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Following immediately after the celebration of the Georgian Church’s Autocephaly, we commemorate the life of Saint Ambrosi, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia in the turbulent 1920’s when Georgia was overrun by the Red Army and forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Saint Ambrosi is seen as a bold and patriotic figure who was frequently in trouble with secular authority. He was persecuted by the Russian colonial authorities for agitating for the Georgian Church’s autocephaly to be restored, and likewise persecuted during the early years of the Bolshevik regime for his faith, as a means of intimidating the laity.

Our father among the saints Ambrose (Khelaia) the Confessor, (Georgian: (ამბროსი აღმსარებელი, Ambrosi Aghmsarebeli), was the CatholicosPatriarch of All Georgia of the restored Church of Georgia. He was Catholicos-Patriarch from 1921 to 1927. He is commemorated of March 16.

Life

Besarion Khelaia was born on September 7, 1861 in Martvili, Georgia. He received his primary education at the theological school in Samegrelo, before entering the Tiblisi Theological Seminary. After his graduation in 1885, Besarion married, and then was ordained to the Holy Orders later that year. Fr. Besarion served as priest in Abkhazia for eight years in Sukhumi, New Athos, and Lykhy. In addition to his priestly duties, Fr. Besarion taught the Georgian language and participated in a number of philanthropic organizations. He also published a series of articles under the pseudonym of Amber denouncing the policy of Russification in Abkhazia.

In 1896, Fr. Besarion’s wife died. In 1897, he enrolled in the Kazan Theological Academy. During his time at the academy, Fr. Besarion was interested in both the literary-cultural life of Kazan and in Georgian national independence. His research in the primary sources about the history of Georgia produced several essays including one entitled “The Struggle Between Christianity and Islam in Georgia”. One professor recommended that he continue on that theme and present his research for a master’s degree.

Fr. Besarion graduated from the Kazan academy in 1901 and, before returning to Georgia, received his tonsure as a monk, with the name Ambrose. In Georgia, Fr. Ambrose was raised to the dignity of archimandrite and appointed abbot of Chelishi Monastery in Racha province where he joined with other Georgians in fighting for restoration of autocephaly of the Church of Georgia. At Chelishi, Archim. Ambrose, with the blessing of Bishop Leonid of Imereti, restored the deteriorating monastery and seminary, and attracted gifted young people to study at the seminary.

In 1904, Archim. Ambrose was transferred to the Synodal office in Tbilisi and was named abbot of the Monastery of the Transfiguration.The Georgian hierarchy continued to press for restoration of autocephaly without success, pointing out to Tsar Nicholas II the deterioration in church life and organization that had occurred under the exarchate. The 1905 council of Georgian clergy in Tbilisi, in which Archim. Ambrose participated, was broken up by police. This incident resulted in his exile to the Troitsky Monastery at Ryazan.

In 1908, Archim. Ambrose was accused of conspiring in the murder of the Exarch of Georgia, Abp. Nikon (Sofiisky) and was deprived of the right to serve in the Church. This time, he was exiled to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Ryazan where for a year he was held under strict guard until he was acquitted and reinstated with his rights. But, he was still kept in Russia.

As Russia was overtaken by the chaos of the 1917 revolutions, Archim. Ambrose returned to Georgia in 1917 and rejoined the struggle for restoration of autocephaly of the Georgian Church. On March 12, 1917, a Georgian synod proclaimed autocephaly, and elected Bishop Kirion Catholicos-Patriarch, actions that the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia refused to recognize. Thus, communion was broken between the two churches. With autocephaly, Archim. Ambrose was consecrated Metropolitan of Chqondidi. He was later transferred to Tskum-Abkhazeti.

In March 1921, Bolsheviks forces overthrew the short-lived Democratic Republic of Georgia, outlawed the Church, closed the churches and monasteries, and began the persecution of the clergy. Amidst the chaos, Catholicos-Patriarch Leonid died from cholera.

Elected on September 7, 1921, Metr. Ambrose was enthroned Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia on October 14, 1921. On February 7, 1922, Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrose sent a memorandum to the Conference of Genoa describing the conditions under which Georgia was living since the Soviet invasion, and protested in the name of the people of Georgia who had been deprived of their rights, against the occupation of Georgia by the Soviets, and demanded the intervention of civilized humanity to oppose the atrocities of the Bolshevik regime.

