So this year November 15 marks the start of the Nativity fast. Fasting will continue till December 24th. This is something somewhat new to me. Every year at my Episcopal parish our priest would explain sometime in November that this would normally begin a time of fasting within the church similar to lent. He would add that is why our readings mid November take on an apocalyptic tone. This will continue into advent and up to Christmas. He would also point out that the Nativity fast was something found in antiquity. That in modern times we understand this time of preparation in a much different way.
With all respect to my former priest I say to following. I find it curious how groups often refer to a practice they no longer partake in as antiquated or an old tradition. Sometimes it is said we understand the faith differently now, and this particular practice is no longer needed.
I will say this I do understand that one can fast food and make this season a penitential time. Like all things if it becomes a means to itself or not to God then it is a loss effort. In the Episcopal church Advent is a joyous time. Nevertheless it is like lent a time of preparation. The season is meant to be taken with a light heart, and an anticipation of the coming of the Lord.
In many ways I still understand this time as such. I will still be breaking out my advent wreath. On Sundays we will be lighting the candles in preparation of the coming of the Lord. Will I be fasting? You bet I will be, but not just food. I will begin to prepare my heart for the coming of the Lord. My attention will be on this as well. Fasting for me is not necessarily about food. Even though I do fast food. It is about drawing near to God, and allowing the Holy Spirit to do a work within our hearts.
I am reminded of what St. John Chrysostom teaches us:
… the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.
Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?
Happy fasting to you all!