Author Topic: History of Nativity Fast  (Read 6595 times)

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Offline BasilCan

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History of Nativity Fast
« on: November 23, 2008, 10:14:19 PM »
I have looked and looked and have not found a single source, article, lecture whatever to tell me the origin of the Nativity Fast (aka: Advent, St. Philip's fast, Little Lent, Christmas Lent, Christmas Fast etc.) There are plenty of articles, books etc. on the development of both Great Lent and the setting of December 25th as the Birth of Christ, but zilch on the fast itself. Could someone please enlighten me on the origins of this 40 day fast?

Basil

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2008, 12:00:09 PM »
I also would be interested in reading about this! *bump* :)
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Offline Apostolos

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2008, 12:45:46 PM »
If I remember correctly, the Nativity fast is a western tradition that began in the 4th-5th century*, called in the West, st. Martin's fast**. Not many theologians and Fathers in the East, refer to the Christmas fast in their writings and certainly not before 6th century. The most interesting historical fact we know is that Theodore Balsamon in the 12th century, names this fast as "Heptaemeros-Ἑπταήμερος" therefore it was a 7-day fast, people fasted for just the week before Christmas. A remnant of this short 7-day fast, survives until today (at least in the Greek tradition I know of): "Real" fast begins on December 17 (until then, fish is allowed).   

*just like the celebration of Christmas on December 25th, is a western tradition; in fact st. John Chrysostom in 386 wrote an homily on the occassion of the 10th anniversary of the feast-->in Greek: "οὔπω δέκατον ἐστίν ἔτος ἐξ οὖ γνώριμος ἡμῖν αὔτη ἡ ἡμέρα τῆς ἑορτῆς γεγένηται"
**In Greece we call it st. Philipp's fast
« Last Edit: November 25, 2008, 12:48:03 PM by Apostolos »
Ἦχος Βαρύς

Ὁπλιτικῆς φάλαγγος οἰκεῖον μέλος
ὁ τοῦ βάρους σὺ κλῆσιν εἰληφῶς φέρεις.
Ἧχον τὸν ἁπλοῦν τὸν βάρους ἐπώνυμον
ὁ τοὺς λογισμοὺς ἐν βοαῖς μισῶν φιλεῖ.
Ἀνδρῶν δὲ ἄσμα δευτερότριτε βρέμεις.
Ὧν ποικίλος δὲ τοὺς ἁπλούς ἔχεις φίλους.

Offline BasilCan

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2008, 10:31:34 PM »
Thanks, Apostolos.

Now, if this was a 7 day fast in the church in the 12th century, how did we get to this 40 day fast today?

Basil

Offline Apostolos

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2008, 08:23:19 AM »
Thanks, Apostolos.

Now, if this was a 7 day fast in the church in the 12th century, how did we get to this 40 day fast today?

Basil

Gradually, the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, from an innovation (4th century), acquired big importance in the conscience of Church. Eventually it became as important as Pascha. And since Great Lent was already an established precedent in the Church, the devotion and piety of the people of God (pleroma) constituted the conditions for the establishment of a 40-day Christmas fast. During the Patriarchy of Lucas Chrysoberges of Constantinople (Patriarch between 1156-1169) a regional council was called in Constantinople (Endemousa Council of January 26, 1156) which institutionalised the fast...so it's official, we fast for 40 days before Christmas since 1156 AD.
Ἦχος Βαρύς

Ὁπλιτικῆς φάλαγγος οἰκεῖον μέλος
ὁ τοῦ βάρους σὺ κλῆσιν εἰληφῶς φέρεις.
Ἧχον τὸν ἁπλοῦν τὸν βάρους ἐπώνυμον
ὁ τοὺς λογισμοὺς ἐν βοαῖς μισῶν φιλεῖ.
Ἀνδρῶν δὲ ἄσμα δευτερότριτε βρέμεις.
Ὧν ποικίλος δὲ τοὺς ἁπλούς ἔχεις φίλους.

Offline ialmisry

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2008, 08:53:16 AM »
I have looked and looked and have not found a single source, article, lecture whatever to tell me the origin of the Nativity Fast (aka: Advent, St. Philip's fast, Little Lent, Christmas Lent, Christmas Fast etc.) There are plenty of articles, books etc. on the development of both Great Lent and the setting of December 25th as the Birth of Christ, but zilch on the fast itself. Could someone please enlighten me on the origins of this 40 day fast?

Basil

It's been many years, but I thought Hopko's "the Winter Pascha" had something on it. 

