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Scott P. Richert

Celebrate Advent . . . With a Fast!

By November 15, 2012

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For Catholics of the Roman Rite (which is most of us), Advent, the period of preparation for Christmas, begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.A stained-glass window of Saint Philip, Apostle, in Saint Peter's Cathedral, Rockford, Illinois. (Photo © Scott P. Richert) (Here's a complete Advent schedule for this year; for more on when Advent begins, see When Does Advent Start?) For Eastern Rite Catholics, however, the preparation for Christmas begins a little bit earlier, on November 15 each year.

Advent is called a "little Lent," because, like Lent, it is a time of repentance. While fasting during Advent used to be universal, most Western Christians today treat Advent as an early part of the Christmas season. Eastern Rite Catholics (and the Eastern Orthodox), however, continue to celebrate Advent with the Philip's Fast, named after the Apostle Philip. The fast doesn't really have anything to do with the Apostle Philip, other than the fact that it starts on November 15, the day after his feast in the Eastern calendar. It runs through Christmas Eve, December 24.

Like most fasts in the Eastern Church, Philip's Fast is fairly strict and includes abstinence from meat, eggs, and dairy products on all weekdays, and fish, oil, and wine on most days. (Different Eastern Churches observe the fast more or less strictly; because extreme fasting can affect your health, you should never increase the strictness of a fast beyond what the Church prescribes without consulting with your priest.)

While Roman Rite Catholics are no longer bound to fast during Advent, reviving the tradition of repentance during Advent can help us better appreciate our Christmas celebration. Pope John Paul II called on Western Catholics to learn more about the traditions of our Eastern Rite brethren; joining them, even if for only one day a week, in celebrating Philip's Fast is a very good way to do so.

(A stained-glass window of Saint Philip, Apostle, in Saint Peter's Cathedral, Rockford, Illinois. Photo © Scott P. Richert)

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November 20, 2007 at 3:56 pm
(1) Janice Stephen says:

I would like to know what prayers are made for the Advent season. I have been searching sites, etc.etc. I did find information about the wreaths and information about candles. Thank you!

November 26, 2007 at 4:16 pm
(2) David says:

I am moving to Afghanistan tomorrow.

It will be helpful if you please tell me an address to a friend you have in Afghanistan. I can marry you friend when I move and live there.

I love your friend because she is from Afghanistan. I am moving there!!

I want to marry you friend. You give me her address and her number of the phone. Please do this. And I will pay you ten Euro and twelve cat.

We buy old ant farm and live in young house.

And I wish I had enough money to rent a monkey for just for one year.

December 2, 2008 at 8:21 am
(3) Beverly Avery says:

I would like to know more about fasting during the Avent season.

December 3, 2008 at 8:18 am
(4) anne says:

Dear Friends,
Am requesting for prayers from all! i need God’s mercy; if he can grant me a life partner, and someone we can work together in the school project i want to start in my village here in kenya. am 32, single and never married; my address is ciku26@hotmail.com
Pls also dont forget all, to make the advent wreath in your homes! i have one already!
be blessed all

November 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm
(5) Laura says:

I’m looking forward to the beginning of Advent. Unfortunately I already have to look at my neighbor’s Christmas lights which he put up on November 15!

November 16, 2010 at 6:50 pm
(6) Oyee says:

Thank you so much for this, Scott! My family and I especially appreciate your article on family activities and devotions for Christmas. We are a Catholic homeschooling family and have been looking for ways to celebrate a meaningful Advent and hopefully start a tradition for years to come. This article gave us quite a lot of ideas. Thank you and God bless you and your family.

November 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm
(7) Salvador Lopez says:

there is so much info it filled up my paper. godd site

December 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm
(8) Tarek Anthony says:

I am a Catholic from the “Coptic” Rite we are called “Coptic Catholics” as the word Coptic denotes or means the Christians of Egyptian, most of the Christians in Egypt are our Orthodox brother and sisters Catholic are a minority of the minority if you know what I mean.
Our church is in full communion with the Holy Father and the Church of Rome. We observe the Nativity fasting every year during the Advent. I heard the priest saying at the end of the mass last Sunday “Fasting is not an option it is obligatory to everyone who is capable of fasting, those who are ill or having a pressing medical condition can come to me and I will absolve them form the fast”.
There is something about fasting before a feast, I was for some time relaxed about the fasting bit but discovered it is how the early church did things. No one really is forced into it, almost all of our church fast out of respect to the event to come and in spiritual preparation for the birth of Christ the saviour. We teach our children to fast, this is how I received it and this is how I intend to deliver the tradition and knowledge undistorted to my children and I will be asking that of my children to do tho theirs. The article however does not state an important fact, and that is the western rites were fasting for the nativity feast much before the east, and we have taken it from them in the early ears, but some how we kept this fast and the importance of it to the west has declined. I am married to a Roman Catholic girl and her mother has started to fast the Nativity fast this year. We fast on any food that comes from a living animal or bird with exception to fish it is permissible in our fasting and this finds its place in the gospels when fish became the source of food for the fasting crowd (the miracle of the fish and bread.
I just cannot see how could we have a feast if there was no fast before it.
May the Emmanuel of the manger grow into your heart this Christmas.
Merry Christmas

November 22, 2011 at 6:08 am
(9) jossie says:

please i will like all of you to pray for me for the fruit of the womb, i have lived with my husband for 2 years and two months since then, i only got pregnant that resulted to miscarriage, since then no sign of pregancy, help me pray to our God to give me my own share of my own children, so that i will be happy as other women around me.

November 27, 2011 at 5:31 am
(10) Maria says:

Dear Jossie,
I have said a prayer that the Lord grant you patience for this blessing. Continue to your trust in Jesus and be as happy “as other women around” you knowing that God knows your heart and is working in your life.

December 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm
(11) Paul says:

Dear Jossie,

Trust in God always — whatever His will be for you and your husband. I have found St. Gerard Majella a powerful intercessor for those wanting to have child. Pray, both of you, in confidence to him, that he intercede for you before the throne of God. Have a blessed Christmas.

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