The Maronite Fast of the Nativity

As is the custom of the Eastern Churches, the Maronite Church has always observed a fast as a way of spiritual preparation in the lead up to Christmas.

Traditionally, Maronites abstained from alcohol and any animal products: meat, dairy, eggs, fish and would completely fast from midnight to midday.

Those strict observances are no longer made a prescription of the Church, however we should still consider how we should prepare ourselves for this great feast. We may give up or take up something.

It is likely that initially the fast would have been 40 days (like the rest of the Eastern Church) or coincided with the beginning of the Liturgical Season of the Birth of Our Lord. The fast appeared to have been reduced at the Synod of Dai’at Moussa (1598) to 20 days, making it start the day following the Feast of Saint Barbara which falls on 5 December (canon 30).

“The abstinence of Christmas, which is of twenty days, shall start on the Feast of Saint Barbara, that of the Apostles, which is of fourteen days, at mid-June; and we shall observe them as is custom.” Synod of Dai’at Moussa (1598), canon 30

This prescription was confirmed at the Synod of Hrash (1644, ch. 9, canon 4) and at the Lebanese Synod (1736, ch. 4, canon 2). Eventually the fast was reduced to begin on 13 December to co-incide with the Christmas Novena.

Whether you start your fast on 5 December or 14 December, or have already started since 15 November we encourage you to consider taking up a spiritual preparation prior to Christmas. We wish you a blessed fast.

Charbel Hanna

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