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Offline Jonny

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why fast?
« on: January 05, 2009, 09:34:52 PM »
Why is there such an emphasis on fasting in the Orthodox Church and why is the fast perscribed vegan and not simply vegetarian? I'm interested in the history of the developed practice but also the theology behind it. How is fasting supposed to spiritually aid us and is it seen a penitential or preparatory or something completely separate to those two concepts?

Offline John of the North

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2009, 09:38:52 PM »
Why is there such an emphasis on fasting in the Orthodox Church and why is the fast perscribed vegan and not simply vegetarian? I'm interested in the history of the developed practice but also the theology behind it. How is fasting supposed to spiritually aid us and is it seen a penitential or preparatory or something completely separate to those two concepts?

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/homilies.aspx

"...fasting is the renewal of the soul, for the Apostle says insofar as the body weakens and withers from the podvig (ascetic labor) of fasting, then so much is the soul renewed day by day and is made beauteous and shines in the beauty which God originally bestowed upon it. And when it is purified and adorned with fasting and repentance, then God loves it and will live in it as the Lord has said: "I and the Father will come and make Our abode with him" (John 14.23). Thus if there is such value and grace in fasting that it makes us into habitations of God, then ought we to greet it with great rejoicing and gladness, and not despond because of the meagerness of the food, knowing that when our Lord Jesus Christ blessed the five loaves in the wilderness He fed five thousand people with bread and water. He could, if He so desired, command all sorts of manifestations to appear; but He gave us an example of restraint, so that we might be concerned only for that which is necessary."
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Offline Fr. George

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2009, 11:13:44 PM »
Why is there such an emphasis on fasting in the Orthodox Church and why is the fast perscribed vegan and not simply vegetarian? I'm interested in the history of the developed practice but also the theology behind it. How is fasting supposed to spiritually aid us and is it seen a penitential or preparatory or something completely separate to those two concepts?

There are lots of reasons why we fast, some simple, some complex, but each one aiding us in a different way.

1. Christ fasted, and told us it was beneficial to our souls and to our works on Earth.
2. Fasting takes us back to the pre-fall state (i.e. helping one another - which is an integral part of fasting - and not eating animals or animal products, but the "fruits of the Earth" only).
3. Fasting is an act of control over our desires - something that sets humans apart from the rest of the Animals (like how we don't act violently every time we want to, or don't act sexually every time our body tells us to, etc.).
4. Fasting is a way of diverting food and goods to those who need them (almsgiving and support of the hungry are integral parts of true fasting).

There are other reasons as well, but I thought these would be a good start.
"O Cross of Christ, all-holy, thrice-blessed, and life-giving, instrument of the mystical rites of Zion, the holy Altar for the service of our Great Archpriest, the blessing - the weapon - the strength of priests, our pride, our consolation, the light in our hearts, our mind, and our steps"
Met. Meletios of Nikopolis & Preveza, from his ordination.

Offline SolEX01

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2009, 11:18:27 PM »
Why is there such an emphasis on fasting in the Orthodox Church?

I've added a tag, called "fasting", which appears at the bottom of this thread.  Click on the "fasting" link to see a slew of threads devoted to fasting.  Hopefully, your questions and/or concerns have already been discussed ad nauseam in one of those threads.   ;)

Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2009, 11:25:20 PM »
Fwiw we had a thread along the same lines about a week ago that might be of some interest to you. :)
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Offline Jonny

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2009, 09:19:51 AM »
Thanks everyone. I'll check out the links provided.

Offline recent convert

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2009, 10:44:45 AM »
It is also interesting to note that Cornelius the centurion prayed and gave alms (Acts 10:4) and his fasting helped bring about the meeting with St. Peter (Acts 10:30). Cornelius was doing all that our Lord instructed in Matthew 6:1-18 as a Gentile God fearer.
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2009, 12:00:37 PM »
Why is there such an emphasis on fasting in the Orthodox Church and why is the fast perscribed vegan and not simply vegetarian? I'm interested in the history of the developed practice but also the theology behind it. How is fasting supposed to spiritually aid us and is it seen a penitential or preparatory or something completely separate to those two concepts?

