An Occasion For Joy

Russian Orthodox Christians started the Nativity Fast from November 29, it observed to January 6 2011.

The Nativity Fast is a period of abstinence and penance. The fast runs for 40 days. The fast influences the body, the emphasis is placed on the spiritual facet of the fast rather than physical deprivation. Orthodox theology sees a synthesis between the body and the soul, so what happens to one affects the other. The church teaches that it is not enough to fast from food; one must also fast from anger, greed and covetousness.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the fast traditionally entails fasting from meat, poultry, 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. The fasting rules permit fish, and/or wine and oil on certain feast days.

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.

“Christmas is a FEAST, a celebration, an occasion for joy. Understanding the real meaning of this joy (God coming to us to share our humanity) comes to every individual gradually, within the measure of his or her spiritual development, but the experience of joy, of rejoicing, of having a very happy time because it is Christmas is something that can be experienced by all members of the family, whatever their age, whatever their level of spirituality . . . if only there is someone within the family who remains a witness of the true meaning of this joy. The experience of a joyous celebration remains the foundation stone of understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Nativity.

In our family in days past, the Pre-Christmas period was always linked to what used to be called “govenye”, “making one’s devotions” or what is now sometimes called a “retreat.” That meant that we attended church, for several week days we abstained from certain foods and amusements and went to confession and received Holy Communion on Christmas Day. It was a family experience,”- wrote in the article Mrs. Sophie Koulomzin. She is the “mother” of Orthodox religious education in North America.

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