The Nativity Fast and Charity

“Again we find a similar passage in Leviticus: And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”   (Lev. 23:22).

What is striking about these passages is that, first, they are not mere suggestions, but commandments; second, the poor, the stranger, the widow and the fatherless were to receive help, not based on their character or how they may use what they receive, but because of their condition. In fact, by leaving the gleanings after harvest, the worker would not necessarily see who took what remained, making it difficult for any value judgement to be cast upon the person.  […]

Fasting and the giving of alms are closely tied together, as mentioned earlier. During periods of fasting, we should make time for good works, for almsgiving. The Lord, speaking through Isaiah, told the Israelites: Is this not the fast that I choose, to undo the thongs of the yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isa. 58:6-7)  When the two, almsgiving and fasting, are done together, the Lord promises that your light shall ‘break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily,’ and ‘the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard’ (Isa. 58:8). It is then that the Lord promises that He will hear our cry.” (David Beck, For They Shall See God, pp 88-90)