12 November 2007

My Sister-in-law reminded Me...

...that our Orthodox sisters and brothers have already [note: she corrected me - I need to read more carefully - are preparing to enter - November 15] entered the Nativity Fast. This begins for Western Christians only after the first Sunday in Advent (December 2nd this year). But it is very good to think through the fast ahead of time and to fight (yes, it will be a fight) against the annual cultural pigfest that starts on Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas in our culture. In Western tradition, the fast is observed on Wednesdays and Fridays of Advent, with eating only 1.5 meals on those days, and additionally refraining from flesh meats and wine on Fridays. Also, during Advent, the winter ember days fall, which (I believe) will be Dec. 19, 21, and 22nd this year. These are all days traditionally observed by fasting (1.5 meals) and abstinence (no flesh meats or wine). Although the Advent fast is nowhere near as popular as the Lenten fast, it is still a beautiful practice to train our flesh in "denying fleshly passions" and training ourselves to be ready for the joyous Advent of our Lord Jesus.

In summary, that would mean eating 1.5 meals on Dec. 5 and 7, 12 and 14, 19, 21, and 22; and on the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st and 22nd, refraining from all flesh meats and wine. As Lutherans we remember that this fasting is not something done to curry favor with God (favor already freely granted us in His Son), but something we may freely join in doing to help subjugate our sinful flesh and teach it that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

33 comments:

DebD said...

Actually, the Eastern Fast doesn't start until the 15th. I still have a few more days.

Fr John W Fenton said...

In the latest issue of FIRST THINGS, Joseph Bottum offers a "Whatever-Happened-to-Advent" op ed piece that is worth the time. His focus is on the aspects of sacrifice, self-denial, self-control and penitence that the Advent fast should evoke. Regrettably, it is not yet posted to the web.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Favor already freely granted us all along, as the Christmas angels announced: "Peace on earth, good will toward men."

Anastasia

wm cwirla said...

Hmmm. Abstaining from "flesh meats" Are there any other kinds? Nut meats, I suppose. What does this mean for the Cult of St. Atkins?

I'm not sure I would characterize Thanksgiving, etc. as an annual "pigfest." It may very well be the only time when food, company, and conversation come together in a celebratory way. Christian discipline is fine outward training, but dour judgmentalism hardly befits a people proclaiming peace, goodwill to all.

William Weedon said...

It means fish is cool. And so Atkins is no problemo.

The problem is NOT with a feast on Thanksgiving. I am all for Thanksgiving Day feasts! :)

It's with the gluttony that runs from Thanksgiving through Christmas - and so deprives us of the penitential season of preparation. Our God wants to satisfy us with so much more than the food of this world!

Doorman-Priest said...

Don't start me on my rant on the secular festival of Christmas which is already well into its run-up here.

The city's (admittedly lovely) Christmas lights were swithed on last week and people are booking their office parties. Shops are full of tinsel and baubles and I just want to say Bah Humbug!

Doorman-Priest said...

Type "Christmas Present: Doorman-Priest" into Google and you can have the full rant!

Dixie said...

As an Orthodox Christian, and low carb dieter, the Advent fast "eastern style" is much easier to manage because most days permit fish for the first portion of the fast--later, as we get closer to feast of the Nativity, we have a stricter fast. There are a number of feast days in the calendar in the early Advent season (St. Nicholas, St. Andrew, etc.,) and they frequently sprinkle themselves on Wednesday or Fridays, which normally do not permit meat or fish (or dairy, oil and alcohol). But the feast days enable us to have fish, oil and alcohol when they land on Wednesday or Friday.

Our Bishop traditionally has exempted us from fasting for the Thanksgiving meal.

The strict "eastern style" fast (no meat, fish, dairy, oil, alcohol) for the low carb dieter can be quite penitential! Peanut butter, nuts, and Chinese take-out (with shrimp, scallops or squid) make for the bulk of the food with any staying power for me--avocado, too. Vegetables and a little fruit fill out the rest of the menu. The monotony of the menu sure helps keep food from being a source of satisfaction...although I admit to going a little crazy when the post-fast feasting begins. Lots of discipline left to learn!

