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\"A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering that person is not a Christian. Bearing one\'s cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity.\" Archbishop Averky of Syracuse. The question of fasting Someone asks you if we should fast on Fridays, for example. Again, there\'s nothing in the Scriptures about it. So you have to advise them to do what\'s best (fine thing it would be if Christians did what\'s worst!). Of course, if you\'re a glutton, it\'s best to eat, but if you have any restraint and control it\'s best to fast. On Fridays, we commemorate the fact that Christ was crucified, so it\'s a day of mourning. As, indeed, it was in the Old Testament (1 Kings 1:12. 31:13). When you fast on Fridays, you remember the Passion of Christ. And there\'s a Greek proverb which says: \"Whoever saw a son on the Cross and the mother at the table?\". The Lord said: \"When the Bridegroom departs, then they (My disciples) will fast\" (Matth. 9:15). The Lord departed on the day of His Ascension, so from then on His disciples would have fasted, in line with His wishes. The first Christians certainly fasted (Acts 14:23). So did the Apostle Paul (2 Corinth. 11:27). It follows, therefore, that people who don\'t fast are not living in accordance with the wishes of the Lord nor in the ascetic spirit of the Holy Gospels. But the Orthodox fast on Fridays, Wednesdays, during Great Lent, Great Week, the Christmas fast, the Apostles\' fast, the Dormition fast and so on. A HOMILY ON FASTING AND DISPASSION Spoken at the beginning of the Great Fast by St Theodore the Studite Brethren and fathers, the season of Lent, when compared to the whole year, may be likened to a storm-free harbour, in which all who are sailing together enjoy a spiritual calm. For the present season is one of salvation not for monks and nuns only, but also for lay people, for great and small, for rulers and ruled, for emperors and priests, for every race and for every age. For cities and villages reduce their hubbub and bustle, while psalmody and hymns, prayers and entreaties take their place, by which our good God is propitiated and so guides our spirits to peace and pardons our offences, if, with a sincere heart, we will only fall down before him with fear and trembling and weep before him, promising improvement for the future. But let the leaders of the churches speak of what is suitable to lay people, for just as those who run in the stadium need the vocal support of their fellow contestants, so fasters need the encouragement of their teachers. But I, since I have been placed at your head, honoured brethren, will also talk to you briefly. Fasting then is a renewal of the soul, for the holy Apostle says, Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward is being renewed day by day. And if it is being renewed, clearly it is being made beautiful according to its original beauty; made beautiful in itself it is being drawn lovingly to the one who said, I and the Father will come and make our dwelling with him. If then such is the grace of fasting, that it makes us into a dwelling place of God, we must welcome it, brethren, gladly, not grieving at the plainness of the diet, for we know that the Lord, though he is able to nourish lavishly, made a banquet for thousands in the wilderness from bread and water. Also because what is unusual, with enthusiasm becomes acceptable and painless. Fasting is not defined by foods alone, but by every abstinence from evil, as our godly fathers have explained. And so, I beg you, let us abstain from despondency, idleness, sluggishness, jealousy, strife, maliciousness, self-indulgence, self-reliance; let us abstain from destructive desire which the manyshaped serpent lays before us when we are fasting. Let us listen to the one who says, The fruit which slew me was beautiful to behold and fair to eat. And observe: he says beautiful to behold, not beautiful by nature. For just as if someone taking a pomegranate decked out with a scarlet rind should find it rotten, in the same way pleasure feigns untold sweetness, but when it is plucked it is found more bitter than gall, or rather, than a sharpened two-edged sword which devours the soul it has captured. This is what our forefather Adam suffered when he was tricked by the serpent; for when he touched the forbidden food, he found death instead of life. This too is what all they have suffered who from then until now have been similarly deceived by the dragon. For just as he, who is darkness, transforms himself into an angel of light, so he knows how to transform bad into good, bitter into sweet, dark into light, ugly into beautiful, deadly into life-giving; and so the all-evil one does not cease to lead the world astray at every opportunity. But let us at least, brethren, not be led astray by his manifold deceptions, nor suffer the fate of the birds who greedily approach what seems to be food and fall into the hunters trap. Let us rather look on the outer coverings of evil as dung and when with the mind we have looked on evil in its nakedness we shall flee from it at once. In addition let us welcome the times of psalmody, be enthusiastic for hymnody, attentive to the readings, making prostrations according to the given measure at each hour; working with our own hands, because working is good and because one who does not work is not judged worthy of eating. Let us bear one anothers burdens, for one is weak and another strong, making use of food and drink and the other necessities with moderation, so that there is no provoking to jealousy among evil people, but zeal in goodness. In everything be good to one another, compassionate, reasonable, obedient, full of mercy and good fruits, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and thoughts. And now, may you be found worthy without condemnation to reach the supreme day of the Resurrection, but in the age to come at the resurrection of the dead to gain the kingdom of heaven in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. Preparing for Lent IN THE SHORT TIME before the beginning of the Great Lent, find a spiritually edifying book and undertake to read it during Lent as a part of your lenten struggle. Sometimes, we simply keep Lent, if we do at all, by just adhering to the fasting regulations, by attending the more important lenten services in church, but we are somehow still left unnourished. Spiritual reading, which is something that we should do at all times of the year, is particularly important during the lenten period and is something which can deepen and broaden our spiritual lives. If necessary, take advice on which book to choose as your lenten reading. AS EXPLAINED earlier, most of February will fall with in the 22 day period that the Church assigns as a preparation for the Great Lent. Oftentimes, we treat this period as if it were something simply symbolic or liturgical, and therefore we pay it little or no heed. Spiritually a much wiser course would be to use it as is intended: to prepare ourselves for the fast. Many things can be donewe can see how best we can keep the dietary prescriptions of the fast; we can ensure that we keep the period as clear as possible of commitments which will mean that we have to travel or visit; we can mark in our diaries the extra church observances that we should keep in the course of the fast (the Great Canon in the first and fifth weeks, the Akathist hymns on Friday evenings, the Presanctified Liturgies, etc.); we can find spiritually helpful books to read; assess and perhaps make arrangements