My parish priest, Fr. Chris, says that "we fast so that we could learn how to love." Fast is about self-restraint and self-denial, and so is love. The "immediate gratification" of my own desires, wishes, goals etc. is often something opposite to love; I really love when I put my needs and desires and goals and plans "on the back burner," and instead fully concentrate on the needs of the persons whom I love. Fasts teach us the "technique" of this "putting MY ... (whatever) on the back burner."
Love never fails.

Offline EofK

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2009, 12:16:34 PM »
Why is there such an emphasis on fasting in the Orthodox Church and why is the fast perscribed vegan and not simply vegetarian? I'm interested in the history of the developed practice but also the theology behind it. How is fasting supposed to spiritually aid us and is it seen a penitential or preparatory or something completely separate to those two concepts?

My parish priest, Fr. Chris, says that "we fast so that we could learn how to love." Fast is about self-restraint and self-denial, and so is love. The "immediate gratification" of my own desires, wishes, goals etc. is often something opposite to love; I really love when I put my needs and desires and goals and plans "on the back burner," and instead fully concentrate on the needs of the persons whom I love. Fasts teach us the "technique" of this "putting MY ... (whatever) on the back burner."

That is very interesting, thank you for the insight.  I've not thought of fasting in that light before.
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. -- Douglas Adams

Offline Heorhij

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2009, 01:33:18 PM »
Why is there such an emphasis on fasting in the Orthodox Church and why is the fast perscribed vegan and not simply vegetarian? I'm interested in the history of the developed practice but also the theology behind it. How is fasting supposed to spiritually aid us and is it seen a penitential or preparatory or something completely separate to those two concepts?

My parish priest, Fr. Chris, says that "we fast so that we could learn how to love." Fast is about self-restraint and self-denial, and so is love. The "immediate gratification" of my own desires, wishes, goals etc. is often something opposite to love; I really love when I put my needs and desires and goals and plans "on the back burner," and instead fully concentrate on the needs of the persons whom I love. Fasts teach us the "technique" of this "putting MY ... (whatever) on the back burner."

That is very interesting, thank you for the insight.  I've not thought of fasting in that light before.

Oh, I was just re-telling my priest's (our own Fr. Chris's) sermon. :)
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Offline EofK

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2009, 02:36:34 PM »
And thank you for doing so!  :) 
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. -- Douglas Adams

Offline Jonny

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2009, 09:35:11 PM »
It seems to me then that there are various reasons to fast. To remember humanity before the fall, to do as Christ commanded, to control our desires and to bring us closer to Christ. But primarily what is coming through is that fasting is a way of cutting out our own little addictions and wants from life and making a space. A space that might be uncomfortable to create but one that will be filled by the grace, peace and love of God. In short the aim of fasting is not to fulfill a specific obligation but more a tool to bring us closer to Christ and to draw us ever onwards to unity with the Divine.

Would this be a correct summery or have I missed something?

Offline c38

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2009, 11:10:20 PM »
A discussion on fasting is not complete until a few words are mentioned on the wrong ways of fasting. Fasting is NOT atonement for sin. Children have developing bodies and care should be taken when involving youngsters. There is a dangerous life-threatening condition called anorexia nervosa, and these afflicted individuals should not be armed with additional excuses for avoiding treatment and recovery.

There are a number of passages found in the letters of St Paul that are critical of asceticism in general, and seem to suggest that it is a false virtue. In fact, this is the main reason Paul makes the final cut. If we were left with just the 4 canonical Gospels, we would not know what to make of them, and Christianity would really be a free-for-all – “Jesus fasted for 40 days; hey, let me see if I can go 80”.

Adam and Eve ate until their stomachs were full, and they did not eat a single morsel more. They had sex until they were satisfied, and then they just went on with the rest of their day. Unlike our bodies, their bodies were balanced, and their appetites controlled and kept within healthy limits. The primary result of original sin is a separation from God. And consequently, people find themselves in a continual state of need, and trying to compensate for this loss by overeating or seeking out sexual thrills, and all the other sins. Fasting is first about regaining some control over the body, and thus allowing us a chance to develop spiritually.

Hope this helps
« Last Edit: January 06, 2009, 11:32:31 PM by c38 »

Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2009, 10:59:21 AM »
Quote
They had sex until they were satisfied, and then they just went on with the rest of their day.

I can see the Church Fathers turning over in their graves. ;)
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2009, 11:20:10 AM »
Quote
They had sex until they were satisfied, and then they just went on with the rest of their day.