Such a memorandum was unprecedented for the Bolshevik regime and the response by them was immediate. In February 1923, Patr. Ambrose and his council were arrested and imprisoned. In a public show trial, Patr. Ambrose and his fellow clergy were accused of hiding historic treasures of the Church in order to keep them from passing into the hands of the Soviet state. In his defense at the end of the trial, Patr. Ambrose stated,” My soul belongs to God, my heart to my country; you, my executioners, do what you will with my body.”

While expecting execution, the Bolsheviks did not dare to execute him and sentenced Patr. Ambrose to eight years imprisonment. His property was also confiscated. During the time of his imprisonment from 1923, Metr. Kalistrate was locum tenens. The public outcry over the extent of the Red Terror in Georgia caused the Bolsheviks to moderate their pressure on Georgian society. In March 1926, the Bolsheviks put forward an amnesty for the 1924 insurrection and suspension of religious persecutions. Later in 1926, Ambrose and a few Georgian clergy were released from prison. However, the strains of the years showed, and Patr. Ambrose soon reposed in Tbilisi on March 29, 1927.

Glorification

At an expanded council of the Holy Synod of the Church of Georgia in 1995, the life of Ambrose (Khelaia), Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia was discussed and in recognition of his great achievements he was glorified in behalf of the Georgian Church and nation as St. Ambrose the Confessor.

From http://www.Orthodoxwiki.com

 

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Tomorrow we commemorate the passing of of the much venerated King Vakhtang Gorgasali. A powerful personality, he managed to evict the Eastern Roman Empire from its military occupation of western Georgia, while still maintaining an amicable relationship with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and having the Georgian Church’s autocephaly recognised. The father of Tbilisi as the national capital, his statue overlooking the Metekhi Bridge is a major Tbilisi landmark.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints”

The holy and right-believing king Vakhtang I ascended the throne of Kartli at the age of fifteen. At that time Kartli was continually being invaded by the Persians from the south and by the Ossetians from the north. The situation was no better in western Georgia: the Byzantines had captured all the lands from Egrisi to Tsikhegoji.

After his coronation, the young King Vakhtang summoned his court and addressed his dedicated servants with great wisdom. He said that the sorrowful circumstances in which the nation had found itself were a manifestation of God’s anger at the sins of the king and the people. He called upon everyone to struggle in unity and selflessness on behalf of the Faith and motherland.

King Vakhtang led a victorious campaign against the Ossetians, freed the captive princess (his older sister), and signed several treaties with the Caucasian mountain tribes to secure their cooperation in the struggle against foreign conquerors. Then he carried out another campaign in western Georgia, freed that region from the Byzantines, reinforced the authority of KingGubaz, and returned in triumph to Kartli.

King Vakhtang was remarkable in faith, wisdom, grace, virtue, and appearance (he towered above all others at a stately seven feet ten inches). He spent many nights in prayer and distributed alms to the poor, in this way dedicating his life to God.

King Vakhtang could fight tirelessly in battle. Vested in armor and fully armed, he could carry a war-horse on his shoulders and climb from Mtskheta to the Armazi Fortress in the mountains outside the city. On foot he could outrun a deer. The holy king was judicious in politics, displayed great composure, and preserved a sense of calm even when critical decisions needed to be made.

On the brow of Vakhtang’s military helmet was depicted a wolf, and on the back, a lion. Catching a glimpse of the helmet with the wolf and lion, the Persians would cry out to one another: “Dar’ az gurgsar!” (“Beware of the wolf ‘s head!”) This was the source of King Vakhtang’s appellation “Gorgasali.”

During King Vakhtang’s reign the Georgian Church was first recognized as autocephalous. When the holy king banished the pagan fire-worshippers from Georgia, he also sent a certain Bishop Mikael — who was inclined to the Monophysite heresy, which had been planted in Georgia by the Persians — to Constantinople to be tried by the patriarch. The bishop had disgracefully cursed the king and his army for rising up against the Monophysites. In fact, he was so infuriated that when King Vakhtang approached him to receive his blessing, he kicked him in the mouth and broke several of his teeth. The patriarch of Constantinople subsequently defrocked Bishop Mikael and sent him to a monastery to repent.

