Dear Friends in Christ,
Thanksgiving has passed, and we are now jumping into the “Holiday Season.” Even in times of economic slowdown, shopping continues, and many of us will be invited to various holiday social functions at work, or at the homes of our family and friends. This is a good time to catch up with our loved ones, but it will be a more rewarding time if we keep a few points in mind.
The first point to remember is that leading up to Christmas, Orthodox Christians begin a period of preparation which includes fasting. The general rule of fasting is no meat or animal products during the forty days before Christmas. Young children, elderly people with medical needs, and pregnant women are either exempt from fasting or have traditionally cut back on the rigors of fasting proportionate to the needs of their situation. Those new to Orthodoxy may also find it beneficial to ease into fasting gradually under the guidance of their local priest. I am available via telephone at any time to address any concerns about fasting.
Why do we fast? One reason is that the types of food we give up—animal products—are the types of food most commonly desired and which we are most likely to over-consume. It is rare that anyone will admit that they have just overindulged in broccoli, for instance. But a hamburger, or cheesy dishes, or ice cream are all things we can eat too much of—especially in the hustle-bustle leading up to Christmas. Fasting allows us to free ourselves gradually from the passion of gluttony, which slows us down, hurts our health, and reduces the time we have to pray since we sleep more when we overeat. Fasting helps us to overcome various other spiritual ailments, as Christ himself taught (Matt. 17:21).
We can also prepare for Christmas by remembering the poor among us. Here at Holy Theotokos we recently had a charity dinner to benefit the Ronald McDonald House, which assists the families of sick children who need to stay in the area for treatment long-term. We also have instituted a clothing closet to provide needy families with something to wear. If you know of a local charity that helps the poor, you can donate your time or treasure to them as well. We mustn’t forget these basic Christian practices in the hustle and bustle of our own preparations.
We should also plan to attend the liturgy as much as possible in the time leading up to, surrounding, and following Christmas, as Christmas is not a one-shot experience, but rather a cycle that we are drawn in to, which has a culmination in the Nativity liturgy, and which we then remember for twelve days, leading up to the feast of Theophany (Christ’s baptism). Please consult the calendar for when we will be having services.
I look forward to seeing you soon at liturgy and may the Lord bless you as you prepare yourself for his Birth in the flesh by fasting and charity.
Yours In Christ,