A few people wonder why we fast before Nativity. The Lenten fast seems more obvious. Also, from what foods do we normally fast from during the Nativity fast?
We fast before the Great Feast of the Nativity in order to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Our Lord’s birth. As in the case of Great Lent, the Nativity Fast is one of preparation, during which we focus on the coming of the Savior by fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
By fasting, we “shift our focus” from ourselves to others, spending less time worrying about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and so on in order to use our time in increased prayer and caring for the poor. We learn through fasting that we can gain control over things which we sometimes allow to control us—and for many people, food is a controlling factor.
[We live in the only society in which an entire TV network is devoted to food!] While fasting from food, however, we are also challenged to fast from sin, from gossip, from jealousy, from anger, and from those other things which, while well within our control, we all too often allow to control us.
By definition, an Orthodox Christian is one who strives to be obedient to the Commandments and, at the same time, obediently tries to fulfill the requirements of an Orthodox way of life, as revealed by Scripture and Tradition. Thus, obedient attendance at divine services, frequent reception of the Mysteries, observance of the seasonal fasts, the giving of alms, acquiring the spirit of charity, etc.—all of these, and more, constitute the bare minimum expected of those who follow Jesus Christ. This holy obedience is, however, only the beginning for anyone who wishes to call himself Christian; these are the first steps in spiritual life, in keeping with what the Lord has taught us: If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words (Saint John 14.15, 21, 24). This is why Saint Paisios Velichkovsky has
I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church — we profess in the Creed.
But how can the Church be one, when there are so many church societies and organizations, reciprocally excluding one another, which have pretensions for this name? We know the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Armenian and other churches.
We believe in one Church, because only one of all churches has the well-founded right to be called so, all the rest are called as churches only according to the common custom, similar to the one, following which in the letters they call the person, to whom they write "a merciful sir," and themselves as "resigned servants," though both the expressions do not coincide with the real state of things.
Only one church can be real, because with the notion of the Church is inseparably connected the title of the carrier of the perfect truth, which can be only one. If concerning important and precise things they express various points of view, only one of them can be correct, and the rest will be wrong.