The Orthodox Pages
Rules for Fasting
In the Calendar pages, next to each date is inserted what type of fast is appointed for that day.
No Fast = On days when there is no fast all types of foods are permitted
Fast Free = For Wednesdays and Fridays when generally there is fasting, but on these days there is a general dispensation from all fasting: in other words all foods are permitted.
Dairy = On these days no meat is allowed, but we may eat eggs, cheese and all dairy products and fish.
Fish = On these days no meat or dairy products are allowed, but Olive oil, wine and fish are permitted.
Oil + Wine = On these days no meat or dairy products are allowed, but olive oil and wine are permitted. When oil and wine are allowed we may also eat octopus, calamari and shell-fish.
Fast = On these days no meat, dairy products, fish, olive oil or wine are permitted. Strictly interpreted, it signifies that we may eat only vegetables cooked with water and salt, and also such things as fruit, nuts, bread and honey. In practice Vegetable margarine and corn or other vegetable oil, not made from olives are permitted as are products made from fish eggs e.g. caviar and taramosalada.
Total fast = On these days nothing may enter the mouth.
THE FASTS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
are two types of fasting. One is called the
and the other is called Ascetical
OTHER DAYS OF FASTING
1) 5th January - The eve of the Feast of Theophany
2) 29th August - The Feast of the beheading of St. John the Baptist.
3) 14th September - The Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Cross
DAYS FREE FROM FASTING
Days free from fasting including Wednesdays and Fridays are allowed on the following dates:
1) From the 25th December until 4th January.
2) The first week of the Triodion - The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee until the Sunday of the Prodigal Son.
3) The third week of the Triodion - Cheesefare Week until Cheesefare Sunday. During this week we are allowed Dairy products every day except meat.
4) Bright week - From Easter Sunday until Thomas Sunday.
5) The week of the Holy Spirit - From Sunday of Pentecost until Sunday of All Saints.
Fasting in the Orthodox Church has two aspects: physical and spiritual. The first one implies abstinence from rich food, such as dairy products, eggs and all kinds of meat. Spiritual fasting consists in abstinence from evil thoughts, desires, and deeds. The main purpose of fasting is to gain mastery over oneself and to conquer the passions of the flesh. It is to liberate oneself from dependence on the things of this world in order to concentrate on the things of the Kingdom of God. True fasting therefore is not only the abstinence from food, but also from evil thoughts and all passion, for, as the Saviour says: “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man...” (Matt. 15:17-20) Thus exterior fasting, without the corresponding interior fasting is in vain.
There are many who cannot observe the fasts because of some bodily ailment or can only keep them in part. There are others again who would benefit physically from the fasts, but use an ailment as an excuse not to fast. If strict fasting harms our bodies then in truth we shouldn't keep to all the rules of fasting, but under a doctor's advise we can maybe cut out meat and some dairy products. This of course doesn't hinder us from observing the Spiritual fast. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, fasting implies not only abstinence from food, but from sins also. “The fast,” he insists, “should be kept not by the mouth alone, but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands and all the members of the body: the eye must abstain from impure sights, the ear from malicious gossip, the hands from acts of injustice.” It is useless to fast from food, protests St. Basil, and yet to indulge in cruel criticism and slander: “You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother.”
We should also keep in mind that fasting is not at all an act of religiousness because we what to appear to others as religious. It is not a “little suffering” which is somehow pleasing to God. It is not a punishment, which is to be sorrowfully endured in payment for sins. On the contrary, fasting for a Christian should be a joyful experience, because fasting is a self-discipline, which we voluntarily impose upon ourselves in order to become better persons and better Christians.
Also it is essential to always
bear in mind what St Paul says, that: “we
are not under the law, but under grace”
(Rom. 6: 14),
and that “the
letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”
(2 Cor. 3: 6).
“For the kingdom
of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the
Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 14: 17)