At the end of the Solemn Year of Prayer and the Commemorative Year of the Hesychast Saints, you have another opportunity to pray more, calm, and recharge your soul with the words of the Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers of the Church: the Nativity Fast that begins in two weeks.
The Nativity Fast “is a fasting season of prayer and almsgiving,” the Patriarch of Romania said.
Two Hesychast Saints inaugurate the Nativity Fast
Two hesychast saints open your way to the Fast of the Nativity of the Lord.
The last fast-free day is on November 14, the feast day of Saint Gregory Palamas, the hierarch who essentially contributed to the official reception of hesychasm in the 14th century as a spiritual renewal movement through unceasing prayer.
On the first day of the Nativity Fast, we honor Saint Paisius Velichkovsky of Neamț, the venerable elder who revived Romanian monasticism in the 18th century and introduced the Jesus prayer into coenobitic life.
Waiting for the Messiah
The Nativity Fast lasts forty days and recalls the long fast of the patriarchs and the righteous in the Old Testament, waiting for the coming of the Messiah – the Redeemer.
This fast also reminds us of the fast of Moses on Mount Sinai, when he was waiting to receive the words of God, the Decalogue, written on the Tablets of Stone, as the famous Romanian liturgist Fr. Ene Branişte explained.
General guidelines for the Nativity Fast
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of this fast are strict fast days. These days, we abstain from meat, dairy, fish with backbones, fowl, alcoholic beverages, and olive oil.
The fasting discipline is relaxed on Tuesdays and Thursdays to permit wine and olive oil.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the fast is relaxed even more to permit fish with backbones in addition to wine and oil.
During the forefeast of the Nativity, from December 20-24, our fasting is more strict. Each weekday that falls during this period is generally kept as a strict fast day, while any Saturday or Sunday is observed as a wine and oil day. However, the Eve of the Feast, December 24, is always kept as a strict fast day.
Foods that are permitted on all days are vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and shellfish.
Photography courtesy of Basilica.ro / Raluca Emanuela Ene