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Author Topic: Fasting in Eastern Orthodoxy  (Read 2144 times) Average Rating: 0
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Alveus Lacuna
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« on: October 07, 2009, 12:45:56 AM »

Why is it that fasting in Eastern Orthodoxy is more about fasting from particular types of food rather than from food altogether? 

How do the fasting practices differ in the other ancient Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Church of the East)?

It really just doesn't make sense to me.  Why isn't there more consistency with traditional Jewish fasting practices, which if I remember correctly requires abstaining from all foods from sunrise to sunset?

Is the Orthodox standard to not eat at all during the day on fast days, and then when eating before dawn or after dusk to follow the proscribed dietary restrictions in small portions?  This would seem to make more sense to me, but any help on this would be appreciated.
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2009, 12:50:06 AM »

LOL have you tried fasting? It's hard enough as it is.
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2009, 01:13:04 AM »

IIRC, the Church actually does ask that we not eat anything before sundown on the strictest fast days (i.e., Clean Week, esp. Clean Monday, Holy Friday, Holy Saturday, etc.).
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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2009, 09:27:03 AM »

Why is it that fasting in Eastern Orthodoxy is more about fasting from particular types of food rather than from food altogether? 

How do the fasting practices differ in the other ancient Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Church of the East)?

It really just doesn't make sense to me.  Why isn't there more consistency with traditional Jewish fasting practices, which if I remember correctly requires abstaining from all foods from sunrise to sunset?

Is the Orthodox standard to not eat at all during the day on fast days, and then when eating before dawn or after dusk to follow the proscribed dietary restrictions in small portions?  This would seem to make more sense to me, but any help on this would be appreciated.

Just a guess, but it might have something to do with Orthodox fasting not being about "giving up something" but rather about training ourselves.
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2009, 09:56:34 AM »

Just a random musing -

I have seen mention of a limitation on the amount of food (or number of times per day meals are taken) in addition to the types of food that one should abstain from eating.

But I wonder if the lack of absolutely fasting from this hour until that hour (like those restrictions imposed during Ramadan) are because the focus and purpose of fasting in Orthodoxy is not a legalistic adherence to rules but rather on the internal growth in piety.  I like this quote from the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America:

Quote
The primary aim of fasting is to make us conscious of our dependence upon God. If practiced seriously, the Lenten abstinence from food - particularly in the opening days - involves a considerable measure of real hunger, and also a feeling of tiredness and physical exhaustion. The purpose of this is to lead us in turn to a sense of inward brokenness and contrition; to bring us, that is, to the point where we appreciate the full force of Christ's statement, 'Without Me you can do nothing' (John 15: 5). If we always take our fill of food and drink, we easily grow over-confident in our own abilities, acquiring a false sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. The observance of a physical fast undermines this sinful complacency. Stripping from us the specious assurance of the Pharisee - who fasted, it is true, but not in the right spirit - Lenten abstinence gives us the saving self dissatisfaction of the Publican (Luke I 8: 10-1 3). Such is the function of the hunger and the tiredness: to make us 'poor in spirit', aware of our helplessness and of our dependence on God's aid.

Taken from the article The Meaning of the Great Fast: The True Nature of Fasting.

But of course, I'm not Orthodox (nor yet close to it), so I may well be off base and reading this wrong. 
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2009, 12:43:42 PM »

Why is it that fasting in Eastern Orthodoxy is more about fasting from particular types of food rather than from food altogether? 

How do the fasting practices differ in the other ancient Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Church of the East)?

It really just doesn't make sense to me.  Why isn't there more consistency with traditional Jewish fasting practices, which if I remember correctly requires abstaining from all foods from sunrise to sunset?

Is the Orthodox standard to not eat at all during the day on fast days, and then when eating before dawn or after dusk to follow the proscribed dietary restrictions in small portions?  This would seem to make more sense to me, but any help on this would be appreciated.

In the Coptic Church it is customary on fasting days to refrain from eating anything until after the Liturgy for that day (in your Church). That's about 11:00 AM in my Church. We follow the same rules for type of food as the EO.
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2009, 12:46:02 PM »

Why is it that fasting in Eastern Orthodoxy is more about fasting from particular types of food rather than from food altogether? 


Abstaining from all food and drink would be impossible with the Church's current practice, since we fast for almost half the year.

It really just doesn't make sense to me.  Why isn't there more consistency with traditional Jewish fasting practices, which if I remember correctly requires abstaining from all foods from sunrise to sunset?

At the time of Christ, there were many different fasting traditions within Judaism. By the end of the first century, Christians in some areas were fasting on Wednesday and Fridays -- specifically to break with the Jewish practices (cf. Didache 8 ). Most early Christians wanted to make sure they were unlike the Jews.