Just out of curiousity...who thinks fasting earns favor?

orrologion said...

Practically speaking, the Nativity Fast begins on Wednesday, November 14 this year since Wednesday is always a fasting day (except for 4 weeks a year).

It is also true in the Byzantine fast that one is to practice xerophagy ('dry-eating': "Strictly interpreted, it signifies that we may eat only vegetables cooked with water and salt, and also such things as fruit, nuts, bread and honey.") and "one meal a day is permitted, to be taken in the afternoon following Vespers, and at this one meal xerophagy is to be observed." However, the Natvity Fast is more relaxed on weekends (the sabbath and resurrection) and on Tuesdays and Thursdays allowing fish/wine/oil and wine/oil, respectively. The Fast intensifies closer to December 25.

The history of the fasts is complex, but very interesting in how they interact with the liturgical calendar and the 'spirit' of the law.

Fr John W Fenton said...

Historically, in parts of the West, the fast began on St Martin's day (11 November; last Sunday) and so was known as "St Martin's Lent." It is interesting that Bottum references this fast in his article.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Clearly it would be better not to fast at all than to combine fasting with a "dour judgmentalism" or any other kind of judgmentalism.

But I don't see anybody doing that.

Anastasia

wm cwirla said...

It had to do with the fight "against the annual cultural pigfest that starts on Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas in our culture."

Sounds a bit dour, if not judgmental, to me, though knowing the source as I do, I know this is not actually the case. My brother certainly fasts and feasts in the liberty that befits the baptized children of God.

I'm thinking of hanging Christmas lights this year; I don't really know why. They look better against snow.

William Weedon said...

Snow? What's snow? I hear it is a myth - that people used to believe that this white stuff fell from the sky and covered and the ground and was both pretty and cold. But who can bear witness to it not being a myth in this day and age? ;) [Longing for a REAL snowfall, "just like the ones we used to know."]

William Weedon said...

By the way, I'd argue with anyone who thought fasting is dour. I find that the eating less really sharpens the mind and allows one to focus - it's the pigfest itself that is dour and a real downer. Stuffing in one more cookie just because it's there and the thing to do. Ho, ho, ho? NOT! A totally unexpected side-benefit of the eating 1.5 meals is how utterly ALIVE it leaves you feeling. Liberating, really. I'd urge anyone to give it whirl and tell me it's not so.

William Weedon said...

Oh, and of course, one should never mention fasting alone. It goes together with almsgiving and prayer. Eat less, and you have more to share with those who have less than you. And you also have more time to spend in the Word and prayer. It's a winner all the way around. :)

Lutheran Lucciola said...

I haven't tried the fasting thing before, except for a day once. It didn't go well, my blood sugar drops pretty fast.

I don't think I would do it, unless others in my church were doing it. The group part of it seems better. Otherwise I am going to be lightheaded and grumpy.

Past Elder said...

Bless us and save us, Mrs O'Davis.

That's why the vestments are purple for the season for jumping Judas Priest's sake! It's like Lent to Easter, a season of preparation and repentance! With the coming joy breaking through in Gaudete Sunday (Advent 3) just like Lent 4 Laetare when rose coloured vestments (and candle in the wreath) are used.

Or not. Blue! Blue! Too bad Elvis isn't around. We need a new Advent hymn, "Gonna have a blue Advent".

William Weedon said...

Lucciola,

If you have problems with blood sugar, you shouldn't fast. But many people misunderstand the nature of fasting and forget that it can mean simply eating LESS. Some people find it helpful to eat a little something at breakfast (say a piece of sausage) and then a little something at lunch (a cup of soup) and then a regular meal at dinner (regular especially in the sense of not making up for what was skipped earlier!). Your body then has some fuel to work with, but the state of being hungry persists. And that's ultimately what fasting means: going hungry, and thus being reminded that the hunger behind all hungers is the hunger for God Himself.

William Weedon said...

Terry,

But blue is the color of the sky, to which our eyes are turned in expectation of the glorious Appearing, and it is also the color associated with our Lord's holy mother. :)

wm cwirla said...

