Some points about the Fast and Preparation for Christmas.
Coming to Terms
- Advent – This is the term used by the Western Churches to describe the preparation period for Christ’s Birth. It means “Coming”.
- In the West the fast begins on the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Andrew (November 30)
- Phillip’s Fast, Nativity Fast, Byzantine Advent – These terms are used in the Eastern Churches. The terms designating the 40 day preparation period before the Christmas / Theophany season. It begins at sundown on November 14th (when the Church begins a new day) and concludes at Christmas.
- St. Phillip – An Apostle, born in Bethsaida on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias, the place of origin of Andrew and Peter, has his feast on the 14th of November. This is the day before the Nativity Fast begins, and is the reason it is called St. Phillip’s Fast.
The first mention of a preparatory period before Christmas is mentioned in a decree of the Council of Saragossa (380). The Council Fathers stated that every Christian should daily go to church from December 17 until the Theophany (January 6th). At the Synod of Mac (581) in present day France it was decreed that from November 11, the day of St. Martin, until December 24 every Christian should fast 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). The Gelasian Sacramentary notes five Sundays for the season; these five were reduced to four by Pope St. Gregory VII (1073-85).
However, the present liturgical pre-Nativity season for the East wasn’t established until the Council of Constantinople (1166). The Council decreed that the fast would begin on November 15 and last until December 24 inclusive. Thus, there was created another 40 day fast.
How to Fast/Celebrate?
The regulations for the fast are far more lenient than the Great Fast before Pascha (Lent). As mentioned before only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were days of strict fasting without meat, dairy products or oil (in Slavic countries). On Sundays fish was permitted. Laymen were at first permitted to eat fish on other days, too, until the monastic rigoristic influence prevailed.
However, today it has evolved into something more than a time of strict penance and fast. It has become a time of joyful waiting, an opportunity to engage in Holy Patience and prayer! To practice song, so that we may sing to the little New Born Messiah on the day which we celebrate His birth.
In the Western Church specifically each Sunday has a corresponding theme:
- Week one = The Second Coming at the end of time.
- Week two = John the Baptist’s prepare the way.
- Week three = “Gaudete Sunday” Rejoice in the Lord always. Based on the Itnroit of the day from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:4–6. (Rose vestments are warn instead of purple this Sunday. It is suppose to represent the illusion of the great light of Christ’s coming feast bleaching the color from the purple vestments of penance to rose a color of joy. The same image happens on the forth Sunday in Western Lent.)
- Week four = Is equivalent to our Sunday of the Fore Father.
What is the point?
The whole purpose is to prepare ourselves so that we can worthily meet our Lord and Savior. We must sanctify this pre-Nativity season of the Phillipian Fast/Advent. Sanctifying by spending our time in faith and in the service of God, in song, and in kindness towards our neighbor, especially those who are in need of our assistance. And we should think of what we would have been had Christ not come to our lowliness and poverty. Together with the whole of the Catholic Church we should try to meet Christ as he deserves to be met and as it will, in His mercy, best serve our spiritual benefit!
History of the Advent Wreath
The Whisky Advent Calendar – Remember every year when Advent would role around you, being a young lad, would receive a chocolate Advent Calendar from your folks? Well this is that, except with Whiskey, and now that you are a grown man you can still have that joy that comes with the patient waiting of the fast.
The Beervent Calendar – Same delicious concept as the Whisky, but more affordable and with beer
The Old Fast
Try testing your will and strength. Take on the “strict” observance of the old’n days. No meat, oil or dairy products on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Offer your sufferings to the Christ Child, with the knowledge that His suffering is perpetual and the Eucharist is the Life.
Father Barron Comments
- The Preparatory Season for the Nativity of Our Lord – The Phillipian Fast by Rev. Msgr. Russell A. Duker, Archdiocese of Pittsburgh
- Advent, in the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Christbearers – Meditations for the Pre-Christmas Fast, Christmas and Theophany. The booklet is available from the Office of Religious Education of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Pittsburgh.