The Nativity Fast has begun. Unlike the Great Lent, which is a particularly ascetic fast, a fast which primarily invites us to leave our bodily passions and pleasures, a severe fast, the Nativity Fast is a gentler fast, an easier fast, it is a fast of gifts.
It is a fast during which we learn how to give, we learn not to forsake the poor, those living on the streets, the sick, those in prison, the elderly in retirement homes, orphans and all those who suffer.
As they beautifully say, December is the month of gifts giving, though not because the stores are filled with all kinds of things, but because the Lord gave us a great gift by becoming Man like us, by being born of the Most Pure Virgin Mary so that we can become gods like Him.
This is a fast of gifts because the wise men came to baby Jesus and brought Him gifts to show that they welcomed Him with joy, as He was indeed God from heaven. We also must bring Him beautiful gifts like the wise men. But what kind of gifts does God like?
He likes it when there is love among people, He likes goodwill among us, He likes the joy and light on our faces when we are all like a family.
God would like us to feed the hungry, to give warm clothes to those who sleep out in the cold, a kind word to those who are sad, a smile to those who are upset.
„The King will reply: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Have a profitable fast!
Translated by Claudia
Joy is not something impersonal, it does not simply appear or disappear on its own, joy goes always from one person to the next. There is no joy in itself, everything is personal. There is no “Christmas joy” that we all automatically feel in December, but the joy that comes from the relationship between you and me, between God and us.
The truth can never be entirely captured in words, but the truth is always an action. Thus, this great and holy atmosphere of Christmas comes from the gesture of each of us to the other.
First of all, this joy of Christmas is God’s love directed to us all, through the forgiveness of sins and the power that He gives us by becoming Himself a human being. And then this joy is the answer that we give to God, by loving the people in our family, our friends and those afflicted or miserable.
We are able to be good because God is good to us, we are able to give to the others because God has given to us first, we love each other as He loves each of us. All the good in the world is from God and not vice versa. Thus “the joy of Christmas” is personal, because it is from the Lord to us.
Christmas joy comes from God towards us, comes from the church, his home, to us.
God invites us to His house on Christmas morning, to “lunch” with Him and enjoy each other. There’s no better or more beautiful place on earth than the Church, no greater joy than Holy Eucharist! This joy extends to our homes and our hearts.
Where could we find a better place to be on Christmas morning than the Church?
This end of the week, will probably be very busy, because many of us will go to buy something for Christmas. Some buy more, others buy less, some buy food, others gifts … everyone according to his will.
Sometimes I’m thinking how the poor people in the streets celebrate Christmas? What joy do they have? How does the children in orphanages or elderly in the nursing homes celebrate Christmas? How about the prison inmates or hospital patients?
I know! We prefer not to think about this right now, it’ll saddens us. But even if we think of it or not, they are still there in their suffering. When i think of them I am starting to have qualms of conscience. In the morning, after I leave the night shift at work, from the heat inside, in the cold outside, I’m starting to shiver within seconds and imediately I remember the people standing in the street. Feeling cold pain in me makes me more sensitive to their suffering and I begin to pray for them, for God to help them, to have something to eat, a place where to live, not to feel cold… But is it enough? Is my prayer enough?
And I reply to that myself: It’s not enough! I must do something, I must help them in some way. I must give them some food, a blanket, a jacket, some socks, gloves or something to cover their head with. And now when Christmas is coming, now is the moment when we should share and help others, the way God has given us many gifts.
We’ll also go and buy something, and we’ll make time to do some small baskets with sweets for those in the street, because they always enjoy when they receive something.
Should we be the only ones feeling the joy of God’s birth, or should the poor and afflicted ones from the margins of society feel it too? If God gave me everything I want, having it all, wouldn’t be nice to give something to others, making other children smile and enjoy?
When I was a student and a member of the Christian Orthodox Students in Asociation in Romania I went to carol children in orphanages and the elderly in asylums. I don’t know if you believe me or not, but those moments were the most beautiful in my life, I felt such joy and peace, I saw the children and the elderly enjoying and how their face brightens up, when they heard us singing and when we gave them sweets.
It is not difficult to give! Today when we are invited to eat and buy to be happy, to accumulate as much as we can, God tells us the opposite, is more blessed to give than to receive!
