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Men's Day of Reflection in preparation for the Nativity or Our Lord during the Fast of St. Philip
November 16, 2019Free
Men’s Day of Reflection in preparation for the Nativity or Our Lord during the Fast of St. Philip
The first mention of a preparatory period before Christmas is mentioned in a decree of the Council of Saragossa (380). The Council Fathers stated that every Christian should daily go to church from December 17 until the Theophany. At the Synod of Mac (581) in present day France it was decreed that from November 11, the day of St. Martin, until December 24 every Christian should fast 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday).
The pre-Nativity period of preparation developed rather late. Scholars do not agree about the exact time when it began. Some hold that it began in the sixth century. Others believe it began in the seventh or the eighth century. The present liturgical pre-Nativity season was finally established at the Council of Constantinople (1166). The Council decreed that the fast would begin on November 15 and last until December 24 inclusive. Thus, there was created another 40 day fast. […] As far as our liturgical texts are concerned, the period of preparation for the feast of the Holy Nativity of the Lord still begins on November 15.
The pre-Nativity fast is often called the Phillipian fast because it begins on the day after the feast of St. Philip. Th e fast was introduced to prepare the church for a worthy celebration of the great and holy day of the birth of Christ. The regulations for the fast were far more lenient than for the Great Fast. Only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were days of strict fasting without meat, dairy products or oil. On Sundays fish was permitted. Lay people were at first permitted to eat fish on other days too until the monastic rigoristic influence prevailed. It is interesting to observe that the famous 12th century Byzantine canonist Balsamon expressed the opinion that it would be enough if the lay people fasted only one week before Christmas. In 1958 a modern Greek author, Christos M. Enislides, welcomes Balsamon’s suggestion and believes that the best solution would be for the Church at large to abstain from meat and dairy products for 33 days. During the last seven days of the fast everybody should observe the strict fast.
To worthily meet our Lord and Savior, we should sanctify this pre-Nativity season of the Phillipian Fast. Sanctifying means spending our time in faith and in the service of God and in kindness towards our neighbor, especially those who are in need of our assistance. And we should think of what we would have been had Christ not come to our lowliness and poverty. Together with the whole of the Byzantine Church we should try to meet Christ as he deserves to be met and as it will, in His` mercy, best serve our spiritual benefit!