for meaningful (rather than symbolic) almsgiving; prepare for the Rite of Forgiveness by trying to be reconciled to any that have become our enemies; seek advice and counsel from our spiritual fathers if there are areas about the fast that we think will cause us difficulties. We can even do simple things by finding out, if we do not already know, how to prepare Koliva for St Theodore Saturday and the Soul Sabbaths, or bake the special bird-shaped pastries for the feast of the Forty Martyrs [known as \"Larks\"]. There are a host of things to be done before Clean Monday, so by all means enjoy the pancakes in Cheesefare Week, but do not let your pre-lenten observance consist only in that! Lay a firm foundation now for the building of your fast. MAKE SURE, if you have not already done so, to make arrangements so that you can attend as many of the Passion Week and Paschal services as possible. With many Orthodox Christians in this country living far from churches, they sometimes make arrangements to stay near a church at least for the end of Passion Week and the day of Pascha itself. Perhaps time will have to be taken off from work or schedules altered in other ways, and it is best to plan for this ahead. The services of Passion Week and Pascha are the most important in the Christian Year and every conscientious Orthodox should try his or her best to prepare for them, participate in them, to confess, and to receive the Holy Mysteries. Breaking a Fast BE ON GUARD at the end of the Nativity Fast. Very often the more conscientious among the faithful make real efforts to keep the fast, both with regard to the dietary disciplines, and with regard to their inner life: contending with the passions and thoughts, avoiding and resisting temptations, spiritual reading, prayer, preparation for confession, more frequent reception of the Holy Mysteries, etc; but then in the first hours of the feast itself they completely lose an the profit they might have gained by abandoning all that they have so carefully practised during the fast. It is true that we keep the feasts as times of rejoicing and that we are released from the discipline of fasting, but we should be careful not to do this is such a way that we abandon every appearance of Christian struggle. TRY to remember to keep Pascha holy. This might seem an odd and unnecessary tip, but it happens that at all the greater festivals, and particularly at Christmas and Pascha, one finds that after the fast, there is a temptation simply to let go. True, we can start eating non-lenten products again, but this does not mean that we should plunge into gluttony or drunkenness. The church services are shorter and the typicon less demanding, but very often one notices that there is a veritable apostasy after a major feast. If we have gained anything spiritually in the course of the fast, let us try to hold it fast and not to lose it heedlessly. In this way, step by small step, with each fast and each feast we shall be able to make some little progress spiritually, using each as the rungs of a ladder. Check-list of Spiritually Necessary Activities for the Last Twelve Days of the Nativity* Fast Which Lead up to the Great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord: * This lecture was given during the Nativity Fast. Yet the same concepts and checklist can be used for the other Fasts of the Church year. 1. On all days abstain from all non-fasting foods (all meat, egg and milk products). 2. At least on Wednesdays and Fridays, abstain from fish products as well. 3. No parties (including secular New Year), no nights on the town, no concerts or the like. 4. The only music to be listened to is appropriate recorded Church singing. No other music until Nativity, not even \"classical.\" (The only exception to this might be if practicing a musical instrument or vocals are part of your studies.) 5. Absolutely no television, radio, movies, video/computer games for these twelve days. For weather information use the free telephone weather-info-line listed in your directory under \"weather.\" 6. The computer is to be used only if it is part of your job, your studies, or necessary for personal correspondence. No frivolous uses. 7. Attend all the services that you possibly can that are available at your parish church during this time period. Even if it entails asking for time off from work or from school, try to make it to all the services. Arrive before the beginning of the services, and stay until the very end. Make an attempt to understand and participate in the services. 8. With the blessing of your spiritual father (usually your parish priest), prepare properly and partake of Holy Confession and Communion at every Divine Liturgy at your parish church leading up to and including Nativity. 9. Every day: get up early enough to meaningfully say all of the morning prayers printed in the prayer book. Say the Jesus prayer repetitively at every opportunity during the day: O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner. Be certain to say prayers before and after meals. Say your evening prayers immediately after the evening meal. Do not wait to say your evening prayers until you are so tired that you cannot even think. 10. Each day, following your morning prayers, read at least a little bit (5-10 minutes\' worth) of the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament (a little of the Gospel and a little of the Epistles of the Apostles). 11. Each day, find a regular time to read a measured amount (10-15 minutes\' worth) of the writings of the holy Fathers (My Life in Christ by St. John of Kronstadt is a good place to start). 12. Be extra loving to other people around you, treating them kindly, as you would like them to treat you. If anyone wrongs you in any way, be quick to forgive and forget completely and forever. 13. If at all possible, be extra charitable to the needy and worthy causes, giving not of your surplus but of your substance. Again, brothers and sister, the items on this list are things we should already be doing, some during the fasting seasons, others all the time. Let us truly attempt to fulfill this entire check-list for the 12 days before our Orthodox Christmas. I can assure you that if you are able to fulfill the majority of the recommendations, it will utterly change your life for the better. You will eagerly await the next fast and you will be able to handle the hardships of life much more wisely, but most importantly, you would have made an important step in the direction of the salvation of your soul. The first few days will be the hardest. You will go through withdrawal. But don\'t give up. Ask for God\'s help and He will help. And if you persevere, then when the Feast finally comes, God will certainly shine upon you the light of knowledge, and you will find it so natural, so easy to worship Him, the Sun of Righteousness and to know Him, the Day-spring from on High. O Lord our God, we believe; help Thou our unbelief. Through the intercession of the Holy Birth-Giver-of-God and Ever-virgin Mary help us to stand firm in these times of temptation and to draw ever closer unto Thee! For unto Thee is due all honor and glory, both now and ever and unto the ages, amen. Fasting Then came to Him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.22 Most people have heard of this passage from Scripture, but they generally do not have the slightest idea how to interpret it practically. The Orthodox Church is the only Christian Tradition which has preserved and maintains a specific and rigorous 21 Metropolitan Cyprian, Words on Prayer, Orthodox Tradition, Vol. 1, Nos. 4 & 5 (1984), p. 12. 