nativity of Christ begins. From that day to January 4 (the day before Theophany Eve) is a fast-free period. The Eve of the Theophany (January 5) is another strict fast day (paramony).

Coptic fast

In the Coptic Orthodox Church, an additional fast is observed on the three days before the beginning of the Nativity Fast, to commemorate the miraculous moving of the mountain of Mukattam (which lies within a suburb of Cairo) at the hands of Saint Simon the Tanner in the year 975, during the rule of the Muslim Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz Li-Deenillah.

Armenian fast

Uniquely, the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates Nativity on January 6. Their Fast of Advent begins on November 19. They then observe a Fast of the Nativity for one week prior to the Feast of the Nativity on January 6 (see Armenian Calendar of Saints).

See also

Notes

  1. December 25 on the traditional Julian Calendar (O.S.) falls, during the 20th and 21st centuries, on January 7 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). All dates in this article refer to the dates as they are written in the Menaion. For those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, the date on the Gregorian Calendar are now 13 days later (December 25 Julian = January 7 Gregorian). For those churches following the Revised Julian Calendar, the services are celebrated on the date according also to the calculation of the Gregorian Calendar.
  2. Joseph Bingham, Origines Ecclesiasticae (W. Straker, 1840), p. 240
  3. Kallistos (Ware), Archimandrite (1978), "The True Nature of Fasting", The Lenten Triodion, South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press (2002 reprint), ISBN   978-1-878997-51-7
  4. "Liturgy of the Sunday of the Holy Fathers". Eastern Orthodox Church of America. Archived from the original on Oct 11, 2018. Retrieved Oct 11, 2018.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. 1 2 Kallistos (Timothy Ware), Bishop (1969), "Background and Meaning of the Feasts", The Festal Menaion, London: Faber and Faber, p. 53, ISBN   0-571-11137-8
  6. "Sunday of the Holy Forefathers". Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. House Springs, MO. Dec 14, 2009. Retrieved Oct 11, 2018.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. "Sunday of the Holy Forefathers". Russian Orthodox Church of Baltimora, U.S. Archived from the original on Oct 3, 2007. Retrieved Oct 11, 2018.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. "Biblical righteous Saints of the Forefathers Sunday". oca.org. Archived from the original on Oct 11, 2018.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help) The list also includes High Priest Aaron, Benjamin, Deborah, Ezra, Judith, Miriam, prophets Nathan and Nehemiah, Noah, Rebecca, Sarah, Solomon, Susanna, Ruth, Mary (the mother of Saint Anne), the prophet Daniel
  9. "Afterfeast of the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple". oca.org. Archived from the original on Oct 11, 2018. Retrieved Oct 11, 2018.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

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