Orthodox believers have begun the Advent Fast, which will last 40 days and end on the feast of the Nativity of Christ on January 7th. For information on how to properly observe it, read our material.
Most even non-churched people feel that the last month of the outgoing year is an extremely important time. Orthodox believers at this time are preparing for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. They refuse food of animal origin and switch to lean, plant foods. But this is only the first and most simple.
“The most important thing in fasting is not what we eat or don’t eat, but how we behave, what spiritual efforts we make to become better, cleaner, more tolerant,” says a specialist in Russian theology, First Vice-Rector of St. Institute Dmitry Gasak. “The way we work on ourselves so as not to be angry, not to envy, not to be annoyed and not to sow confusion – neither in the real nor in the virtual world.”
How to prepare and spend the Christmas fast?
According to priest Georgy Kochetkov, the gastronomic component has never been considered the main one for the Christian fast (contrary to popular belief). The original meaning of all restrictions is to eat easier and cheaper, so that the saved time, effort and money can be spent on works of mercy and helping those in need. “Food cannot defile a person; bad deeds, an unworthy attitude towards another person, evil thoughts and words make him incapable of communicating with God,” the priest explains.
It is important to dedicate this period to good deeds, says the priest. “Of course, it would be nice to never forget about them, but in real life it almost never works out. Therefore, fasting is the time to remember what benefit each of us can bring to our parents and loved ones, how it can help the needy, the lonely and the elderly. Deeds of mercy, especially those done disinterestedly to a stranger, can ignite and truly inspire,” says Georgy Kochetkov.
“The main thing is to concentrate, get together, think about what is vanity in your life, and what is most important, what is your place before God and what is the place of God in your life. Some people specifically take on additional tasks for the post – for example, something important to read or complete some good deed – not for themselves, for another. Or fix something in your relationship with a specific person,” the priest notes.
The Meaning and Importance of Advent
This post is not as strict as the Great or Assumption, it is not the most ancient, but long, forty days. “Like any post, it requires our attention, focus on what we often overlook. Of course, when starting a fast, one should consult with a spiritually experienced person so as not to turn this time into a diet or ascetic exercises that only cause melancholy. It is important that fasting helps a person grow, fills him with strength and inspiration, restores what was lost, weakened or destroyed in one way or another,” says Father Georgy Kochetkov.
The Nativity fast can help everyone – both those who have just entered the church, and those who have long considered themselves a believer, says Georgy Kochetkov. “The Advent fast prepares us for the feasts of the Nativity and Theophany, which in ancient times were always celebrated together as the feast of the appearance of God and the Man Christ into this world. Christ appears to save us, to transform us, to give us the strength and joy of life in communion with God, in spiritual unity with each other, so that we multiply the gifts of the Holy Spirit – that is, we live not mediocre and not meaningless. Christ wants all people to gain freedom and love, to know the truth, which, according to the word of the Gospel, makes us free, that is, children of God, and puts us above the heavenly powers: angels, archangels, seraphim, cherubim, serving the Lord of energies and some forces of this world,” explains the priest.
“We are always choosing for ourselves who to pay more attention to, who to pay less attention to, with whom to build relationships, and with whom not. We must not neglect people. Each person, while living on earth, retains the image of God in himself, and we need to help the awakening to spiritual life and the birth in Christ of each person whom the Lord gives us, without rejecting anyone, ”says Georgy Kochetkov.
“If we have become neighbors with someone – we suddenly found ourselves neighbors somewhere or looked seriously into each other’s eyes, then this is always an opportunity to show love and help the person return to Heavenly Father. A miracle is a thing. For Christmas miracles to happen, we need to help God, be in co-creation with Him and listen to what He wants from us. It is to this thoughtful doing of oneself, the people around and our common small Universe that the Nativity Fast is dedicated, ”concluded the priest.