22 St. Matthew 9:14?15. 20 Daily Life schedule for implementing the very healthy and spiritually profitable discipline of fasting. Before going into the details of how to fast in the Orthodox Church, we should consider first the reasons why we fast. For once we understand why we fast, we often find fasting much easier to implement. First of all, we do not fast in order to punish ourselves. This very negative approach is actually an attitude which was held by Roman Catholics when they still practiced fasting. There is a delicate but significant distinction between a contrition that is founded on selfexamination and a generic guilt that has little relationship to reality and which can often psychologically cripple a person. The former is essential to the formation of an Orthodox concept of sin and repentance. The latter is an aberration that is exemplified by Western notions of original sin and the corresponding juridical model of salvation that seeks to appease an angry and offended God. Let us emphasize that we Orthodox fast principally in order to recall and to emulate Adam and Eve in their original state before the Fall. At that time, according to Scripture, they consumed no animal products of any kind and certainly did not kill animals for meat. The Orthodox fast thus restricts the kind of food which we eat more than the actual quantity, in an attempt to return to the food eaten in the Garden of Eden. While there are certain days during Great Lent and Great Week when we do not eat any food at all, the usual pattern of fasting involves abstinence from animal products, fish, wine, and olive oil. Thus, it is quite possible to keep the Orthodox fast without feeling at all punished or deprived. This emulation of our first parents, Adam and Eve, also accomplishes a second goal of fasting, bodily health. The Fathers of the Church have long maintained that the consumption of meat excites the passions and is unhealthy. Medical science has also come to question the safety of animal foods and to praise the vegetarian diet: With regard to the avoidance of foods of animal origin, as dictated by the Church on certain days and during various periods, we Orthodox Life 21 have seen here too, that todays medical science supports the correctness of these ordinances. It does so in two ways. First, by its proof that cholesterol leads to arteriosclerosis, hypertension, and various kinds of cardiac disorders, and by its discovery that cholesterol is found in all foods of animal origin (meat, fish, eggs, dairy products), which the Orthodox Church prohibits Christians from eating on fast days and during lenten periods. Second, by its proof that fats lead to the diseases just mentioned and to others.23 By limiting our intake of animal products, we also allow our bodies the opportunity to throw off toxins which have accumulated in our systems. The third reason for fasting is perhaps, at least for us in the West, one of the most important ones: selfcontrol. Every day we are inundated with thousands of messages, either visual or audible or both, which beckon, cajole, or beguile us to indulge ourselves in one form of excess or another. Statistical research has shown that we listen to these messages and act upon them. The average twentiethcentury American enjoys a standard of living which was once reserved to highplaced aristocracy. In the heat of August, even a hundred servants with handheld fans could not do for Louis xiv what a simple room air conditioner does for a retired widow in a small apartment in our time. What would Julius C?sar have given for a chariot capable of traveling over sixty miles per hour, which could cover hundreds of miles in a single day? The luxury and comfort we enjoy tends to smother spiritual life even as the thorns choked out the seed in our Lords parable.24 Thus, to train ourselves in denial and selfcontrol, to learn the art of gracefully declining a simple piece of cheese on an inappropriate day, is one of the more valuable lessons the Church can offer us. The generally accepted rules of fasting in the Orthodox Church are as follows: 23 Constantine Cavarnos, Fasting and Science (Etna, ca: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1988), pp. 19?20. 24 St. Matthew 13:7. 22 Daily Life 1. Unless otherwise noted, on a fast day we do not eat animal products of any kind. This includes any part of any mammal (beef, lamb, pork, etc.), bird (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.), or fish (tuna, cod, sardine, etc.). This also includes any byproducts of these animals (milk, cheese, or eggs). Olive oil is also restricted on fast days. This is for a very special reason. It hearkens back to the time when a dove brought an olive sprig back to the Ark to signify Gods mercy on the world after the Flood.25 So, during a fast we set aside olive oil in anticipation of Gods sign of mercy. (We might note the similarity between the Greek words for olive oilelaionand mercyeleos.) 2. Alcoholic beverages are allowed as follows: a. Hard liquor of any kind (that is, a drink stronger than wine) may be consumed only when meat or dairy products are permitted. b. Wine is allowed on specific fast days when the Saint of the day is commemorated with a sung Doxology or a Polyeleos is appointed. These days are always specified in the Church Calendar. Olive oil is also allowed on these days. These days are commonly referred to as wine and oil days. c. Beer is usually consumed any time and is not considered an alcoholic beverage. 3. There are also fast days when fish is allowed, in addition to wine and oil. These days are also specified in the Church Calendar. They generally denote Feast Days, such as the Transfiguration or the Annunciation, which fall during fasting periods. Fish is sometimes eaten on the Patronal Feast of a parish or monastery when it falls on a fast day, but this custom is in violation of strict fasting rules. 4. Shellfish (shrimp, clam, lobster, etc.), reptiles (alligator, turtle, rattlesnake, etc.), and amphibians (e.g., frog legs) are all allowed on any fast day. 5. Nondairy substitutes and mock meats which are vegetarian in content are often used during fasts. These do not normally violate the spirit of the fast, since avoiding animal prod- 25 Genesis 8:11. Orthodox Life 23 ucts is very much a matter of avoiding the hormones and fats which are unhealthy and excite the passions. Moreover, when we are put in the position of having to locate substitutes, this very action instills the discipline which fasting is meant to bring to our lives. If, however, we fast by constantly replacing meat and dairy products with unhealthy or richtasting, rather than natural, substitutes, we violate the meaning and purpose of the fast. One must exercise honest control in this area. 6. Many Orthodox substitute vegetable oils for olive oil on a fast day. Strictly speaking, this practice is acceptable. However, the use of these oils, too, should be restricted as much as possible, since they are unhealthy and are often used to enhance the natural flavor of foodthings inconsistent with the spirit of fasting. A strict fast, where no oil is permitted, is called xerophagy and is observed in stricter monasteries on fasting days and during the various lenten periods. When followed for short periods of time, this is also a good practice for lay people. 