The Nativity Fast

“The next time you have a period of fasting, perhaps during this forthcoming fast of the Nativity of Christ, do not think of it as just placing upon yourself some heavy rule about eating.  Concentrate on what you are doing with your tongue and your eyes and this will reveal much to you about the condition of your heart, your conscience.  Are you undertaking any kind of asceticism with your tongue, your eyes?  Are you seriously thinking about how you may hurt somebody else in the brotherhood and sisterhood, in your own community, by saying something or by the way you looked at them?  Are you contemplating how you might heal yourself so you no longer do this?  Are you consciously aware that whenever you wound a brother or a sister in the parish you are actually wounding the Body of Christ just as surely as the soldier who pierced His side with a spear?  These are the most important matters to think about when you start to keep the fast.  Always remember that true asceticism is not so much about avoidance as it is about the encounter.  Above all, think about how you encounter your brother and sisters in every way, for an encounter with another human being is always an encounter with Christ Who created them and Who loves and values them.”

(Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Not By Bread Alone:  Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, pg 68)