I can see the Church Fathers turning over in their graves. ;)

Indeed.  ::) At least St. John Chrysostomos in his Homilies on the Book of Genesis spend quite an effort to promote the idea that there was no sex in Paradise at all. This terrible thing developed only after the Fall, when our ancestors were expelled from the Garden of Eden.  :P
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2009, 11:22:52 AM »
It seems to me then that there are various reasons to fast. To remember humanity before the fall, to do as Christ commanded, to control our desires and to bring us closer to Christ. But primarily what is coming through is that fasting is a way of cutting out our own little addictions and wants from life and making a space. A space that might be uncomfortable to create but one that will be filled by the grace, peace and love of God. In short the aim of fasting is not to fulfill a specific obligation but more a tool to bring us closer to Christ and to draw us ever onwards to unity with the Divine.

Would this be a correct summery or have I missed something?

If you ask me, yes, quite correct.
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Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2009, 11:24:25 AM »
Quote
At least St. John Chrysostomos in his Homilies on the Book of Genesis spend quite an effort to promote the idea that there was no sex in Paradise at all.

I said it half jokingly, but that's true. St. John of Damascus also took up the same position, seeing "be fruitful and multiply" in a spiritual sense.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 11:24:57 AM by Asteriktos »
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2009, 11:35:11 AM »
Quote
At least St. John Chrysostomos in his Homilies on the Book of Genesis spend quite an effort to promote the idea that there was no sex in Paradise at all.

I said it half jokingly, but that's true. St. John of Damascus also took up the same position, seeing "be fruitful and multiply" in a spiritual sense.

Yes. That's part of the reason why I am generally very cautious when people talk about what the "literal" Adam and Eve did, what and how they ate and drank, whether they could fly (and how far), etc. :)
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Offline Didymus

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2009, 11:41:07 AM »
Peace be with you.

Some fine replies in here. Please remember that Christ said "when ye fast..." not "if ye fast..." according to St. Matthew's Gospel.

In short, one must fast to obey Christ. If one never fasts then one is directly disobeying Christ.

The Pharisees used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. Except our righteousness exceed theirs, how shall we enter Paradise?
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Offline prodromas

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2009, 11:41:23 AM »
Quote from: Heorhij
Yes. That's part of the reason why I am generally very cautious when people talk about what the "literal" Adam and Eve did, what and how they ate and drank, whether they could fly (and how far), etc. :)

George the bolded part for some reason made me laugh really hard :D
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 11:41:42 AM by prodromas »
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Offline c38

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #20 on: January 07, 2009, 12:04:16 PM »
I don't know if I'm talking about a literal Adam and Eve or symbolic, or even about sex and eating. The point is that separation from God leaves us prone to all kinds of excesses. We are constantly trying to compensate for this loss. You don't see this?  ???

Offline Heorhij

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #21 on: January 07, 2009, 12:45:56 PM »
I don't know if I'm talking about a literal Adam and Eve or symbolic, or even about sex and eating. The point is that separation from God leaves us prone to all kinds of excesses. We are constantly trying to compensate for this loss. You don't see this?  ???

Yes. Forgive me if my irony offended you. It's just that sometimes people talk about what Adam and Eve did as if they, these "commentators," really were present in the Garden of Eden. On one Ukrainian forum, there once was a woman who tried to convince the audience that Adam could take a deep breath and dive in the Pacific Ocean and swim under water all the way to the other side. :)

On a more serious note, of course, you are right - we are creatures prone to all kinds of excesses, unhealthy passions.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 12:46:26 PM by Heorhij »
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Offline c38

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #22 on: January 07, 2009, 12:55:57 PM »
 :laugh:
no offense taken

But there is a sense in which you could say "we were there". This is getting off the topic, but somehow the Bible is saying something about us. Why else would we be interested?
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 01:04:20 PM by c38 »

Offline Fr. George

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #23 on: January 07, 2009, 01:13:06 PM »
A discussion on fasting is not complete until a few words are mentioned on the wrong ways of fasting. Fasting is NOT atonement for sin. Children have developing bodies and care should be taken when involving youngsters. There is a dangerous life-threatening condition called anorexia nervosa, and these afflicted individuals should not be armed with additional excuses for avoiding treatment and recovery.

This is why fasting is done with guidance, not on one's own.