7. Orthodox monastics do not eat meat or poultry at any time, including nonfast periods. They may, however, eat fish, dairy products, and eggs on nonfast days. 8. Married couples should also abstain from sexual relations on fast days. This also includes nonfast days during which they are preparing for Holy Communion. This is referred to as fasting from the flesh and can help strengthen a marriage when practiced with mutual consent of the husband and wife. These are the times when we fast in the Orthodox Church: 1. Every Wednesday and Friday during the year, except during certain fastfree weeks. (These exceptions are the weeks following Nativity [Christmas], the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, Pascha, and Pentecost.) The Wednesday fast recalls the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot and the Friday fast commemorates His Crucifixion. In monasteries, incidentally, Mondays are also generally observed as fast days, in honor of the Holy Angels. 2. The Orthodox Church has four fasting periods in the liturgical year. These are: 24 Daily Life a. Great Lent. The fasting rules for Great Lent are outlined in most Orthodox calendars and cookbooks. b. Apostles Fast. This fasting period starts the Monday after the Sunday of All Saints. It is generally less severe, allowing fish on weekends and on several Feast Days during the Fast. Tuesdays and Thursdays are wine and oil days. The Apostles Fast ends on June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. If this day falls on a Wednesday or Friday, fish, wine, and oil are permitted. c. Dormition Fast. Held in honor of the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos, this is the shortest fasting period, lasting only two weeks. It begins on August 1 and ends on August 15. Fish is only allowed on the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6). Weekends in this Fast are wine and oil days. If the Dormition falls on a Wednesday or Friday, that day becomes a fish, wine, and oil day. d. Nativity Fast. This fast begins forty days before the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas) on November 15. It is a more relaxed Fast until December 20. Until that date, we are allowed fish on weekends. After that date, wine and oil are appointed for the weekends. Tuesdays and Thursdays are wine and oil days throughout this Fast. These fasting periods were established many centuries ago in order to allow Orthodox Christians properly to prepare themselves for the various Feasts in the Churchs liturgical cycle. This cycle is Divinely inspired, as is all of Holy Tradition. If we are to participate fully as Orthodox Christians in the Festal Calendar, we must orient ourselves to Gods schedule, rather than our own. This means that social and familial events which center around the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or Western Christmas must be rearranged or adjusted according to the lenten periods in which they fall. We must also be careful to schedule weddings outside of any fasting period. It makes no sense for a couple to marry during a time when the marriage cannot be consummated with the blessing of the Church. No Bishop or Priest, we should add here, has the authority Orthodox Life 25 to grant dispensations from any fast day, except for reasons of health on a casebycase basis. This practice among Orthodox in the West is a violation of Holy Tradition and introduces a spirit of legalism into the Church that compromises the Orthodox way of life and places it under submission to Western ideas and practices. Fasting is one of the primary ways that we train ourselves to be in the world, but not of it, and constitutes one of the more challenging tasks facing an Orthodox Christian in America and the West. We are surrounded by people who accept those messages which extol the virtues and pleasures of selfindulgence. Few of our contemporary countrymen are going to support us in our Orthodox Faith, even though all will watch our struggles with interest, waiting to see if we are truly serious about what we claim to believe. This is especially true of our heterodox families and friends. Therefore, there is no greater witness for Orthodoxy in America than that humble soul who quietly goes about the business of keeping the fast. With regard to the everyday problems of fasting, let us emphasize the fact that recent trends towards health and fitness have been a boon for Orthodox fasting in America. Foods which were once full of lard or other animal fats are now prepared with vegetable oils or shortening. The emphasis on consumer awareness has resulted in excellent labeling standards on all food, making it possible to know exactly what is in the food we are buying. Many excellent meat substitutes, such as tofu and soya bean meat products, as well as vegetarian dishes, are commercially available in most supermarkets. All of this, unheard of thirty years ago, makes fasting easier for Orthodox Christians in the West. The first step in fasting, then, is to familiarize yourself with the resources that are available to you in your area. Excellent vegetarian cookbooks are available in any bookstore. Locate one or two and study them. Determine the basic ingredients that you will need to make a vegetarian meal and go about the business of finding them in your supermarket. Once you have tried a 26 Daily Life few recipes, you will discover that about ninety percent of the flavor in any recipe comes from spices, onions, and garlic. Meat is more a matter of texture than anything else. There are ways to mimic this texture. They can be as simple as throwing artificial bacon bits into soups or salads. Tofu mimics hamburger very well, with none of the fat. There are also many excellent milk substitutes on the market, which can even be poured over cereal, though you should choose one made with soya or light oils and low in sugar. There are many other things available; it is simply a matter of taking the time to find out what they are. A few guidelines will serve to make fasting easier: When Shopping. Read labels! Some people feel that by reading labels closely they might develop a pharisaical attitude. But that is simply not true. We are only being pharisees when we read the labels on other peoples food (and this does happen). It is a perfectly reasonable thing to want to know exactly what we are eating, whether we are fasting or not. Do not assume that something has no dairy products or meat. Read the label. Some cookies are still made with lard. Again, read the labels. Gelatin (including JellO) is made from animal byproducts. It should be avoided. Croutons often have cheese mixed in them. One should be wary of such products. There are several mock crab and lobster products on the market which are actually made from fish and eggs; these, too, present a problem on a regular fast day. One must be careful to watch for them. The best rule of thumb is, in the end, never to assume anything. At Home. The key to keeping a good fast, particularly dur ing the longer fasting periods, is to develop a good repertoire of dishes. Great Lent can be a truly difficult experience if we eat lentils every day. Lentils are fine, but what about vegetarian tacos, vegetable curry, a nice pasta salad, shrimp casserole, or fivebean soup? The list can go on forever. The point is that there is potentially a great variety in the foods which we can eat during a fast. Also, homebaked bread always makes a meal seem like a feast, and is far more nutritious than the bread availOrthodox Life 27 able in a market. There are breadmaking machines on the market that make it possible for even the busiest household to enjoy this simple pleasure. Fasting in a family situation requires commitment, particularly on the part of the husband and wife. The children, especially small