Author Topic: Lenten Fasting  (Read 4280 times)

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Offline Shlomlokh

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Lenten Fasting
« on: February 25, 2009, 12:52:59 PM »
Glory to Jesus Christ!

Greetings to everyone. I'm sort of in what you might call a "pre-catechumen" stage. I will be returning home for spring break (which will be a week) whereupon I will be made a catechumen, God willing, at the mission in my town. I am at a Catholic university in Florida where I am trying to not be completely open about my conversion to Orthodoxy, but if someone were to ask me, I would tell them that I'm becoming an Orthodox Christian. Even though I probably won't be received into the Orthodox Church for another 18-24 months, I still want to participate in the full life of the Church, sans partaking of the Mysteries.

I am not entirely clear on what constitutes the Lenten Fast. From what I understand, this week is the Meat fast, and then next week is no more dairy with Lent starting on Monday? And does one fast from everything but water from midnight to noon on Monday through Friday during Lent? What of Saturday and Sunday? What is one allowed to eat then? I guess I'm fuzzy on what is permitted and at which times. I know there is no fasting on Sunday and feast days, yet I don't know what's permitted. Any help would be extremely appreciated! Also, please keep this sinner in your prayers as he prepares to become a catechumen.

In Christ,
Andrew
"I will pour out my prayer unto the Lord, and to Him will I proclaim my grief; for with evils my soul is filled, and my life unto hades hath drawn nigh, and like Jonah I will pray: From corruption raise me up, O God." -Ode VI, Irmos of the Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos

Offline HandmaidenofGod

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2009, 01:32:16 PM »
Glory to Jesus Christ!

Greetings to everyone. I'm sort of in what you might call a "pre-catechumen" stage. I will be returning home for spring break (which will be a week) whereupon I will be made a catechumen, God willing, at the mission in my town. I am at a Catholic university in Florida where I am trying to not be completely open about my conversion to Orthodoxy, but if someone were to ask me, I would tell them that I'm becoming an Orthodox Christian. Even though I probably won't be received into the Orthodox Church for another 18-24 months, I still want to participate in the full life of the Church, sans partaking of the Mysteries.

I am not entirely clear on what constitutes the Lenten Fast. From what I understand, this week is the Meat fast, and then next week is no more dairy with Lent starting on Monday? And does one fast from everything but water from midnight to noon on Monday through Friday during Lent? What of Saturday and Sunday? What is one allowed to eat then? I guess I'm fuzzy on what is permitted and at which times. I know there is no fasting on Sunday and feast days, yet I don't know what's permitted. Any help would be extremely appreciated! Also, please keep this sinner in your prayers as he prepares to become a catechumen.

In Christ,
Andrew

Glory Forever!

Thank you for your post, you pose a lot of excellent questions. Before I respond in detail I would like to provide the following disclaimer, as it cannot be said enough:

ALWAYS SPEAK TO YOUR SPIRITUAL FATHER BEFORE BEGINNING ANY FASTING PRACTICE!

As you are new to the Orthodox faith, your SF may not recommend that you fast at this time since you will be unable to receive the Eucharist to provide you strength. He may suggest a modified fast instead.

Now that we got that out of the way,  ;) let me share with you what my priest recently taught us about Orthodox fasting. There are five levels of fasting. Here are the five levels:

1) No Fast. As there are times of feasting and fasting during the year, even when we are not fasting and can eat anything we like, it is still considered a "fast."

2) No Meat. During this time all forms of dairy, eggs, fish, oil, and wine are permitted. We practice this two weeks before Great Lent as a way to "ease" into the great fast we are about to embark on.

3) No cheese/dairy. During this time, fish, oil, and wine are permitted. We practice this on feasts that occur during fasts. An example of this would be the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25. It's a way of commemerating the feast without fully breaking the fast.

4) No fish. During this time, oil and wine are permitted. This is practiced every Saturday during Great Lent as a way to give us a bit of a reprive during the fast. The only Saturday this is not practiced, and a strict fast is enforced, is Holy Saturday.

5) Strict fast. During this time meat, all forms of dairy, fish, eggs, oil, wine, are forbidden. Meals should be small and simple in nature involving little preparation.

Now you asked about when we should eat, how often, etc. I have heard varying practices regarding this. Some only eat two small, simple meals a day, others fast until evening and eat one meal a day. You should ask your Spiritual Father what he wants you to do, as he will take into account any medical requirements you may have, where you are on your spiritual journey, and what extenuating circumstances you may have in your life.