More importantly perhaps, the patriarch and the Byzantine emperor then sent to the patriarch of Antioch several clergymen whom King Vakhtang had chosen for consecration. In Antioch the patriarch consecrated twelve of these clergymen as bishops and enthroned a certain Petre as the first Catholicos of Georgia.

Vakhtang fulfilled the will of Holy King Mirian by founding the Georgian Holy CrossMonastery in Jerusalem. In addition, he replaced a wooden church that had been built in Mtskheta at the time of St. Nino with a church made of stone. During his reign several new dioceses were founded. King Vakhtang built a cathedral in Nikozi (Inner Kartli) and established a new diocese there, to which he translated the holy relics of the Protomartyr Razhden.

King Vakhtang built fortresses at Tukhari, Artanuji, and Akhiza; founded monasteries in Klarjeti at Artanuji, Mere, Shindobi, and Akhiza; and established many other strongholds, churches, and monasteries as well. He built a new royal residence in Ujarma and laid the foundations of the new Georgian capital, Tbilisi. His political creed consisted of three parts: an equal union of the Georgian Church with the Byzantine Church, national independence, and the unity of the Church and nation.

In the year 502 the sixty-year-old King Vakhtang was obliged to defend his country for the last time. In a battle with the Persians he was fatally wounded when a poisoned arrow pierced him under the arm. Before he died, King Vakhtang summoned the clergy, his family and his court and urged them to be strong in the Faith and to seek death for Christ’s sake in order to gain eternal glory.

All of Georgia mourned the passing of the king. His body was moved from the royal residence in Ujarma to Mtskheta, to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which he had himself built. There he was buried with great honor.

Some fifteen centuries later, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, an addition was built onto the Sioni Patriarchal Cathedral in Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s name, and a cathedral in his honor was founded in the city of Rustavi.

THE LIVES OF THE GEORGIAN SAINTS by Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze,  Herman Press:

 

 

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Today marks the 891st anniversary of the “Miraculous Victory” (dzlevai sakvirveli) of Georgian forces under King David the Builder (Davit Aghmashenebeli) against the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Didgori.

In the 11the century, the Seljuk Turks of Central Asia had migrated westwards, established their own Sultanate in 1055 and commencing invasions of much of Georgia in 1064. In 1071, the Seljuk victory over the Eastern Roman Empire at Manzikert marked the beginning of the end for the Byzantine Empire, with much of eastern Anatolia overrun by Turks with the exception of Greek and Georgian enclaves on the Black Sea coast, known to Greeks as Trebizond and Georgians as Lazeti.

From 1080 to 1089, the Seljuks conquered most of Georgia, forced local rulers to accept seasonal migration of Seljuk herds and flocks each year from Anatolia and Central Asia, and demanded heavy tribute. Replacing his father in a bloodless coup, the 16 year-old King David commenced small scale raids throughout Georgia to force the Seljuks to withdraw, and he engaged in such guerrilla warfare from 1080-1102, by which time the Seljuks had been expelled from most of Eastern and Central Georgia. Between 1110-1118, he added much of today’s Armernia, Azerbaijan, Turkey’s Pontus region and Russia’s Black Sea Coast to Georgia’s territory.

In 1118, King David took a very significant gamble. He had a Royal Guard of 5000 troops but no additional standing army, depending on feudal lords for additional conscripts. Many of these lords had been in the pay of the Seljuks in the past and treachery was a common problem, so relying on their exclusive loyalty was risky. Instead, King David invited 200,000 Kipchak Turks from the southern steppes of Russia to settle in Georgia in exchange for military service. Garrisoned throughout the country, many of these Turkic animists converted to Orthodox Christianity and it is assumed that many intermarried with local people.  This provided the Georgian State with a large, well- trained standing army that was independent of feudal loyalties.

At this time, Tbilisi was still under Arab occupation. The development of a large Christian power that interrupted communication between Turk territories in Anatolia, Turk and Persian territories on the Caspian and Arab forces in the south threatened their Muslim neighbours. A consortium of forces from throughout the Middle East, led by the Seljuk Turks, was assembled after jihad was called, with the express purpose of extinguishing the Georgian State and Church, and the enslavement of the Georgian people.

