The Nativity Fast begins today. We think of fasting as being a chore; as something we have to do. And in a way, while we don’t have to fast, we should. For instance, last week when I sat down for my Thanksgiving meal I was starving, I didn’t fill up on anything before but waited for the main course. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I had spent all day filling up on other foods.
The difference here is that our preparation is for more than just one meal; for that matter, more than just one church holy day, the Lord’s Nativity. Let’s not forget those following it: His Circumcision, Baptism, His Presentation in the Temple, not to mention the ones connected to those – St. John the Baptist, St. Stephen the Protomartyr……
It’s an entire liturgical cycle of salvific events. But whatever the case, the key word is preparation.
Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory had a presentation entitled, “Putting Christmas Back Into Christ”. He explains that it was actually his spiritual father, Fr. Schmemann, who had said that it’s impossible to put Christ into Christmas, as the saying usually goes. Rather, he argued the real focus should be on celebrating Christmas the right way as it was given to us by the Church – through not just this preparation with fasting but also all the services and hymns and readings that are prescribed for this season, then we can take Christmas and put it back into Christ.
In the end, the point is for the fast not to be our chore but of our choosing.