children, will follow whatever agenda the parents establish. If the parents approach a fast day with a negative attitude, the children will learn that fast days are something to be dreaded. If the parents look forward to a fast, so will the children. The best attitude to develop is one of humble acceptance: If today is a Wednesday, we will simply not discuss ice cream or pizza. We will leave that for the time when we can have these things. Such words of encouragement teach children to accept fast days without any negative feelings. And at a time when people feed their children healthdestroying junk foods, parents who teach their children to fast are more responsible parents. Fasting with Relatives or Friends. If you happen to have guests to dinner or if relatives stay with you during a fast, simply feed them what your family would eat. They should be aware of the fact that you are Orthodox Christians and should be as gracious about accepting your hospitality during a fast as they would be at any other time. We are under no obligation to feed people anything that we would not eat ourselves. This creates an artificial situation which inevitably causes more problems than it solves. Converts often find that their families pass through a phase of challenging them about their fasting. This is a spiritual trial which will pass. If we assume a very humble attitude and treat our fasting in a matteroffact way, without any fanfare, eventually people will accept it as something that is important to us. On the other hand, if we assume an attitude of superiority or become judgmental and condemnatory of those who do not fast, then people will learn to avoid us and come to believe that Orthodox Christians are very haughty and unpleasant people. If a traditionalist (Old Calendarist) Orthodox Christian invites a modernist Orthodox (most of whom fast in spirit, but not in fact) to dinner at a time which coincides with a New Cal28 Daily Life endar Fast, then fasting food should be quietly served, whether the modernist is accustomed to this or not. We should always encourage our Orthodox brothers to observe the fast. It goes without saying that modernist Orthodox should be served only fasting fare if they visit traditionalists during one of the Old Calendar Fasts. Fasting in a Restaurant. We may at times find ourselves in situations, particularly at work, where a group of people will ask us to eat lunch with them during a fast. This is not an impossible situation. Most restaurants now have some form of salad bar, and all restaurants have a side salad on the menu. Many have cooked vegetables as well. When ordering a salad, it is wise to ask if the salad has any cheese or eggs. If so, simply ask the waitress or waiter to have a salad without cheese or eggs. This is perfectly acceptable, since many people are allergic to these things. Cooked beans or spinach sometimes come with bacon. It is wise to ask about this, too, before ordering. Some restaurants have dishes made with shrimp or scallops. As long they have no cream sauce, this is an excellent food during fasts. No one will be in the least offended if you follow the Churchs fasting rules in this way. There is, then, no excuse for setting aside fasting in the face of the proverbial business lunch or any other circumstance where you may be dining out. When dining out with the family, Oriental restaurants are usually a good choice. Most Oriental restaurants have seafood dishes with shrimp or scallops. They also usually have a stir fried vegetable plate. Fried rice is a problem, since it is usually made with egg. But many restaurants will leave the egg out on request. Some shrimp dishes also have meat. For instance, shrimp with lobster sauce always seems to come with pork in the sauce. These dishes should obviously be avoided. Mexican restaurants are usually not a good choice. Most of them cook the beans and rice that are the staples of this food in lard or meat drippings and many foods are smothered in cheese. Seafood restaurants, on the other hand, are an excellent choice. In addition Orthodox Life 29 to various types of fish, these restaurants usually have several items on the menu which can be eaten on any fast day. No matter which restaurant you choose, here are some basic guidelines to follow; 1. When in doubt, ask. There are many people who are on various diets or who have food allergies. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate such customers. Thus, do not hesitate to ask for substitutes. Dieters can ask to have food broiled in margarine instead of butter. You can do the same. Also ask for margarine to put on your bread and ask for a nondairy creamer for your coffee. 2. If the food ordered has something unexpected, such as meat, or if a salad is smothered in cheese, politely explain that you can not eat the dish in question and ask for a substitute. Under no circumstances should you knowingly eat anything which would break the fast. 3. In a social drinking situation, we should choose beer, soft drinks, or juices (unless it is a wine day). These things are also healthier than hard spirits, anyway. 4. Concentrate on the main item being ordered and do not get bogged down with details. If the avocado sandwich has a very little bit of mayonnaise, do not make a scene by scraping it off. Such a display does more spiritual harm than good. There is a difference between eating a small amount of condiment on a sandwich and deciding to consume a salad covered with bleu cheese dressing. For one thing, there usually is a choice of dressings for a salad, but very few restaurants have a vegetarian substitute for mayonnaise on a sandwich. In any event, we should always follow the dictates of our conscience, but not make silly displays of our fasting. 5. Always say a quiet blessing before beginning to eat, whether the people around you are religious or not. You can always cross yourself, which shows your Christian commitment, and say a prayer silently, if need be. If anyone is offended by the Cross, you probably should not be sitting at the table with him. One challenge often posed to an Orthodox Christian during 30 Daily Life a fast is the experience of answering peoples questions about our fasting customs. This is especially true on the job. Inevitably, people will notice that there are times when you appear to avoid meat. Most Americans find this very strange and are naturally curious. Some are downright rude in their curiosity. When confronted about your choice of meal, merely reply that there are certain times when you do not eat meat. If someone pursues the topic, point out that this is a discipline you have accepted as healthy and beneficial, much like jogging or losing weight. You might also explain your fasting customs as a spiritual exercise in selfdenial. Be careful always to make such statements from an attitude of humility. We should never allow ourselves to sound prideful or superior. A humble reply coupled with a quiet blessing before eating is a very strong witness for Orthodoxy. If people do choose to ridicule or mock you for this, accept this humbly as a trial from God. Such acceptance builds spiritual strength. If certain people get on your nerves repeatedly, simply avoid eating out with them. Fasting While Traveling. Some people choose to cite (or misquote) ancient Canons which relax the fast for a person who is traveling, and thus excuse themselves from fasting while on a journey. But is this really necessary? These Canons were written at a time when travel was a very dangerous and risky adventure, and they do not, at any rate, allow for a total