An army of over 250,000 men was mustered by the Turks and marched towards Mtshketa from the west, and camped on the pastures of Didgori, about 40 km west of Tbilisi. King David was able to assemble a force of 56,000 men including 500 Alans (Ossetians) and many thousands of Kipchaks and Georgians. A cunning ruse resulted in the assassination of most of the Muslim High Command, leaving the huge enemy forces confused and poorly led.

King David addressed his troops prior to the battle thus: ““Soldiers of Christ! If we fight with abandon, defending the faith of our Lord, we shall not only overcome the countless servants of Satan, but the Devil himself. I will only advise you one thing that will add to our honor and our profit: raising our hands to Heaven we will all swear to our Lord that in the name of love to Him, we will rather die on the battlefield than run….”

Despite being outumbered more than five to one, the Georgian forces routed the Muslim forces and killed more than 90% of the troops facing them. The victory is still seen as a God-given miracle and celebrated by the church annually as a deliverance from persecution. It is also a secular nationalistic celebration.

It is particularly interesting that King David, having driven Muslim troops and government structures out of his country thoroughly, then proceeded to treat the Muslim inhabitants of Georgia in a very magnanimous and humane fashion. These Muslims would presumably have been of Arab, Turk and Persian origin, as well as local converts. Muslims were permitted to build and operate mosques, and engage in all areas of normal civil society. In addition, some Muslim sects that were harshly persecuted in the Arab world were tolerated in Georgia, such as the Sufis. This would have been considered completely unthinkable in Western Europe or the Eastern Roman Empire. King David hence had a solid grasp of the concept that, while one must defend one’s own religion, one must appreciate that God confers the gift of freedom of choice on us all, and respect must be given to those that choose a different path. He created a sound model that is now emulated by modern Georgian society, in developing a robust state with Orthodox sensibilities, that respects and cherishes its Muslim and Jewish compatriots. King David the Builder is considered a saint in Georgia. While he did remove substantial power from the Georgian Church, he is still seen in a very positive manner as a defender of the Georgian Church from Islamic persecution.

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Today the Church celebrates the entry of Saint Nino into the Kingdom of Iberia in the year 323. Despite the efforts of the Apostles Andrew, Simon the Zealot and Matthias, and no doubt other Christian evangelists after them, Iberia and Colchis remained steadfastly heathen in the early 4th century.

Saint Nino came from a well-respected family; her father Zabulon was a Roman Army officer who retired, moved to Jerusalam and was tonsured a monk. His wife Sosana was ordained by her brother Patriarch Juvenal in Jerusalem as a diaconess (a rank of the Orthodox Christian clergy that has since fallen out of use), and Nino went to live with a devout old lady, Sara, who told her of how Christ’s robe had been taken to Iberia and was hidden there.

Nino prayed to the Virgin Mary for inspiration on how to travel to Georgia to venerate the robe of Christ. The Theotokos appeared to her in a vision and commanded her “Go to the country that was assigned to me by lot and preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will send down His grace upon you and I will be your protector”.

Afraid, Nino replied “How can I, a fragile woman, perform such a momentous task, and how can I believe this vision is real?” In reply, the Virgin Mary gave her  cross made of grapevines and commanded “Receive this cross as a shield against visible and invisible enemies!”. The cross is still held at Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi.

When Nino awoke, she was clasping a cross fashioned of grapevines. She lashed them together with her hair and resolved to engage in her mission to the Georgians. It is significant that her cross was to made of grapevines, as the vine in Georgia is treated with greater reverence than any other living thing.

Her mission was endorsed by her uncle, Patriarch Juvenal, and she endured many difficulties and dangers on her travels from Jerusalem to southern Georgia. Over fifty of her followers were martyred in Armenia by the Armenian King Tiridates, and she managed to escape by hiding in rose bushes.

After travelling through the Lesser Caucasus mountains of Javakheti, she entered Iberia in the vicinity of Lake Paravani.

Lake Paravani, Samtske-Javakheti region

Arriving in the middle of a blizzard, she met Mtskhetan shepherds who provided her with directions to Urbnisi, from where she travelled to the Iberian capital city, Mtskheta, to commence her mission to the Georgians.

It is common to hear foreign social commentators describing Georgian Christian society not only as patriarchal, but as misogynist (literally, demonstrating hatred of women or girls). I believe this view to be erroneous.

