The Advent Fast

Put away the wreath, the tree and the garlands. Stow the lights and ornaments. It is not Christmas yet. It is the time of spiritual preparation. We all need this. We are not exempt. The bridegroom has gone to prepare His Father’s house for us, and we need to get ourselves ready for the heavenly banquet. Christmas is a remembrance of the Incarnation, of Christ among us, and of Christ’s return. Be prepared!

Out culture rushes us into premature celebration, pushes us to buy things we don’t need so we can give them as gifts, and makes a mockery of Our Lord’s birth and life among us. Let the pagans have their Yule, we have Christ. But He expects nothing less than everything; we aren’t to give His gifts to the world. We must prepare ourselves to be holy people, to receive His holy gifts.

When I recently wrote about the separateness of Christians, I received angry comments, as if we are wrong to be separated, different from the world. One reader insisted that she did not want to be holy if it was exclusive! Of course it is exclusive! Christ didn’t die to make your sins right; He died to make you right! You simply do not get to keep your sinful nature, and once received into the household of God, you must put off your old ways, or out you will go. You cannot bring in other gods, you cannot bring in the gaudy and cheap ways of the world. If you will taste of the cup of grace, you must first wash your hands, clean your face, and put on the spotless garment. God calls you to do this, and obedience is imperative, or the wine and bread will be gall and ashes on your tongue.

Be prepared to sacrifice ease and pleasure. Be prepared to give up some of the little benefits of our wealthy culture – the food especially. We are an indulgent people, easily cossetted, greedy children. Fasting is a healthy exercise.

This is traditional Christian fasting: No meat, eggs, or dairy. No alcohol. No refined oils. Whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit. Very light seasoning. Olive oil and wine can be added on the weekends. (We may add eggs or dairy on weekends, as well, depending on our health.) Nut butters are a staple in fasting season. Hummus made without olive oil is also a good choice. Falafel can be baked instead of fried. The Russians eat sea salt on bread in the fasting season, rather than butter. Since beans without fat are rather bland, cook them with vegetables for flavour – tomatoes, onions, carrots. There are lots of online sources for the fast.

We are starting the fast late since we are in the process of moving, and I may have to adapt it a bit to accomodate my husband’s health issues. I can certainly use a fast, since I gained weight over the last year. I need to get back into my old eating habits. Part of my fast is going to be daily exercise. The dog and I really need it. I restrict her food intake to suit her lower level of activity, but I didn’t restrict mine. This is a fault on my part; I do know better! The fast helps us get our bodies back in line, makes us stronger, and teaches us discipline. It reminds us that all good gifts come from God.

And may I suggest that this year that we do not break the fast with a sumptuous feast, but a modest one? Rather than spending one hundred dollars on your Christmas meals (and that’s just a convenient number – don’t bother telling me “I never spend that much!”) spend fifty; if you usually spend fifty, spend twenty-five. There is no church canon that says you must have turkey, eight side dishes, and five desserts. A smaller turkey or ham or beef; potatoes, beets and other winter vegetables, avoiding the expensive imported ones; and a pie or two should suffice. Give what you save to your local food bank as cash, not canned goods. They need the money to get people through the rest of the winter.

Instead of gifts for the family, give to a family in need. The Salvation Army and other charities have programmes to help people buy heating oil. Donate to one of these. Give to one of the charities that provide farm animals or vegetable seeds to poor communities. Do something with your gift-giving money that doesn’t involve Walmart or the mall.

God calls us to be His people, not people of the world. We are blessed in simplicity and humility, not extravagance and arrogance.

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10 thoughts on “The Advent Fast

  1. Magdalena,

    Amen!! Preach it, Sister!! It is imperitive that we learn to live simply so others can simply live. Simplicity is not a badge of honour, it is not a ‘look at me!! I am doing so very well compared to you!’ it is not the Pharisee praying in the temple thanking god he is not like other men, but the publican far at the rear of the crowd, recognising the reality of life, beating his chest and trusting upon God’s mercy in humble recognition of the path of sanctification that lies ahead still to be arrived at. Simplicity is not ‘holier than thou’, but rather, a recognition that God is holy, and we are bought with a price, called an holy priesthood, adopted sons and daughters of the Most High. We are indeed an indulgent society. This does not mean we cannot be joyful and happy, giving, warm, hospitable and open – this is an intrinsic part of not only who we are, but the calling of any Christian, but we are called to Christ-focused mindfulness concerning each decision we make, for whatever we do, be it eating or drinking (anything at all), we are called to do to the glory of God. Our fundamental option has become dangerously knocked off course from those around us, to self, often also to the exclusion of others. If we can set aside for one moment and stop ‘feeding the beast’…and allow Metanoia to germinate and blossom, remembering that these acts, these ‘sacrimental’s’ if one will, are outward manifestations of inward realities, we will see the plastic throw away culture and everything that goes with it for what it truly is.

    No more watering the word until it is rendered sterile!! No more compromising the way of christ, no more seeing it as freedom without responsibility. No more hurtling in a distructive and heartbreaking race to the bottom with the world. Worship God in spirit and in truth.

    • They may not but they should; it is still “on the books.” Anglicans were noted for their piety at one time. We seem to have fallen from our tradition, though.

  2. Our current situation is having us fast from food and gifts this year, regardless of if we wanted to or not! I pray that if we ever move to having a full pantry, that I will remember even in a season of want we were provided for.

  3. The key is modest observance… Quakers at one time eschewed observing “days and seasons” for the reasons you give. Possibly the stricter Puritans did as well, much to the distress of some English folk in the 17th century… Perhaps we’re being called back into faithfulness.

    • Oh, I agree! If I could, I would probably “keep Christmas” and other holidays in a very modest way – we have in the past, and will again this year. The church calendar is for our edification, not to please God in some obscure, pagan way. Although it seems to be kept by the secular community as a way to make money and overindulge.

  4. Thank you! My family is Episcopalian, and we keep the Advent fast too. We do modify it (by including some organic, grass-fed/grass-finished bison) to fill the needs of our youngest child, who is a type 1 diabetic, but modifications will be done thoughtfully. We never eat dairy, eggs or grain due to kids’ food allergies, so it is challenging to apply a penitential attitude to the fast when the rules are so similar to our everyday diet. I am, for example, stopping my habit of chugging handfuls of vegan chocolate chips during Advent! 🙂

    Thanks for writing about it!

    Catherine

    • You must have to eat beans and rice – a lot! I like beans and rice, used to eat most days when I was vegan. Have a solemn but joyful feast.

  5. I would like to help out if anyone needs advice on how to eat like this or what to cook as I am a Christian of South American ancenstry and my peoples never need meat to cook healthy and different meals every day.
    Praise Jesus for this!

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