The Nativity Fast, in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, was introduced into the Church in the twelfth century. The forty day period of abstinence begins on the evening of the feast of the holy apostle Phillip. As a result, it is traditionally called Phillip’s Fast (in Slavonic, Filipovka). This fast is not penitential, but is rather one of preparation, like the pre-Communion fast. By abstinence and discipline, we spiritually prepare our hearts for the newborn Christ Child to enter.
In many places, it has become traditional to celebrate a devotional service called the Emmanuel Moleben during the Nativity Fast. This service is not one of the fixed daily offices, like Vespers or Matins, and so it can be celebrated at any time of the day and on any day of the week. This particular service uses the pre-festal hymns and scripture readings of the Nativity, emphasizing the message of preparation and the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. At the poustinia this service is chanted daily throughout the Nativity Fast, to help us prepare for the coming feast.
Pre-festive Troparion of the Nativity (Tone 4)
Bethlehem, make ready, Eden has been opened for all.
Ephrathah, prepare yourself, for the Tree of Life has blossomed from the Virgin in the cave.
Her womb has become a spiritual paradise in which divinity was planted.
If we partake of it, we shall live and not die like Adam.
Christ is born to raise up the likeness that had fallen.