Certainly, traditional Georgian culture ascribes different roles to men and women, just as western societies did until after the Second World War, and recognition of the professional talents of Georgian women is still a work-in-progress. That being said, it should be recognised that Christianity ascribes great importance to the dignity and uniqueness of the individual, male or female, rather than just applying a label to a person and treating them generically. It is a common assumption made by foreign gender-equity consultants in Georgia, of whom there are a plethora (indeed, more than agriculture or public health experts) that Georgian women are downtrodden, defenceless and in need a a government programme to “save” them, whereas the reality is that the main breadwinner, spiritual guide and financial controller of most Georgian families is the wife. Certainly there is room for improvement in recognition of women’s capabilities and rights in our society, but it would be fair to say that today’s successful women in Georgia are standing on the shoulders of giants.

If you ask any Georgian Christian to name the ten people of greatest importance to Georgia in history, the Virgin Mary, Saint Nino and Queen Tamar will be mentioned with great regularity. The Theotokos is the most frequently venerated and invoked Saint in Georgian Christianity, and Saint Nino would follow a close second; despite the fact that neither were Georgian, they are seen as the protectors and champions of the Georgian people, and most Georgian males have a strong devotion to them. A truly “misogynist” society would have airbrushed such characters out of history and replaced them with “heroic” male figures.

We shall talk more about the importance of women in the dissemination of the Christian faith in Georgia, and the Church’s recognition of their achievements, in a future post.

 

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John Sanidopoulos’ excellent “Mystagogy” blog alerted me to this ignoble anniversary.  We should be grateful that this ugly programme failed, while remembering those who were martyred during those terrible times and those who suffer still for their faith in China, North Korea and Vietnam.

1929 magazine showing Jesus being dumped from a wheelbarrel by a muscular industrial worker; the text suggests that Industrialization Day can be a replacement of the Christian Transfiguration Day.

May 15, 2012
 
On Tuesday, there will be 80 years since the Soviet government issued a decree on the “atheistic five-year plan.”
 
Stalin set a goal: the name of God should be forgotten on the territory of the whole country by May 1, 1937, the article posted by the Foma website says.
 
Over 5 million militant atheists were living in the country then. Anti-religious universities – special educational establishments for training people for decisive attack against religion – were organized.
 
According to the plan on religion liquidation, all churches and prayer houses should have been closed by 1932-1933, all religious traditions implanted by literature and family by 1933-1934, it was planned that the country, and firstly youth, would be grasped by total anti-religious propaganda by 1934-1935, clerics were to eliminated by 1935-1936, and the very memory about God should have disappeared from life by 1937.
 
However, the census of 1937, where a question about religion was included on Stalin’s instruction, puzzled Bolsheviks: 84% of 30 million illiterate USSR citizens aged over 16 said they were believers; the same was said by 45% of 68.5 million literate citizens.
 
Churches were again closed in big numbers in 1937. About ten thousand churches were closed in 1935-1936, eight thousand in 1937, over six thousand in 1938. According to the modern data, about 350-400 churches from pre-revolutionary churches were open in the early war years.
 
When bishops were arrested, Metropolitan Sergy (Stragorodsky) had to dissolve the temporary Synod on May 10 and administer all dioceses with the help of his vicar bishop and chancellery, which included a secretary and a typist.

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Lent was in origin the time of final preparation for candidates for baptism at the Easter Vigil, and this is reflected in the readings at the Liturgy on all the Sundays of Lent. But that basic theme came to be subordinated to later themes, which dominated the hymnography of each Sunday. The dominant theme of this Sunday since 843 has been that of the victory of the icons. In that year the iconoclastic controversy, which had raged on and off since 726, was finally laid to rest, and icons and their veneration were restored on the first Sunday in Lent. Ever since, that Sunday been commemorated as the “triumph of Orthodoxy.”

Orthodox teaching about icons was defined at the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787, which brought to an end the first phase of the attempt to suppress icons. That teaching was finally re-established in 843, and it is embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.

