Friday, November 18, 2022

Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, and the start of the Nativity Fast

Hello all! Happy...Advent? It's super interesting living between two different traditions with regards to liturgical seasons, let me tell you. 😂 Advent is a Western Church tradition (both Roman Catholic and Western rite Orthodox) but the East has the Nativity Fast, which begins 40 days prior to Christmas, meaning that it lands on November 15th every single year. So in our Western perspective on things, we refer to this as the Eastern Advent, as it were. 

We attended Divine Liturgy this past weekend like usual, and there was no mention of the upcoming change in liturgical season, although it is noted on the monthly bulletin. I'll be looking forward to seeing what changes, if any, are present in the sanctury this coming weekend, the first Sunday of the Fast. I'm going to be honest and admit that I'm not yet brave enough to research and implement the recommended dietary restrictions. Baby steps for this Latin rite gal. 😂

Although the Byzantine rite does not have Advent in the way that we are used to, there is an acknowledgement of the popularity of the Western style devotions in this regard. I purchased the wreath you see above from Legacy Icons, an Orthodox company that I love. It came with this adorable daily devotional:


...and it describes an Eastern take on the Advent wreath thusly (I'm summarizing):

The Orthodox/Byzantine rite has no liturgical season exactly corresponding to Advent in the West. That does not mean that there is no preparation in the Eastern tradition for Christ's Nativity. In the East, the Nativity Fast begins on November 15th, forty days before December 25th. While there is no weekly "theme" on pre-Nativity Sundays, the season is marked for the penitential singing of "Alleluia" at Matins (Morning Prayer) and other features. As time goes on, more and more Nativity-related hymnody is added to the services. The second Sunday before the Nativity is dedicated to the Ancestors of Christ, and the Sunday before the Nativity is dedicated to the Forefeast, which begins in earnest on December 20th. The Advent season was originally tied to the Epiphany (in the East, the feast of Theophany, on January 6th), with the Birth of Christ being a lesser feast. In the Orthodox West, Advent was first established in 380 as a three-week preparation for Epiphany. Inspired by the development of Lent, by 581 Christians in Western Europe began the Advent fast on Matinmas (November 11th). In other places a period of five or six Sundays was established. After the schism, this was reduced and standardized throughout the West to four Sundays.

The Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the sixteenth century. Over time, it became a staple of Advent devotion throughout Western Christiantity, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. While the Advent wreath devotion has no connection to Orthodox/Byzantine rite Christianity, it is deeply ingrained in Western culture. The Eastern forty day Advent season can fall over the course of five or six Sundays, so the focus is on daily rather than weekly devotions (scripture readings, prayers and feast days). It's a private devotion devised to count down to the Nativity. The candles are colored according to the traditional colors of the liturgical season: red for the Nativity Fast, and one blue candle for the Entry of the Theotokos (one of the 12 Great Feasts, and that actually is coming up quite soon!). 

I'm quite excited for this coming Sunday! The Christmas Bazaar is also scheduled for this weekend, but we're getting a bit of a snowstorm in this area over the course of the entire weekend, so I'm not entirely sure what will happen with events such as this. I'll keep you posted!

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