There are a number of passages found in the letters of St Paul that are critical of asceticism in general, and seem to suggest that it is a false virtue. In fact, this is the main reason Paul makes the final cut. If we were left with just the 4 canonical Gospels, we would not know what to make of them, and Christianity would really be a free-for-all – “Jesus fasted for 40 days; hey, let me see if I can go 80”.

Eh, critical of false asceticism.  Christ lived an ascetic's life, but within reason.  If we were left with "just the 4 canonical Gospels," we would still have the Church to tell us how they've been interpreted throughout the generations, from the beginning until now.

Adam and Eve ate until their stomachs were full, and they did not eat a single morsel more. They had sex until they were satisfied, and then they just went on with the rest of their day.

Literally or figuratively, you've climbed out on quite a limb here.

Unlike our bodies, their bodies were balanced,

Their bodies were exactly like ours, save that they didn't have belly buttons.  You hit the point more in your following phrase when you talk about "appetites" - that's the key difference.

We've got to be careful when we speculate about the life of the First Humans - we don't have much of a description of their lives, and certainly not of their daily routines. 
"O Cross of Christ, all-holy, thrice-blessed, and life-giving, instrument of the mystical rites of Zion, the holy Altar for the service of our Great Archpriest, the blessing - the weapon - the strength of priests, our pride, our consolation, the light in our hearts, our mind, and our steps"
Met. Meletios of Nikopolis & Preveza, from his ordination.

Offline c38

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2009, 02:59:53 PM »
cleveland

Sure, what i wrote is full of inaccuracies and speculation, but does he get it now? Does he have some idea of why we fast?

Offline Jonny

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #25 on: January 07, 2009, 03:42:42 PM »
I do now have a good idea of why Orthodox fast. Thank you all.

Offline asri

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re: why fast
« Reply #26 on: March 09, 2010, 07:32:51 PM »
fasting as per term denotes a quick although in a slow method one could achieve a cleansed body

as meaning one could become or achieve respect of substanciation hence allowing a virtue of respect

further more while one is in method of sacrifice one could allow other as for in place of meal

as per then a quiet gift is a near silent gift as without allowing others notice

----------------------------------------------------------------
olive oil lemon juice cyan pepper honor
« Last Edit: March 09, 2010, 07:37:08 PM by asri »

Offline augustin717

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #27 on: March 09, 2010, 07:34:11 PM »
 ::) ??? ::) :-\ ??? ::)

Offline pensateomnia

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Re: re: why fast
« Reply #28 on: March 10, 2010, 07:10:02 PM »
fasting as per term denotes a quick although in a slow method one could achieve a cleansed body

as meaning one could become or achieve respect of substanciation hence allowing a virtue of respect

further more while one is in method of sacrifice one could allow other as for in place of meal

as per then a quiet gift is a near silent gift as without allowing others notice

----------------------------------------------------------------
olive oil lemon juice cyan pepper honor

Truly awesome. As far as I'm concerned, the post of the month. Reminds me of when I used to read a lot of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry.
But for I am a man not textueel I wol noght telle of textes neuer a deel. (Chaucer, The Manciple's Tale, 1.131)

Offline zoarthegleaner

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #29 on: March 11, 2010, 04:11:00 PM »
"Christ lived an ascetic's life, but within reason."

Whose reason? 

"We've got to be careful when we speculate about the life of the First Humans - we don't have much of a description of their lives, and certainly not of their daily routines."

Well, if they ate the forbidden fruit on their first day, that pretty much established the daily routine for the rest of their life and our too, no?

What is excessive?  Wasn't St. Mary of Egypt excessive?  And what about St. Symeon the Stylite, wasn't that excessive?  What about St. John the Faster who never washed his feet which bothered many people, was he excessive?  And when St. Anthony went to live in a grave, wasn't that excessive.  And when St. Xenia of St. Petersburg gave everything away including her house, wasn't that excessive. 

just pondering...

john
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Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: why fast?
« Reply #30 on: March 11, 2010, 04:16:35 PM »
Well, if they ate the forbidden fruit on their first day, that pretty much established the daily routine for the rest of their life and our too, no?
On the first day?  Where do you get that from the Genesis narrative?
« Last Edit: March 11, 2010, 04:16:54 PM by PeterTheAleut »
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