The name of this Sunday reflects the great significance which icons possess for the Orthodox Church. They are not optional devotional extras, but an integral part of Orthodox faith and devotion. They are held to be a necessary consequence of Christian faith in the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Jesus Christ. They have a sacramental character, making present to the believer the person or event depicted on them. So the interior of Orthodox churches is often covered with icons painted on walls and domed roofs, and there is always an icon screen, or iconostasis, separating the sanctuary from the nave, often with several rows of icons. No Orthodox home is complete without an icon corner, where the family prays.

Icons are venerated by burning lamps and candles in front of them, by the use of incense and by kissing. But there is a clear doctrinal distinction between the veneration paid to icons and the worship due to God. The former is not only relative, it is in fact paid to the person represented by the icon. This distinction safeguards the veneration of icons from any charge of idolatry.

Although the theme of the victory of the icons is a secondary one on this Sunday, by its emphasis on the incarnation it points us to the basic Christian truth that the one whose death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter was none other than the Word of God who became human in Jesus Christ.

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For those from western countries, the concept of Orthodox Christian fasting is a novel one. The weeks leading up to Christmas in the West are typically a roller coaster of workplace Christmas parties, gorging on chocolates and shortbread from the company’s suppliers, drinks and dinner with friends, and a frenzy of consumerism as people spend more money than they can afford on gifts that the recipients don’t really need.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the six weeks before Christmas are typically much more subdued. Alcohol consumption is curtailed and eating of meat and dairy products is reduced or ceases. Why, when a joyous Christmas celebration is impending, would this self-denial be required?

Theologians far more authoritative than the author can elaborate on this issue with greater clarity. In a nutshell, removing alcohol and luxury foods (and meat and dairy were indeed luxuries for most people until the 20th century) seems to have a beneficial effect upon prayer. One’s mood is more stable and distractions are more easily controlled. One strives to maintain a mood of calm and forgiveness in the season before the Nativity Feast, and for reasons known for thousands of years by the Early Church Fathers, and the Prophets before them, abstaining from alcohol and rich foods seems to facilitate this mood.

Another effect of the fast is creating a sense of anticipation for the great feast to follow. How many people in the West do you hear complaining that they are dreading Christmas, the endless round of Christmas parties and drinking binges, buying gifts for all and sundry, and enduring the company of irritating relatives? In an Orthodox Christian society, such complaints are very rare. People are preparing themselves for Christ’s arrival on Earth, not as a commemoration or ritual but witnessing the event first-hand, as if it were happening here and now. The Orthodox concept of a sacrament involves the Hand of God reaching through time and space to effect a change amongst His people. If one accepts this as true, then desisting from drinking and eating rich food is a small price to pay in order to prepare correctly for such an earth-changing event. One is also inclined to keep very close track of how many days until the Feast if one is tired of eating beans instead of meat 🙂

An unintended consequence of fasting is that, on Christmas morning when one breaks the Nativity Fast, one can freely enjoy the Feast with no guilt. Six weeks of vegetarian diet with less alcohol is generally conducive to dropping a good deal of weight, so a few days’ indulgence won’t do any harm. The custom of feasting on Christmas Day in the West has arisen from the custom of fasting for six weeks beforehand, which used to be commonplace in the West (and even a legal obligation in many countries) but now has fallen out of favour.

A key issue is being modest and unobtrusive with fasting, and not condemning others for not keeping the fast. That issue emanates from pride and is counterproductive to the general need to maintain humility in advance of Christ’s arrival.

It should be made clear that fasting is done in conjunction with advice from one’s spiritual father, rather than on the suggestion of blog authors; your priest knows your personality and your habits, and can suggest a regime that he thinks will be beneficial for you. There are of course exemptions for people with illnesses, nursing mothers and so on, so the right person to ask about what should or should not be done is your priest. The Nativity Fast, being a joyous fast, is less onerous than that of Great Lent, so there are some days when wine and fish may be consumed. Consult with a Church calendar and your priest for guidance in this.

May you have a Blessed Nativity Season. Some thoughts of the Early Church Fathers, far more authoritative than I, are appended below.

There is both a physical and a spiritual fast. In the physical fast the body abstains from food and drink. In the spiritual fast, the faster abstains from evil intentions, words and deeds. One who truly fasts abstains from anger, rage, malice, and vengeance. One who truly fasts abstains from idle and foul talk, empty rhetoric, slander, condemnation, flattery, lying and all manner of spiteful talk. In a word, a real faster is one who withdraws from all evil.
 *****
As much as you subtract from the body, so much will you add to the strength of the soul. 

