In America (and perhaps in the majority of the developed world) the Nativity Fast has more challenges than the other fasting periods of the year due to the many dinners, parties and other secular gatherings that entice us to 'suspend' the fast on many occasions. Thanksgiving Day is a particular instance where secular tradition is strong and the Ecumenical Patriarch several years ago gave bishops the option dispensing Orthodox Americans from the fast for this holiday.
The 'rules of the fast' are outweighed by the interior purpose behind the fast: “If someone doesn’t get to the point of doing something, whatever it is that he chooses to do, out of love for God and his fellow human beings, he is merely wasting his time and effort. If he is fasting and has the prideful thought that he is doing something great, his fasting is wasted. He is like a vessel with holes that cannot hold anything. Put water into a vessel with holes –– the water gradually drips away.” (Elder Paisios) The Nativity Fast begins on Sunday this year. If we can become as concerned about 'doing without' the Grace of God in our lives, as much as we are about 'doing without' certain kinds of food, the fast will be a success

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