December 24, the day before Christmas in the Orthodox tradition is a fasting day. We prepare to celebrate the Nativity by spiritual discipline. One does not have to be a strict ascetic to practice self denial and discipline – all or nothing thinking in terms of fasting often leads us to do nothing, whereas there are many ways in which we can practice self denial in order to be Christ’s disciples. Orthodoxy’s ascetic tradition has a set of rules for food fasting, but the goal of the spiritual life is not to abstain from foods but rather to abstain from sin. Food fasting is a discipline which helps us learn to say no to temptation, and thus to Satan. American culture does not associate the days before Christmas with fasting. Orthodox tradition however does, and so challenges us to consciously choose to be a Christian.
“And just as his body was the place in which Christ defeated hunger, thirst, weariness, and death, so, too must the believer also defeat Satan by refusing Satan victory in these assaults on the weaknesses of the mortal body.” (Susan Ashbrook Harvey, St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly Volume 43 Number 2, pg. 121)
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