The Nativity Fast is with us. Two things generally mark this Nativity Fast for us:
- A normal dietary fast as prescribed by the Church. (There are four fasting seasons in the church year. The fast included meat, dairy, fish, wine and oil.)
- A difficult struggle to keep this fast while the ‘spirit of the Christmas season’ offers so many occasions to feast.
Here, the discipline of the church year is in strong tension with the consumerism of the secular year. The church wants to best prepare us to celebrate the feast of Christmas. And so we fast to quiet our bodies and get our hearts and minds prepared for the feast. Fasting is not about dietary rules; it’s about hearts and minds. The Nativity season is thick with anticipation. Fasting heightens that anticipation while keeping hearts and minds open and stimulated to the gift of salvation.
Consumerism, on the other hand, over stimulates us before the holiday even arrives. The stimulation is so excessive and unrelenting that we become dull and tired throughout the Christmas season. Often in the end we feign a mask of good cheer while beneath it all we feel rather empty and disappointed. Anticipation gets crushed down under the massive inventory of stimulation.
This year, there is an added discipline to our Nativity Fast – the Gospel Challenge. The challenge is to read all four gospels during the course of the Nativity Fast. Beginning with St. Matthew’s gospel and reading a little bit every day, we are offering a plan to read all four gospels during this season of anticipation.
Let us get ready for the feast of Christmas. Let us prepare our bodies, hearts, and minds with a simple and modest fast. Let us nourish ourselves with the gospels.
Question: What is one spiritual discipline I can take up during the Nativity Fast that will help me stay aware of Christmas as the incarnation of God in the flesh?