Is the Orthodox standard to not eat at all during the day on fast days, and then when eating before dawn or after dusk to follow the proscribed dietary restrictions in small portions?  This would seem to make more sense to me, but any help on this would be appreciated.

Just as there were many Jewish practices, there were many Christian practices before the First Ecumenical Council. However, we follow the standards laid forth by the Fathers at the First Ecumenical Council. That means we eat breads, vegetables and fruits in moderation. Moderation is the key -- not rules about timing one's eating around the setting or rising of the sun.

For a brief history, here's part of an entry on Lent from the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Second Edition. Ed.  Everett Ferguson. Garland, 1998.
       
Quote
The tradition of the fast is an early one, but originally neither the duration nor the strictness of the fasting was definite. It seems that earliest Christians kept complete fasting, that is, complete abstention from food, for two days or forty hours, the time from the crucifixion to the resurrection, during which Christ was under the power of death (Irenaeus in Eusebius, H.E. 5.24.12). Voluntary fasting beyond this limit was called superpositio. The Easter fast was extended to one week sometime in the early third century (Dionysius of Alexandria, Ep. Bas. [PL 10.1278]). It was further extended to forty days (Greek tessarakostē, Latin quadragesima) sometime between 300 and 325, as the fifth canon of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325) refers to it as an established practice. Augustine (Ep. 55.28) and Jerome (In Isa. 58), both of the early fifth century, claim that the extension to forty days was introduced for the first time into the practice of the church during the persecutions of Galerius, Maximinus Daia, and Licinius (306-323) in accordance with the example of Moses (Exod. 34:28), Elijah (1 Kings 19:18), and Christ (Matt. 4:2). The Council of Laodicea, Canon 50 (ca. 365), expressly commanded its observance. The extension of fasting for forty days possibly had its origin in monastic communities. During the second part of the third century, there were ascetics who kept the forty-day fast before Easter. In the east, fasting was observed for seven weeks excluding Saturdays and Sundays; in the west, it was observed for six weeks excluding only Sundays, or actually for thirty-six days. To compensate for the four missing days, the western church in the seventh century moved the beginning of the fast to Ash Wednesday.

Observance of fasting, although not always uniform, meant abstention from flesh, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Epiphanius of Salamis (d. 403) and the Apostolic Constitutions 5.18 mandate the eating of bread, salt, water, and boiled vegetables only. Some Christians had only one light meal toward the end of the day. Fasting rules relaxed after the ninth century. The eastern church retains both the duration and the strictness of fasting of the early centuries. The fast was a period of penitence and spiritual preparation for the baptized Christians and a period of instruction for the catechumens, as the Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) indicate.
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« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2009, 04:00:53 PM »

The church historian Socrates Scholasticus talks about the different customs of fasting already back in the fourth century. Even today, when the Church generally follows the same rules everywhere, there are many local variations. The calendar that my church puts out is different in many respects from the calendar put out by the Russian church I used to attend. For instance, during the Apostles' Fast we are permitted fish every day but Wednesday and Friday; other places say fish is only permitted on Saturdays and Sundays. On the other hand, we do not eat oil on Wednesday and Friday during the Pentecostarion, but other churches say it is permitted; we are permitted cheese and eggs on the Wednesday before Ascension, others say it is forbidden and only fish is allowed. Many individuals in my church only fast from oil during the first week of Lent and Holy Week, while others keep the strict fast throughout the forty days. Socrates explains the great variation in his day as the result of no apostolic directives on the manner of fasting; the principle was rather that each Christian should fast according to his own strength.

It is true that you can find sources that appear to lay down a more uniform practice. St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain says not only that the Fathers forbid oil and wine on Wednesday and Friday and during Great Lent, but also that on those days we are to abstain from all food and drink until the ninth hour, and then only eat dry foods. But how many keep it this strictly, except perhaps on Great Friday or the Exaltation? What may have been the norm in St Nicodemus' time is not necessarily how we should do things now. The right way to fast is to obey the instructions of your spiritual father, and not to exceed what he lays down for you without his blessing, and finally not to pay any attention to how others fast or to talk unnecessarily about your own fasting.
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« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2009, 09:03:26 PM »

I've known some Orthodox who won't eat meat on a Saturday because they are taking communion on a Sunday. Is that just a custom?

Also I noticed somebody said the Jews just adhere to the Law. No I think there is a danger for anybody in fasting and other rules becoming thus, but the true purpose is connection with God. In fasting or obeying whatever aspect of the law you should be thinking of Him.
Just MHO.
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« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2009, 10:17:47 PM »

I've known some Orthodox who won't eat meat on a Saturday because they are taking communion on a Sunday. Is that just a custom?

