For Orthodox believers, the six-week Christmas fast begins today, which precedes the most joyous Christian holiday, the Nativity of Christ – Christmas.
The preparation for Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7, is complete if the believer approaches the Holy Mysteries of confession, repentance and communion at the end of the six-week fast.
Fasting is the foundation of the Christian path and the first necessity on the path of salvation, so the Church considers fasting important for the spiritual life of its believers, but also a very powerful tool for achieving full salvation.
According to the interpretation of the Holy Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović, fasting consists in abstaining from greasy food, evil thoughts, lustful desires and bad deeds, as well as in multiplying prayers, charity and zealous exercise of Christian virtues, because the feat of fasting is physical and spiritual.
The goals, Bishop Nikolay teaches, are “cleansing the body, strengthening the will, elevating the soul above the body, and all for the sake of glorifying God and honoring his saints.”
Fasting is based on the example of Jesus Christ himself, who fasted on bread and water for 40 days before facing Satan.
During this fast, the use of oil is allowed on all days, except Wednesday and Friday, when food cooked in water is eaten.
Fish and wine can be used every Saturday and Sunday, as well as on the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 4), Saint Nicholas (December 19) and Saint Ignatius the God-Bearing (January 2), even if the feast falls on a Wednesday or Friday .
The last week before Christmas is fasted more strictly, without the use of fish and oil, with food prepared only on water.
The Church has set multi-day fasts four times a year: Christmas, Easter or Holy days before the Resurrection of Christ, Peter’s Day before the feast dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (July 12) and Our Lady’s Day before the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 28).