Dear parishioners and friends of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church,
As we begin our 40-day journey to Christmas, I pray that we all have a fruitful Advent (Nativity Fast / St. Philip’s Fast). If you’d like to enter into the season with prayer, remember that we have the Canon of Repentance this evening, followed by confession, at 6 PM.
In addition, Fr. Justin Patterson, whose material I have shared with you all in the past, has a wonderful little reflection I invite us all to read below.
In Christ, with thanks,
Fr. John Joseph Kotalik
The Nativity Fast Begins Today: And That Matters….Why?
On November 15, 40 days before Nativity, the Orthodox Church begins the journey to Christmas. We love our Savior, but we also love meeting him in in his feasts and we relish our repeated encounters with him in the Church Year.
Part of the ancient Tradition of the Church is that–prior to Christmas Day–40 days are set aside as a lenten season to prepare us for the Coming of the Savior. And his Coming is not just Christmas Day itself, but the whole complex of feasts leading up to Christmas (including St. Nicholas Day & and St. Herman Day, as well as the Nativity Pre-Feast beginning a few days before Nativity) AND the whole complex of Feasts that follow Nativity (including the Post-Feast of Christmas, the Circumcision of Christ on Jan. 1, the festal cycle of Theophany, the entire Epiphany season, and–finally–the Great Feast of the Meeting of the Lord on February 2 with its octave of days following.)
And so the journey we are beginning today is going to reach an initial climax on the Great Feast of Nativity on December 25. But our journey will continue to unfold well into February, as we mark feast after feast.
As with any ascetical season, the feasts are supported by fasting. And fasting is supported by increased prayer (both at home and in church) and by the giving of alms to those in need. This final piety of almsgiving is particularly prominent in the holiday season–and is a chance for us to tie the culturally important (American) impulse to share our material blessings with the deep reality of Orthodox Christian life.
Let’s be honest, it’s tough to try to fast when the rest of our culture is (essentially) feasting. But (then again) our vision of Christ is distinctly different from that of most of our neighbors. We know he calls us to deny ourself, take up our Cross, and follow him. Discipleship is serious business. So let’s be faithful in fasting, in attending divine services more often in this season, in praying and reading Scripture more faithfully at home, in giving money and aid more readily to those in need, in listening more carefully to other people in our lives, making our visits with others both fruitful and Christ-bearing. May the Lord bless this 88-day trek through the Winter Pascha of the Church Year and may we all experience some measure of transformation in this journey!
-Archpriest Justin Patterson