Nativity Fast Traditions for Byzantine Catholics

Source: Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix

The Byzantine Catholic Church invites all to participate more fully in the central mysteries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through her calendar of feasts and fasts.

The feast of the Nativity of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Christmas, December 25) is one of the great feasts of the Church year, celebrating the coming or advent of the Messiah (which in Hebrew means “He who is anointed by the Spirit” or in Greek, Christos), Jesus Christ. Christ was born into the world through the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary to offer us the wondrous gifts of salvation and theosis, our transformation into the likeness of God by sharing in His holiness through the energies of His grace.

Through the mystery we celebrate in the Nativity, we too are invited to become the children of God, sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. But this transformation does not occur overnight. Rather, it requires a rediscovery of the essential disciplines of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Training for Body, Mind and Spirit

For Saint Paul, Christian discipleship is like an athletic contest in an arena, which requires both training and effort. This is the root of the Christian understanding of asceticism and praxis.

By training our body, mind and spirit with the help of God’s grace to seek and follow His commands and cultivate the virtues of the saints, in turn we help to extract the poison of corruption, sin and death within our own lives and to realize the saving and transforming power of Christ’s life given to us in Holy Baptism.

The Church has traditionally taught four main ways to engage in Christian asceticism, no matter what our state in life. These are prayer, fasting, almsgiving and love. By actively engaging in these disciplines of discipleship during the time of the fast, we unite ourselves more perfectly to Christ as we celebrate the joy of the feast of His Nativity.

Christian Praxis Activities

In anticipation of the advent or “coming” of the Messiah that we celebrate during the feast of the Nativity on December 25, Byzantine Christians enter into a time of preparation known as the “Nativity Fast” (“St. Philip’s Fast” or “Pilipiwka” since it begins each year on November 15, the day after the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle).

As with most periods of fast before the great feasts, the Nativity Fast is a time for a deeper interior conversion to Christ by embracing the four forms of Christian praxis. Below we offer some suggestions for ways to put into practice the four forms of Christian praxis or asceticism during the Nativity fast.

Prayer

  • Spend at least 15 minutes in the morning and evening in prayer each day.
  • Pray the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” 100 times a day.
  • Display an icon of the Nativity in the prayer corner of your house or room and spend 10 minutes each day meditating on the saving mysteries surrounding the story of Christ’s Birth.
  • Receive the Mystery of Repentance (Confession) at least once during the fast.
  • Use the prayer guide with family or friends.

Fasting

  • Abstain from meat and dairy products on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. Dairy is allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but still no meat.
  • Fast from certain foods, such as soda, alcoholic beverages or candy.
  • With each meal, eat only an amount that is sufficient for nutritional needs, without feeling full.
  • Fast from select forms of entertainment (television, movies, radio, internet, novels, etc.).
  • Almsgiving
  • Give your time, talent and/or treasure to a parish outreach or a special charity.
  • Increase your parish tithe for the season.
  • Clean out your house of any excessive items or possessions and share them with the poor and needy.
  • Purchase gifts for homeless or needy children or families.

Love

  • Meditate on the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes and identify one or two of these to put into practice each week.
  • Examine your conscience each night, asking for forgiveness from God or others as needed.
  • Find opportunities to share your faith with others.

 


 

Suggested Daily Prayer During the Nativity Fast

Standing quietly as a family before the icon of Emmanuel with a small candle lit before it, begin:

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Amen.

Glory be to You, our God, glory be to You!

Heavenly King, Advocate, Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of Blessings, Bestower of Life, come, and dwell with us; cleanse us of all that defiles us, and O Good One, save our souls.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us. (3)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and ever. Amen.

Trinity most holy, have mercy on us. Cleanse us of our sins, O Lord; pardon our transgressions, O Master; look upon our weaknesses and heal them, O Holy One; for the sake of Your Name.

Lord, have mercy. (3)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and ever. Amen.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Lord, have mercy. (12)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and ever. Amen.