abandonment of fasting. These situations simply do not exist in modern America or Europe. There are restaurants everywhere and, as we have said, they all serve food which can be eaten even during the strictest fasting period. Air travel also presents no problems. All airlines that serve meals will provide vegetarian or seafood meals upon request, though you must be diligent about ordering special meals before boarding the plane. Do not feel that this is any trouble for the airline. It is very common, especially with international carriers. Truly devout Jews, Moslems, and Hindus all require special meals. Besides religious considerations, many people require special meals for reasons of health. The airlines are all competing for your business and are more than happy to Orthodox Life 31 accommodate the needs of their passengers. Here are some basic rules to follow regarding air travel: 1. It is wise to request special meals at the time you arrange your flight. This means that you should consult the Church Calendar and verify whether any of the days when you will be traveling are fast days, and whether you are allowed oil or wine or fish. Request either a vegetarian meal, which will be all vegetables, or a shellfish meal, such as shrimp, crab, or scallops. Be sure to verify that any crab served is real crab and not mock crab made from fish. 2. Check back with the airline the day before your departure to make sure that your special meals are listed with your reservation; if not, order them again. 3. At checkin, before boarding the plane, verify that the special meals appear on your reservation. The airline should have a few vegetarian meals set aside, even if they did not appear on the reservation. These efforts in checking and doublechecking are perhaps a bit frustrating, but we can tell you from experience that this is the only way to be sure that you are not presented with a choice of chicken or lasagne on a Wednesday flight. If traveling by train or bus, the options are more limited. However, we have found that bringing our own food along, particularly on a shorter trip, is a viable alternative. A little planning ahead can make the trip so much more enjoyable. Fasting at School. Once a routine of fasting is established at home, children are far better prepared to pursue fasting seriously at school. Young children in the first four years of elementary school are usually very zealous about following fasting rules at school. Children that age thrive on structure, and once they have a routine set, they follow that routine to the letter. Usually, the school itself will not have any appropriate fasting foods available for lunch, so the meal must be brought from home. But this is not a bad thing, since school lunches are notorious for their unhealthy ingredients and poor preparation. 32 Daily Life When parties are scheduled at school on a fast day, check with the teacher and make her aware of the childs situation. Offer to bring something to the party that the child can eat. Be sure to have enough for the other children to share. This accentuates the positive for the child, rather than allowing him to feel left out. At the same time, it allows the child to feel different in a positive sense and to develop a healthy notion of what it means to be one of those peculiar people26 of Christs Church. In America today, it is not be unusual for a child to attend school with Moslems, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jehovahs Witnesses. Each of these faiths has particular dietary and social restrictions. If we, as Orthodox Christians, out of a false concern that our children not appear different from the other children, excuse them from fasting at the school Christmas party, we will have no witness before the Moslem child who maintains a strict Ramadan fast, or the Buddhist child who remains vegetarian at all times. Our children will quickly perceive this as hypocrisy on our part and we will be unable to teach them anything further about living our Faith. Any sincere Orthodox Christian is going to appear different to those around him. This was true in Saint Pauls time, when he spoke of the peculiarity of Christians, and it holds true today. Children can handle these differences as long as they have firm support from their parents. But if the parents falter in their resolve or are indifferent to fasting, the children will definitely follow suit. This is one of the grave responsibilities of parenthood. Children always learn from their parents. The question is this: Will they learn that which is pious, noble, and healthy, or that which is destructive to the soul and body? The answer is entirely up to the parents. When Invited to Visit Friends During a Fast. We should generally avoid social engagements during a fast; however, when this is impossible, there are some helpful guidelines that we can follow: 1. If the occasion involves dinner, we should ask what is be- 26 Titus 2:14. Orthodox Life 33 ing served. If we explain our situation to the hostess, she will most likely arrange something for us. If she is unable or unwilling to do so, then it is probably best to put off the invitation until a more appropriate time. This can be done politely in such a way as to cause no offense. 2. At a buffetstyle dinner, it may be possible to bring a covered dish. If so, arrange this with the hostess. You can then provide your own fasting food for the dinner. Fasting During American and NonOrthodox Holidays. The American holiday season poses particular challenges for Orthodox Christians. Thanksgiving sometimes falls during the Nativity Fast (according to the Church, or Julian, Calendar which traditionalist Orthodox Christians follow). Western Christmas (December 25 New Style, or December 12 on the Church Calendar) always falls during the Nativity Fast, which means that we are in a period of preparation for the Birth of Christ, while the society around us is beginning its round of Xmas parties. While family closeness and a spirit of generosity are admirable qualities in and of themselves, commercial interests in America have moved in to take advantage of the Christmas spirit by introducing relatively new traditions of expensive giftgiving and lavish entertaining. These not only compromise the Nativity Fast for Orthodox Christians, but violate even the meaning of the Western celebration of Christmas. In order to deal sensitively with our family and friends, while still maintaining an attitude of prayerful preparation for the Nativity of Christ, we should plan our activities during this season carefully. Thanksgiving. There are two basic situations which we face at Thanksgiving. Either we are expected to have family and friends over, or we are expected to visit family and friends. If we are serving the meal, the best thing to do is to arrange to have the usual turkey dinner on the previous Sunday, before the Nativity Fast. If we invite those with whom we would normally share this day to the Sunday dinner, then there will be less contention about Thursday. Sincere people who truly care about us 34 Daily Life will be glad to adjust. Those who stubbornly insist on our participation in the Thursday holiday do not really have our feelings at heart. In such situations, it is best to avoid confrontation altogether. Many family situations are less than healthy. This sort of contention is a clear sign of problems which go much deeper than a turkey dinner. It is thus much better for all concerned to work at overcoming those difficulties, rather than simply playing out a charade each year on the last Thursday of November. This