As we Orthodox Christians begin the Nativity Fast, preparing to more fully meet the Incarnate Lord in the glorious feast of His Incarnation, the Mukachevo Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as an encouragement to its faithful, has published twelve pieces of advice for how to spend the Fast in a soul-profiting manner. We share this list with you all as well.
This list tries “to concentrate on what allows us to love. After all, fasting is about something more important—the salvation of the soul through attainment of and the reflection of Divine love.”
Remember that even good intentions can come crashing down, and thus we must learn to rely on God’s strength rather than our own, preparing to meet the Lord with a heart cleansed and full of love.
- Find time for attentive prayer: Make it a rule not to skip or shorten morning and evening prayers. Read a portion of the Gospel and Psalter every day, and most importantly, remember the presence of God as often as possible.
- Prepare for Confession and Communion: Think about and assess your actions, looking for what has harmed your soul. Prepare to receive more often, with the blessing of your spiritual father.
- Forgive your enemies: It is impossible to grow spiritually as long as there is a stone in the middle of our hearts. Even if you feel the other person is to blame, find an opportunity to speak with them and to forgive them, letting go of any and all anger.
- Give up the internet for a few days: “Hanging out” online takes away time that could be devoted to our families. After just a few days of abstention from the internet, you will feel an unusual surge of strength and energy. Don’t believe it? Try it!
- Finishing those things you’ve been working on for half a year already: Such things speak to your responsibility as a Christian. Many believers testify that once the Fast starts, everything goes like clockwork—prayer and fasting clear your mind and enhance your thinking.
- Visit social institutions, such as an old folks’ home, children’s homes, or hospitals: You can bring people in hard situations a gift, especially the warmth of your heart and good conversation.
- Feed the homeless: Don’t be afraid. Separate out a portion of your groceries as food for the poor—there are plenty of them in churches and throughout cities as a whole. Do it with an awareness of what need the destitute are in.
- Take stock of your clothing and shoes. Give to someone else that which you don’t wear.
- Do good deeds in secret: December is a time when everyone is talking about charity and mercy, although in modern times it is often bound up with publicity. Remember that our benefit for such deeds, when done in secret, comes from God Himself.
- Let go of everything that bothers and worries you: Get rid of all excesses during the Fast, including the thoughts and feelings that oppress you. Do not dwell on the negative.
- Prepare foods for the feast of the Nativity beforehand, so you can attend the Vigil and Liturgy in peace: The Divine services are the main preparation for the birth of the God-Man. Prepare food ahead of time so you don’t deprive yourself of the spiritual atmosphere which will allow you to truly experience Christmas.
- Give thanks to God: Thank God from a sincere heart for another year that has passed, and for His unconditional love that permeates every second of our lives.