Come, let us worship our God and King.

Come, let us worship Christ, our God and King.

Come, let us worship and fall down before the very same Lord Jesus Christ, our God and King.

Psalm 97

O God, with Your judgement endow the king,* and with Your justice, the king’s son;

He shall govern the people with justice* and Your afflicted ones with judgement.

The mountains shall yield peace for the people,* and the hills, justice.

He shall defend the afflicted among the people,* and save the children of the poor,* and crush the oppressor.

May he endure as long as the sun,* and like the moon through all generations.

He shall be like rain coming down on the fleece,* like showers watering the earth.

Justice shall flow in his days and profound peace,* until the moon be no more.

May he rule from sea to sea,* and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The Ethiopians shall bow before him,* and his enemies shall lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;* the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.

All the kings of the earth shall pay him homage,* all nations shall serve him.

For he shall rescue the poor man from the mighty,* and the afflicted man who has none to help him.

He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;* the lives of the poor he shall save.

From fraud and injustice he shall redeem them,* and precious shall be his name in their sight.

May he live to be given the gold of Arabia,* and to be prayed for continually;* day by day shall they bless him!

May there be an abundance of grain upon the earth;* on mountain tops crops shall rustle like Lebanon;* city dwellers shall flourish like the verdure of the fields.

May his name be blessed forever;* as long as the sun his name shall remain.

In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;* all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.

He shall defend the afflicted among the people,* and save the children of the poor,* and crush the oppressor.

He shall be like rain coming down on the fleece,* like showers watering the earth.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;* the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.

Praises

Sunday

Jesus, Wisdom, Designer of all, O breath of the power of God, pure Emmanation of the glory of the Almighty: come and save those who hope in you.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

Jesus, Reflection of the eternal Light, spotless Mirror of God’s creative power, Icon of His goodness: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

 

Monday

Jesus, Image of the invisible God, Reflection of the Father’s glory, exact Representation of His Being: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

Jesus, sweetest Child, Fulfilment of the sign, Emmanuel – “God With Us”: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

 

Tuesday

Jesus, Messenger of Great Counsel, Prince of Peace, Father of the Age to come: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

Jesus, eternal life, wrapped as a servant in swaddling clothes, that as God You might sunder the chains of death: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

 

Wednesday

Jesus, Star from Jacob which rose in a cave, O shepherd of Israel whom shepherds adored: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

Jesus, Deliverance of our first parents, Joy of the patriarchs, Fulfilment of the law and the prophets: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

 

Thursday

Jesus, Salvation prepared in the sight of every people, Light of revelation for the Gentiles and Glory of Your people Israel: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

Jesus, long-awaited hope of the nations, You make them children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

 

Friday

Jesus, ever-living Word, Lamb of God who take away the sin of the world, who came after the Forerunner yet are before him: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

Jesus, He-Who-Is, whom the Father sent and glorifies, whose Day Abraham saw with rejoicing: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

 

Saturday

Jesus, Messiah, Son of the Blessed One, O blessed and only Mighty One, the Lord – to whom be honour and everlasting power: come and save those who hope in You.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

Jesus, Wisdom, Designer of all, O breath of the power of God, pure Emanation of the glory of the Almighty: come and save those who hope in you.

Refrain: Emmanuel, God-With-Us, have mercy on us!

 

Canticle of Simeon

Now, O Master, You have kept Your promise, let Your servant go in peace. With my own eyes I seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people: a Light to reveal You to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people, Israel!

More honourable than the cherubim, and by far more glorious than the seraphim; ever a virgin you gave birth to God the Word, O true Mother of God, we magnify you!

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Amen.

Source: Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix

About Fr. Michael Winn

Fr. Michael, a priest of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg, is presently serving as Rector of Holy Spirit Seminary in Ottawa. He also teaches a few undergraduate courses as a sessional lecturer with the Sheptytsky Institute at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, and is the general editor of the Ukrainian Catholic Catechism (English Edition) Christ – Our Pascha.

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