might require a few years to sort out. But with patience, humility, and a loving attitude, the situation will eventually improve. If we are invited to dinner on Thanksgiving, we should be very frank about the fact that this is a fast day for Orthodox and that we would be happy to arrange to visit after dinner. Sitting at table and not eating the meal would probably cause more tension and problems than it would solve. Arranging to bring a fasting dessert or some drinks after dinner is a far better alternative. If we bring something, we should be very lowkey about the content and emphasize that it is to be shared by all. This sort of quiet witness will speak volumes to people over the years. Western Christmas. This day has taken on a dimension over the past fifty years which, unfortunately, causes people to dread its approach and breathe a sigh of relief at its departure. Police statistics show that suicides and family abuse increase dramatically during this time. How sad it is that the Birth of Christ is so often forgotten in the midst of what has become an emotional Saturnalia, with the family elevated to a status above God and emotions transformed into a substitute for spiritual feelings. The depression associated with this holiday is the result of parties without pleasure, frivolity without joy, and a subconscious yearning for the spiritual meaning of Christmas. We should not dwell on these negatives, but as Orthodox Christians we must understand that Tradition holds out a much better way for us. And in this understanding we should separate ourselves from the cash register holiday that has become Western Christmas. The parties and social whirl which surround this season Orthodox Life 35 need not cause undo concern. We should avoid attending many parties, as this is inconsistent with our own preparation for Nativity. But attending several engagements with nonOrthodox family or friends causes no problem. We should, however, assiduously avoid lavish affairs which involve large numbers of people we do not know, since these parties too often degenerate into occasions for drunkenness and immorality. When declining such invitations, we should maintain a quiet, humble spirit and merely say that we have other plans. On Western Christmas day we should visit those heterodox family members and friends whom we would normally visit and exchange gifts with those whom we normally exchange gifts. We should keep gifts simple, preferably made by ourselves, and we should be very loving and gracious. Once again, we can always bring a fasting dessert to share, if a meal is involved. We can console ourselves, if we feel left out of the holiday festivities, by realizing that this day is for most people the climax of a season of endless parties and shopping. We can call to mind the fact that we will be breaking the Fast in two weeks, followed by a fastfree period of spiritual celebration, while our nonOrthodox family and friends will be in the middle of the postholiday blues. New Years Day. New Year celebrations are something that we should restrict to family and a few friends. For one thing, traditionalist Orthodox Christians follow the Julian Calendar, as we have said. For us, the New Year coincides with a Church Feast Daythe Circumcision of Christ (and the Feast of Saint Basil the Great)and is thus celebrated in a sober way. As well, the Orthodox Church Year, around which we arrange our worship, begins on September 1, not January 1. We should avoid the large gatherings which mark the celebration of the secular New Year on the New Calendar, as these are usually occasions for drunkenness and immorality. Our Fast ends a week later, after the Nativity Feast, and we will then have an opportunity to celebrate in an upright, joyful way. If we properly prepare and 36 Daily Life wholeheartedly rejoice in our Faith, our celebrations of Christs Birth will gradually become occasions of joy for our family and friends as well. We will come to avoid, rather than dread, the secular holidays of the Western Christmas season. September 2nd JOHN The FASTER, PATRIARCH of CONSTANTINOPLE John was a pious goldsmith in Constantinople. One day, while walking along on the right side of John, a monk heard a voice saying, It is not fitting, Abba, for you to walk along the right side of the great man. The monk reported this to the patriarch, who urged John to be ordained into the clergy. John saw a vision of Saints standing in an altar and a man coming out from among them, giving generous alms to the poor. The vision showed Johns future rank and his generosity. Soon after, the patriarch dies, and John was chosen to fill the position. He accepted the position after seeing a vision of angels and fiery furnace. The angels said to him, Will you not accept the throne? It will be given to another, and you will be punished by all of us. John performed many miracles in his lifetime. He fasted 6 days a week, during which he ate nothing, and on the seventh day, he ate only fruit. He rarely slept and only while sitting up. He was a father to orphans, helper of the poor, and defender of those wronged. When John died, the renowned Nilus bent over to kiss him, and in the sight of all, the Saint whispered a few words into his ear. Nilus did not relate these words to anyone. John was buried within the altar of the Church of the Holy Apostles. Other Saints Commemorated on this day: Mamas of Caesarea and his parents Theodotus and Refina; Eleazar, son of Aaron; Righteous Phineas; Martyrs Philadelphos, Melanippos, and Parthagape; Martyrs Diomedes, Julian, Philip, Eftychian, Hesychios, and others; Barsunuphius and Abbess Seraphima of Russia; Aeithalas and Ammon in Thrace and more Other Saints known for strict fasting: St. Theophanes the Confessor and Faster September 9th Loukianos, Presbyter of Greater Antioch October 15th
Warning....trick quesiton follows... Would you consider it a sin to not fast?
Fr Athanasios
Are you aware that we fast on Wednesdays and Fridays BECAUSE the Jews were fasting on Tuesdays and Thursdays?
Fr Athanasios
[quote] [b]Kerygma wrote:[/b] [quote] [b]FrAthanasios wrote:[/b] Warning....trick quesiton follows... Would you consider it a sin to not fast? [/quote] No, it\'s not a sin. My concern is that we spend too much time talking about it rather than doing it... quietly and before the Lord. We need to follow the counsel of our spiritual fathers and/or priests. But a sin... no.[/quote] I couldn\'t agree more!!!!!!! Fasting IS an Orthodox discipline, but I fear too many see it as a \"law\" similar to the OT dietary laws and assign \"salvation value\" to the ACT of fasting. I hear too many people talking about we \'must\' fast etc. as if fasting will save us. On the contrary, I believe fasting is about controling our passions so we can \'be more like Christ\' as passionless (greed etc) and fasting is PART of that struggle. But to be clear, I could eat a porterhouse steak every day, even during Holy Week, and not be sinning. Of course if I do that, I am risking some other sinful attitudes etc such as pride, which is extactly the essence I\'m trying to convey. I doubt I\'m conveying very clearly. This is really a subject that makes more sense face to face. I fully expect to be labled a variety of names after this post....but study Romans before accusing me of anything....
Fr Athanasios
My favorite part of that long post: \". . . do not get bogged down with details.\" Let\'s not forget: \" For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.\" (Romans 14:2) \" For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. \" (Romans 14:20) Etc.