If I remember correctly, the Nativity fast is a western tradition that began in the 4th-5th century*, called in the West, st. Martin's fast**. Not many theologians and Fathers in the East, refer to the Christmas fast in their writings and certainly not before 6th century. The most interesting historical fact we know is that Theodore Balsamon in the 12th century, names this fast as "Heptaemeros-Ἑπταήμερος" therefore it was a 7-day fast, people fasted for just the week before Christmas. A remnant of this short 7-day fast, survives until today (at least in the Greek tradition I know of): "Real" fast begins on December 17 (until then, fish is allowed).   

*just like the celebration of Christmas on December 25th, is a western tradition; in fact st. John Chrysostom in 386 wrote an homily on the occassion of the 10th anniversary of the feast-->in Greek: "οὔπω δέκατον ἐστίν ἔτος ἐξ οὖ γνώριμος ἡμῖν αὔτη ἡ ἡμέρα τῆς ἑορτῆς γεγένηται"
**In Greece we call it st. Philipp's fast

To be specific, the Fast originated in the Gallican Church, as a fast of repentance during the first coming in anticipation of the second coming.

 As to it being just from the Middle Ages, how does that comport with the fact that the OOs also have a 40 day fast?
« Last Edit: November 26, 2008, 08:55:48 AM by ialmisry »
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Offline Christopher McAvoy

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2008, 05:34:17 AM »
Indeed, the St Martins Fast was once more strict in west than in the east :)

http://www.intermirifica.org/advent/hisad.htm

Perhaps Antiochian WRV will make their fast as strict as it actually was historically instead of innovating their own lax tradition.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2008, 05:34:30 AM by Christopher McAvoy »
"and for all who are Orthodox, and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith, remember, O Lord, thy servants" - yet the post-conciliar RC hierarchy is tolerant of everyone and everything... except Catholic Tradition, for modernists are as salt with no taste, to be “thrown out and trampled under foot

Offline prodromas

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2008, 05:58:08 AM »
Perhaps Antiochian WRV will make their fast as strict as it actually was historically instead of innovating their own lax tradition.

What may I ask gives you the right to call their tradition lax? are you a super ascetic?
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2008, 08:59:35 AM »
Indeed, the St Martins Fast was once more strict in west than in the east :)

http://www.intermirifica.org/advent/hisad.htm

Perhaps Antiochian WRV will make their fast as strict as it actually was historically instead of innovating their own lax tradition.

Is there a difference between WRV and WRO under ROCOR as regards the fast?

Btw, do all jurisdictions allow fish during the Nativity fast, or is it just Alexandria?
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth

Offline Christopher McAvoy

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2008, 07:20:11 PM »
The Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate do not include monday as part of the fast, only wednesday and friday.
I am not super ascetic.
"and for all who are Orthodox, and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith, remember, O Lord, thy servants" - yet the post-conciliar RC hierarchy is tolerant of everyone and everything... except Catholic Tradition, for modernists are as salt with no taste, to be “thrown out and trampled under foot

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2008, 08:56:19 PM »
Quote
Btw, do all jurisdictions allow fish during the Nativity fast, or is it just Alexandria?

I only know that as an Antiochian I can have fish on Saturdays and Sundays before Dec. 20th.
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Offline Anastasios

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2008, 10:43:03 PM »
Amongst the Greeks I know, fish is consumed basically every day except Wed and Fri from the Entrance until St Spyridon's Day.  It's not in the typikon, it just kind of is done.  Not in Monasteries though.
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Offline Reader KevinAndrew

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Re: History of Nativity Fast
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2008, 07:45:51 PM »
Indeed, the St Martins Fast was once more strict in west than in the east :)

http://www.intermirifica.org/advent/hisad.htm

Perhaps Antiochian WRV will make their fast as strict as it actually was historically instead of innovating their own lax tradition.

We have the same fasting rules in our WRV as in any other Orthodox church. We start Advent on Nov. 30th and not in the middle on November. In any case I think it's really unfair to say that the AWRV innovates and is lax. Have you been to a Western rite parish or know priests who celebrate the Western rite liturgy during your time now as a catechumen? Based on this assessment, do you care to comment on our bishops who take an active role in shepherding our parishes and missions? I know for a fact they visit all of us at least once a year. No issues or problems.

My point is that if you are a catechumen in our church, please take time to see how statements like that above come across. I won't be as harsh as some on here and say that you should stay in your former church/denomination. I welcome you as an inquirer in the Orthodox church and wish you the best in your catechumate.

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