Celebrating an Orthodox Advent

I’ve been sitting on this post idea for a while, waiting for time that I could hole away, make my usual draft on paper, and then come to the computer for the final version. But this time of the year conspires to rob every available moment for preparations both real and imagined.

I have blogged before about redeeming the time and finding the reason for any season. Now that we are upon what Christians consider one of the holiest seasons of all, the preparation for the birth of the Savior of the world into our frail human flesh, it is a good time to take at least a few moments to reflect, lest the rush of our many to-do lists keep us from the one thing needful.

Finally all Christians, Eastern and Western, Old and New Calendar Orthodox have entered the time of Advent or what Orthodox Christians tend to call the Nativity Fast. In the East, this begins on November 15 after the feast of St. Philip, and for this reason, it is often called Philip’s Fast; for those on the Old Calendar, it is delayed thirteen days and starts November 28, closer to the beginning of Advent on the Western calendar. For Christians in the West, Advent always starts on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Andrew, November 30 on both calendars East and West, making sure to leave at least 4 Sundays before the Great Feast on December 25. For this reason, one might call it St. Andrew’s Fast, though I have never heard anyone call it that in the West. And yes, faithful Christians in the West still do consider Advent a time of preparation, penitence, and fasting, though they are perhaps less stringent in their fast than Eastern Orthodox. More on the Eastern and Western comparison of practice can be found here.

It riles me to hear Orthodox baulk at using the term “Advent” to describe the 40 or so days of preparation to meet the Lord at His Nativity. Just because the term and many of the wonderful and holy customs associated with it were invented in the West AdventWreathdo not make them automatically suspect and tainted. Indeed such traditions as having an Advent wreath and saying special prayers at home is something I think Orthodox Christians can really learn and adapt from the West. Our family has taken on this and many other holy customs borrowed over the years. In fact, my children now refuse to go to bed at night without the lighting of the Advent wreath and reading of the Scriptures, no matter how late the hour. I personally cannot think of a more alive time in our family prayer life than the Advent season, save perhaps the time directly following the Resurrection during Bright Week.

Blessed and Holy Advent to all of you as we prepare our minds, hearts, and souls to meet the Maker of All in the flesh this coming Christmas. May He who deigned to condescend to our humanity lift us up to his divinity by our participation in his divine energies and may the spirit of this holy season overcome the spirit of this world by bringing us to adore Christ the Lord, God with us!

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