Forgive me but I must mention this... Canon 69 of the Holy Apostles designates that any hierarch or priest or deacon or subdeacon or reader or chanter who does not fast during Great Lent and Wednesday and Friday is to be deposed. If a layperson does not fast during these times (unless he cannot fast on account of bodily illness), he is to be excommunicated.... Let us therefore stop insensibly thinking that the fast of Wednesday and Friday is not an Apostolic directive, for behold, the Apostles in their Canons number this fast with that of Great Lent, and in the Apostolic Constitutions they number it together with the fast of Holy Week saying: \"One must fast during Holy Week and Wednesday and Friday.\" But why should I say that this regulation is only of the Apostles? It is a regulation of Christ Himself, for this is what the Apostles say in the Book V, ch. 14 of the Constitutions: \"He (that is Christ) commanded us to fast on Wednesday and Friday. taken from the Exomologetaion: A manual of Confession by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, pgs. 270-271.
Moses916, It\'s good you read the canon, but did you read Romans? How do you reconcile posting the canon to a priest, and acting according to Paul\'s directives in Romans?
This is a bit long.... Moses916, I will take your apology as rhetoric since I doubt you were suggesting I be deposed especially since I do fast. I fear though that you may have been misled as to the Canonical Tradition of the Orthodox Church. The Canons such as Apostles 69 which you referenced using the St Nikodimos reference must be interpreted from within their proper context. As I have already mentioned, we fast on Wednesday and Friday to be different from the Jews, and Canons Apostles 70 and 71 both refer to this confusion. It can be argued that 69 could just as easily refer to those who are fasting on other days, especially since Apostles 66 is about NOT fasting on Sundays and Saturdays. If one takes these in association with Dionysios 1 (written about 247 AD and adopted by Penthekte in 691 AD) my points are more complete: When the Paschal fast is to be broken depends upon on the precise hour of our Saviours resurrection, and this was not certainly to be known from the Four Evangelists; therefore they who have not fasted on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before [Easter], do no great thing if they fast the Friday and Saturday, and so till past three on [Easter] morning. But they who have fasted the whole six days, are not to be blamed if they break their fast after midnight. Some do not fast any of these days. We should note that Dionysios mentioned neither Great Lent (which did not evolve to what we have today for several centuries) nor did he suggest penance for those who did not fast. This should have a bearing on the advice we offer on fasting. Dionysios ends his letter to Basilides this way: I have given opinion on the points about which you have consulted me, not as a doctor, but in all simplicity as it is suitable the relation between us should be. And when you have examined, my most learned son, what I have written you will let me know what seems to you better or whether you agree with my opinions. Farewell, dear son, may your ministry be in the peace of the Lord. This supports the idea of pastoral relationship with a spiritual father when it comes to fasting rather than a list of strict rules to be blindly followed. We must also consider what fasting was for the Apostles. The so-called degrees of fasting were not present in the early church and references to forty days for Great Lent is not visible in the Church until the 4th Century. This should also inform our discussion. If fasting wasnt the same then as it is today, the fasting guidelines are not necessarily the same today. Some might be, others may not be. One final note about your use of St Nikodimos. He was writing to a monastic community and should be taken as such. Monastics are under a very different level of obedience than those of us in the world. His writings, while of benefit to gain perspective, are not binding for those not under his obedience. In Christ, Father Athanasios
Fr Athanasios
Another thing is that Paul writes that one should fast in case eating meat would scandalize a brother. This is for priests and laymen. Not fasting would show a lack of love. Priests have the position of perhaps being able to scandalize people more easily. In this case, they have to be especially careful that they do not use their freedom to scandalize others. Priests are more bound to fast because they have the greatest ability to hurt their weaker brother.
I did not mean that you would be deposed... as I already anticipated you are a faster. Forgive me for giving that impression Father. I just wanted to show that this is a serious issue and not something we can kind of wiggle our way out of... and once again i don\'t mean that any of you are wiggling your ways out since you all fast. I have no desire to argue, but just wanted to post that to show that there is a Saint who thought everyone should fast, even showing what severe consequences await those who don\'t. Forgive my offense.
[quote] [b]drevyev wrote:[/b] Another thing is that Paul writes that one should fast in case eating meat would scandalize a brother. This is for priests and laymen. Not fasting would show a lack of love. Priests have the position of perhaps being able to scandalize people more easily. In this case, they have to be especially careful that they do not use their freedom to scandalize others. Priests are more bound to fast because they have the greatest ability to hurt their weaker brother.[/quote] Excellent point, but we should also be careful because that perspective might tend toward us vs them etc which is also not appropriate. I agree with the premise though.
Fr Athanasios
[quote] [b]FrAthanasios wrote:[/b] [quote] [b]drevyev wrote:[/b] Another thing is that Paul writes that one should fast in case eating meat would scandalize a brother. This is for priests and laymen. Not fasting would show a lack of love. Priests have the position of perhaps being able to scandalize people more easily. In this case, they have to be especially careful that they do not use their freedom to scandalize others. Priests are more bound to fast because they have the greatest ability to hurt their weaker brother.[/quote] Excellent point, but we should also be careful because that perspective might tend toward us vs them etc which is also not appropriate. I agree with the premise though.[/quote] I think that Paul is specifically working against an us-vs-them mentality. If everyone followed his paradigm, you couldn\'t tell who was the weaker brother. The weaker brother would fast because he needed to, while the stronger brother would fast so as not to scandalize the weaker brother. The latter would not be doing so because he was superior--God forbid. He would simply be carrying out the commandment to serve the brethren.
People have to answer greatly for not keeping the rules of the Church with respect to the fasts. People justify themselves by saying that they never considered it a sin to eat dairy products during the fasts. They repent and consider themselves sinners in every other respect, but they do not think to repent about not keeping the fasts. Meanwhile, they are transgressing the commandment of our holy Mother, the Church, and according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, they are as the heathen and publicans because of their disobedience. - St. Ambrose of Optina
[quote] [b]OrthodoxAndrew wrote:[/b]according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, they are as the heathen and publicans because of their disobedience. - St. Ambrose of Optina [/quote] Can someone point out where this quote from Paul comes from?
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