If we ever forget who or when we give something, God reminds us, telling how the final court will be:
“Then the King will say to those on His right: Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger and you received Me; I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you searched Me; I was prisoned and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying: Lord, when I saw hungry and I fed You? Or thirsty and I gave You drink? Or when I saw you a stranger and took Thee in or naked and clothed You? Or when I saw You sick, or in prison and came to You? And the King, answered, shall say unto them: Verily I say unto you, because you did this to one of these brothers of Mine, smaller, you did unto Me. ”
Nativity Fast is a period of preparation before the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus. A friend of mine told me yesterday: “I am so happy because the Christmas Fast will begin soon – time for my teeths and my stomach to get a rest”. And I told him: “It’s time for your soul to get a rest as well”.Before heading on this road it is very important to know the reason of doing this and the significance of Nativity Fast. Everything that happened regarding the Nativity of Jesus was miraculous and hard to believe, but true.Moreover, I will list all the uncommon things related to this great event in human history:
1.Virgin Mary became pregnant through God’s direct intervention, without union with a man, a thing that never happened before in this world nor will it happen again.
2.The child embodied in her was not a common child, but the Son of God, the Second person of the Holy Trinity, True God from True God: “The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 )
The presence of an embryo in a woman’s womb marks the coming of a new and unique person, that slowly begins to grow both physically and mentally.What is special about the presence of the embryo in Virgin Mary’s womb isthat the Person of the Child already existed. The Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity decided to embody and become man.Through the embodiment He has two natures – the divine nature and the human nature and two wills – the divine will and the human will, but he remains one person, the same from all eternity.
Although hard to believe, Virgin Mary’s child was truly God. Virgin Mary was to give birth to the Unborn One, to the One without age, to the One that gave life to her.
3.When Joseph, Mary’s fiance, found out she was pregnant and took the decision to leave her believing she has been unfaithful, God sent His angel to Joseph assuring him that what happened to Mary is beyond human understanding:
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:19-21)
4.From the statements above it is to be understood the Child’s special mission: to save the world from its sins. A mission that is important and hard at the same time. How can you convince people to give up their bad habits, their attraction towards selfish pleasure, how to change their will? It is easier to win a war or to break free from a regime of tyranny than to change people’s conscience.
Nevertheless, Jesus Christ, the awaited Messiah promised by God to Adam and Eve, came to earth to save the wolrd, to overcome death, to liberate us from sin and to unite us all within Him and through Him.
5.The Saints tell us that Virgin Mary was always a virgin – before the birth of Jesus, during the birth and after His birth. This proves that Virgin Marygave birth in a way that we cannot understand. In this respect, the Saints recommend us to avoid trying to solve the mistery. Virgin Mary gave birth without pain as the child she bore in her womb wasn’t the result of a union with a man (a union tarnished by the original sin), but a consequence of the Holy Spirit’s direct intervention upon her.
6.After Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, three wiseman, who were foreigners to Israel, who couldn’t have known the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came and knelt before Him as to an emperor.
7.Herod, after finding about Jesus birth started looking for Him thinking his throne was endangered. Therefore, he decided to kill all the newborn baby boys under 2 years old. There was no coincidence that Jesus was born in a period when thousands of babies were killed at Herod’s command.
Everything that happened at Jesus birth was miraculous and influences all mankind.It is not easy to grasp the depth and the greatness of God’s incarnation and His coming to earth.Jesus’ birth, 2011 years ago is strongely connected to my present and my future life.
The Nativity Fast is a period of preparation that helps us understand clearly what happened then. Jesus birth concerns me and my family and we have to understand what happened then and the consequences of that upon our lives nowadays.
A man gorged with food and drinks is more prone towards the material side of life neglecting the divine and spiritual aspects.A person like that will never understand the birth of God from a virgin and he will always hold on things like: Christmas tree, presents or a rich dinner ignoring the fact that all these things will not cure their frustrations and dissatisfactions.
A person that fasts (abstains from eating, drinking, partying and cursing), a person that shares, forgives and loves will more easily understand Nativity’s meaning and the change brought by God through His incarnation in our world.
A person that always prays and communicates with God will get into the warm Christmas atmosphere even earlier, during the Nativity Fast.
Why do we fast?
To find solutions to our life’s problems.