"Otherwise I am going to be lightheaded and grumpy."

It's much more fun to be lightheaded and grumpy in a group.

The correct color, of course, is violet with pink on Gaudate Sunday, and then only while fasting and standing on one foot.

Or it doesn't work.

Dixie said...

Pastor Cwirla, you have a wonderfully developed, dry sense of humor but I think you might be at risk of being misunderstood.

I once had a pastor who made fun of my desire to fast. Pastors have a lot of influence. And if fasting aids in one's spiritual discipline then discouraging one from doing so...either through mockery or other means...is definitely not a good thing. Plus, from a Lutheran perspective it encroaches on Christian liberty.

Again, I don't think this was your intent but it did come across that way in my reading. The one dimensional nature of Internet communication is quite limiting.

Lutheran Lucciola said...

Pastor Weedon:

Good suggestions. I could use eating less, what American couldn't?

Pastor Cwirla:

I appreciate your dry humor, don't stop on my accord! I like the Lutheran dry humor, it keeps us humble.

Mike Baker said...

Hmmm... violet? Are you sure?

I thought the LCMS color for advent was mauve.

wm cwirla said...

Mauve is the color that Lutherans turn when they try fasting for the first time.

Lutheran Lucciola said...

Something tells me you have mauve in your church, P. Cwirla.

I'm sharpening my carpet scraper as we speak. Don't make me drive down there. Elephantschild is good with the remodeling too, watch out.

Lutheran Lucciola said...

You too, Baker!! ;-)

I know where your churches are. I'm watching you.

wm cwirla said...

I think we actually have some residual mauve left over from a bad committee color selection. (Note to self: Never entrust color selection to a committee!).

Not in the sanctuary as a liturgical color, at least, though the current color scheme leaves much to be desired. (Now that you mention it, maybe the pews are mauve, after all! What is "mauve" anyway? Men think only in primary colors.) You're welcome to have at it with the carpet scraper. Next go round in remodeling will be the big hard surface push, though people already complain about the organ being "too loud." Wait'll they hear the praise band.

I save my remodeling energies for my house where I can work in all my ISTP solitude.

Mike Baker said...

We mauvites live in daily fear of being discovered in possession of banned materials. After all… nobody expects the color inquisition. Their chief weapon is surprise...wait...amongst their weaponry are such diverse elements as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to proper color schemes, and nice red [or the equally popular alternate deep blue] uniforms!

Past Elder said...

Hey, if you call rose pink it ain't gonna work even if you fast and levitate in mid-air! However I'm sure spell check doesn't have Gaudete in it so coming out Gaudate it OK.

Mauve. Wasn't that a controversial show with Bea Arthur a few decades ago?

wm cwirla said...

"Hey, if you call rose pink it ain't gonna work even if you fast and levitate in mid-air!"

I think I just wasted a piece of irony.

"However I'm sure spell check doesn't have Gaudete in it so coming out Gaudate it (sic) OK."

It also won't pick up the difference between "it" and "is." Tu quoque as the Latins like to put it.

Past Elder said...

Huge problem -- if you typo something that is actually a word spellcheck lets it through!

One thing Vista doesn't have among all the pretty new stuff is an "I know what you meant" function!

You know what -- I am a modified two finger typer: over the years I have incorporated a few other fingers here and there, but still it's basically the two finger manner. That's about the only thing I miss from academia -- a graduate assistant to proof stuff.

I still wonder who was the bleeding genius who decided blue had anything to do with Advent.

wm cwirla said...

The best high school course I took besides AP Calculus was typing. We learned to touch type on Smith-Corona manuals. No typos, no looking, no carpal tunnel issues at 100+ words per minute. I can type faster than I think, which is a huge problem in the blogosphere.

Vista needs a feature that lets you know what it meant.

Past Elder said...

I knew I should have taken typing rather than Latin!

Vista sure is pretty but man, my 256 Mgs of RAM with an 850 MHz processor kicks along ME faster than my 1 gig of RAM with a 1.8 gig processor kicks along Home Premium. I'm putting in another gig.