* * *

By fasting it is possible both to be delivered from future evils and to enjoy the good things to come. We fell into disease through sin; let us receive healing through repentance, which is not fruitful without fasting.

* * * 

True fasting lies is rejecting evil, holding one’s tongue, suppressing one’s hatred, and banishing one’s lust, evil words, lying, and betrayal of vows. 

  
Holy Hierarch Basil the Great

Do you fast? Then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, do not forget the imprisoned, have pity on the tortured, comfort those who grieve and who weep, be merciful, humble, kind, calm, patient, sympathetic, forgiving, reverent, truthful and pious, so that God might accept your fasting and might plentifully grant you the fruits of repentance.
*****
Fasting of the body is food for the soul.

* * *

It is necessary most of all for one who is fasting to curb anger, to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency we have corrected in ourself in the present week. This is true fasting.

* * *

As bodily food fattens the body, so fasting strengthens the soul; imparting it an easy flight, it makes it able to ascend on high, to contemplate lofty things and to put the heavenly higher than the pleasant and pleasurable things of life.
 

* * *

The point is not only that we should come to church each day, that we should continually listen to one and the same thing, and that we should fast for the whole Forty Days. No! If we, from continually coming here and listening to the teaching, do not acquire anything and do not derive any good for our soul from the time of the fast ­ all this does not procure for us any benefit, but rather serves for our greater condemnation, when despite such concern for us by the Church we remain just the same as before.
*** 
Do not say to me that I fasted for so many days, that I did not eat this or that, that I did not drink wine, that I endured want; but show me if thou from an angry man hast become gentle, if thou from a cruel man hast become benevolent. If thou art filled with anger, why oppress thy flesh? If hatred and avarice are within thee, of what benefit is it that thou drinkest water? Do not show forth a useless fast: for fasting alone does not ascend to heaven. 

* * *

Fasting is wonderful, because it tramples our sins like a dirty weed, while it cultivates and raises truth like a flower.

Holy Hierarch John Chrysostom

If thou, O man, dost not forgive everyone who has sinned against thee, then do not trouble thyself with fasting. If thou dost not forgive the debt of thy brother, with whom thou art angry for some reason, then thou dost fast in vain ­ God will not accept thee. Fasting will not help thee, until thou wilt become accomplished in love and in the hope of faith. Whoever fasts and becomes angry, and harbors enmity in his heart, such a one hates God and salvation is far from him.
 

Venerable Ephraim the Syrian

Seest thou what fasting does: it heals illnesses, drives out demons, removes wicked thoughts, makes the heart pure. If someone has even been seized by an impure spirit, let him know that this kind, according to the word of the Lord, “goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21).
 

Saint Athanasius the Great

 
The strictness of the Quadragesima [the Forty Days] mortifies the passions, extinguishes anger and rage, cools and calms every agitation springing up from gluttony. And just as in the summer, when the burning heat of the sun spreads over the earth, the northern wind renders a benefaction to those who are scorched, by dispersing the sultriness with a tender coolness: so fasting also provides the same, by driving out of bodies the burning which is the result of overeating.
 

Saint Asterius of Amasia

Fasting is the mother of health; the friend of chastity; the partner of humblemindedness (illnesses are frequently born in many from a disorderly and irregular diet). 

Venerable Simeon, the New Theologian

Give the body as much food as it needs, and thou shalt receive no harm, even if thou shouldest eat three times a day. If a man eats but once a day, but undiscerningly, what benefit is there to him from that. The warfare of fornication follows excess in eating – and after this the enemy weighs down the body with sleep in order to defile it.

Saints Barsanuphius and John

As a flame of fire in dry wood, so too is a body with a full belly.

Venerable Isaac the Syrian

Always establish one and the same hour for taking food, and take it for fortifying the body and not for enjoyment. 

Venerable Anthony the Great

Do not neglect the Forty Days; it constitutes an imitation of Christ’s way of life. 
 

Saint Ignatius the God­bearer

 

 
The more days of fasting there are, the better the healing is; the longer the period of abstinence, the more abundant the gain of salvation is.
 

Blessed Augustine
 

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