Fast of the Nativity
The fast of the Nativity invariably begins on 16 Hatur of the Coptic calendar and ends on the eve of 29 Kiyahk, thus covering forty-three days. Originally it was observed for forty days only, but toward the end of the tenth century, three days were added to it to commemorate the miraculous event of the moving of the Muqattam hill in Cairo during the patriarchate of Abraham. The story of this event turns around the challenge by al-Mui‘zz, the Fatimid caliph (952-975), to the Coptic patriarch to prove the truth of the saying of Jesus (Mt. 17:20) that faith could move mountains. Accordingly, the patriarch, together with the Coptic community, kept vigil and prayers for three days and nights, which eventually proved efficacious in moving al-Muqattam.
This fast was ordained by the church as a spiritual preparation prior to the celebration of the Nativity of the Logos, just as in the Old Testament Moses observed a fast for forty days and nights before receiving the word of God in the form of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 34:28).
The strict observance of this fast necessitates total daily abstinence from food till three o’clock in the afternoon and from eating animal fat afterward.
Throughout the month of Kiyahk, the church uses the Kiyahkan psalmodia, which revolves around the themes of the incarnation of the Logos, the Son of God, and the praise of the Theotokos (Mother of God). The Divine Liturgy also includes this special fraction: “O Master Lord our God, who art unseen, unlimited, unchangeable and incomprehensible; who sent us the True Light, His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, the Logos; who abideth everlastingly in Your Fatherly bosom, and came and dwelt in the Virgin’s undefiled womb. She gave birth to Him, remaining a virgin, and her virginity is sealed. The angels praise Him, and the heavenly host chant unto Him, crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are filled with Thy holy glory.”