Traditionally, the rule in the Greek Church is to always fast one day before Communion, unless one has abstained from Communion for a long time, then it is three days.  This practice, however, is not found in the Russian Church. 
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2009, 02:13:03 AM »

REPLY TO REPLY #9

It is not a "rule in the Greek Church" to fast on Saturday if you plan on receiving Holy Communion on Sunday.  That is a practice from the villages of Greece and is nowhere taught by the Church, either in the past or today.  Fasting is on most Wednesday's and Friday's and other days prescribed by the church as denoted on Church Calendars.

Fasting on Sat. comes from the Kolivades (sp) Movement in Greece from the 19th century, wherein, while they were preaching receipt of Holy Communion at every Divine Liturgy, for those who had trouble going to Communion after having not gone other than 4 times annually, if that, they were told to fast for 3 days before Sunday.  They were told to do this once, to reconnect with the church's tradition of receipt every Sunday.
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2009, 10:13:29 AM »

I've known some Orthodox who won't eat meat on a Saturday because they are taking communion on a Sunday. Is that just a custom?

Traditionally, the rule in the Greek Church is to always fast one day before Communion, unless one has abstained from Communion for a long time, then it is three days.  This practice, however, is not found in the Russian Church. 

Yes I also heard that a distinction was made between those who communed frequently and those who did so rarely, although my own spiritual father from the start told me the rule was three days without oil, except you can have oil on Saturday and Sunday. Fr Steven Allen from St Spyridon's in Detroit says that if you neglect the prescribed fasts it is eight days. But really the rule is whatever your spiritual father tells you it is, whether it is abstaining from meat for one day, or eating dry foods for a week. That being said, my impression is that the tradition has always been to abstain from something in preparation for Communion. Not requiring any preparation at all seems to me characteristic of innovating jurisdictions.
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2009, 11:50:49 AM »

I'm sure the fasting schedule of the monks on Mt. Athos would be dramatically stricter than what we encounter as laypeople. If you are willing to step it up a notch, i'm sure they could come up with a diabolical fasting regime for ya! laugh
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« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2009, 12:07:41 PM »

Quote
Traditionally, the rule in the Greek Church is to always fast one day before Communion, unless one has abstained from Communion for a long time, then it is three days.  This practice, however, is not found in the Russian Church. 

What is the fasting practice for priests in TOC's?

Gregory
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« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2009, 12:10:18 PM »

The only canonical guideline for fasting for Communion preparation, is the complete fast from midnight of the morning prior to the Liturgy.  Other fasting guides come from the writings of the Church Fathers, which the church has absorbed into our tradition.  As noted above, monastic fast rules are far more aggressive, but the current day practice, is not innovative.
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« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2010, 02:01:28 PM »

When fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, are we "technically" supposed to fast from the conclusion of Vespers on Tuesday evening to the conclusion of Vespers on Wednesday evening, and then the same on Friday? This just occurred to me because I am trying to do the weekly fasting (to some extent), and I was trying to figure out whether or not dinner should be a fast night on Tuesday and Thursday night meals or Wednesday and Friday night meals.

I know we are not meant to get wrapped up in technicalities and legalism, but rather the spirit of fasting, but I still would like to know the technical standard on this.
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« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2010, 02:07:59 PM »

When fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, are we "technically" supposed to fast from the conclusion of Vespers on Tuesday evening to the conclusion of Vespers on Wednesday evening, and then the same on Friday? This just occurred to me because I am trying to do the weekly fasting (to some extent), and I was trying to figure out whether or not dinner should be a fast night on Tuesday and Thursday night meals or Wednesday and Friday night meals.

I know we are not meant to get wrapped up in technicalities and legalism, but rather the spirit of fasting, but I still would like to know the technical standard on this.

In monasteries the world over, the fast is observed on the day itself (not the Liturgical day).
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« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2010, 02:14:40 PM »

When fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, are we "technically" supposed to fast from the conclusion of Vespers on Tuesday evening to the conclusion of Vespers on Wednesday evening, and then the same on Friday? This just occurred to me because I am trying to do the weekly fasting (to some extent), and I was trying to figure out whether or not dinner should be a fast night on Tuesday and Thursday night meals or Wednesday and Friday night meals.

I know we are not meant to get wrapped up in technicalities and legalism, but rather the spirit of fasting, but I still would like to know the technical standard on this.

In monasteries the world over, the fast is observed on the day itself (not the Liturgical day).
Which essentially means from the time you arise from sleep in the morning to the time you go back to sleep at night.
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