Happy New Year!
Well for Western Christians anyway – we start the new church year on Advent Sunday, the Sunday that falls between November 27 and December 3. (Orthodox start the church year September 1).
From the late 4th century CE to the late Middle Ages, much of Western Europe, including Great Britain, engaged in a period of fasting beginning on the day after St. Martin’s Day, November 11. This fast period lasted 40 days, and was, therefore, called “Quadragesima Sancti Martini”, which means in Latin “the forty days of St. Martin.” At St. Martin’s eve, people ate and drank very heartily for a last time before they started to fast. This fasting time was later called “Advent” by the Church.
Wikipedia St Martin’s Day
These 40 days do not end up at Christmas – someone might help explain to me how that works. There are still some who continue this fasting tradition, encouraged by the rule given by Saint Francis of Assisi to lay people to live in the year 1221.
The Nativity Fast, is a period abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Christ, (December 25). The fast is similar to the Western Advent, except that it runs for 40 days instead of four weeks. The fast is observed from November 15 to December 24, inclusively.
Sometimes the fast is called Philip’s Fast (or the Philippian Fast), as it traditionally begins on the day following the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle (November 14).
Wikipedia Nativity Fast
At least I can count the 40 days to Christmas here!
In any case, this might me a moment to make a fresh start – a new year’s resolution – in our spiritual discipline. There is plenty on this site to help. I have just been forwarded the following two excellent lectio divina resources to add to what is already here:
Lectio Divina on the daily eucharistic Gospel readings
Lectio Divina on the Sunday Gospel readings (free download).
Another suggestion: reflect on the great Advent hymns
Come thou long expected Jesus
O come, O come, Emmanuel
On Jordan’s Bank, the Baptist’s Cry
Lo, He comes with clouds descending
Most important – during Advent: do less. Do nothing for Advent!