Although the above are general guidelines prescribed by the Church, our Spiritual Father prescribes different rules for each of us, so one should never judge another by what he/she is or is not eating.

I hope this helps.

In XC,

Maureen
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jer 29:11

Offline Heorhij

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2009, 02:05:14 PM »
^^One small addition to the great and thorough answer of Maureen: if you have iron-deficient anemia (IDA) (or another form of anemia which may be iron-deficient), do not abstain from meat, because that can greatly aggravate your condition. IDA is amazingly prevalent in the USA (4 to 6% of the population are affected), and it can lead to irreversible damage if not treated. Meat, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, is a very important source of dietary iron.
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Offline Shlomlokh

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2009, 02:08:35 PM »
Glory to Jesus Christ!

Greetings to everyone. I'm sort of in what you might call a "pre-catechumen" stage. I will be returning home for spring break (which will be a week) whereupon I will be made a catechumen, God willing, at the mission in my town. I am at a Catholic university in Florida where I am trying to not be completely open about my conversion to Orthodoxy, but if someone were to ask me, I would tell them that I'm becoming an Orthodox Christian. Even though I probably won't be received into the Orthodox Church for another 18-24 months, I still want to participate in the full life of the Church, sans partaking of the Mysteries.

I am not entirely clear on what constitutes the Lenten Fast. From what I understand, this week is the Meat fast, and then next week is no more dairy with Lent starting on Monday? And does one fast from everything but water from midnight to noon on Monday through Friday during Lent? What of Saturday and Sunday? What is one allowed to eat then? I guess I'm fuzzy on what is permitted and at which times. I know there is no fasting on Sunday and feast days, yet I don't know what's permitted. Any help would be extremely appreciated! Also, please keep this sinner in your prayers as he prepares to become a catechumen.

In Christ,
Andrew

Glory Forever!

Thank you for your post, you pose a lot of excellent questions. Before I respond in detail I would like to provide the following disclaimer, as it cannot be said enough:

ALWAYS SPEAK TO YOUR SPIRITUAL FATHER BEFORE BEGINNING ANY FASTING PRACTICE!

As you are new to the Orthodox faith, your SF may not recommend that you fast at this time since you will be unable to receive the Eucharist to provide you strength. He may suggest a modified fast instead.

Now that we got that out of the way,  ;) let me share with you what my priest recently taught us about Orthodox fasting. There are five levels of fasting. Here are the five levels:

1) No Fast. As there are times of feasting and fasting during the year, even when we are not fasting and can eat anything we like, it is still considered a "fast."

2) No Meat. During this time all forms of dairy, eggs, fish, oil, and wine are permitted. We practice this two weeks before Great Lent as a way to "ease" into the great fast we are about to embark on.

3) No cheese/dairy. During this time, fish, oil, and wine are permitted. We practice this on feasts that occur during fasts. An example of this would be the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25. It's a way of commemerating the feast without fully breaking the fast.

4) No fish. During this time, oil and wine are permitted. This is practiced every Saturday during Great Lent as a way to give us a bit of a reprive during the fast. The only Saturday this is not practiced, and a strict fast is enforced, is Holy Saturday.

5) Strict fast. During this time meat, all forms of dairy, fish, eggs, oil, wine, are forbidden. Meals should be small and simple in nature involving little preparation.

Now you asked about when we should eat, how often, etc. I have heard varying practices regarding this. Some only eat two small, simple meals a day, others fast until evening and eat one meal a day. You should ask your Spiritual Father what he wants you to do, as he will take into account any medical requirements you may have, where you are on your spiritual journey, and what extenuating circumstances you may have in your life.

Although the above are general guidelines prescribed by the Church, our Spiritual Father prescribes different rules for each of us, so one should never judge another by what he/she is or is not eating.

I hope this helps.

In XC,

Maureen

Thank you for you post Maureen. It helps a lot. I don't really have a Spiritual Father yet, but the priest at the mission I go to when I'm at home recommended I follow the fast as best I can given what they serve in the cafeteria at my school. There are usually plenty of options so I should not have too much of a problem trying to maintain it while getting some energy. But, I should talk to him to see if he recommends a less strict fast. Thanks again!

In Christ,
Andrew
"I will pour out my prayer unto the Lord, and to Him will I proclaim my grief; for with evils my soul is filled, and my life unto hades hath drawn nigh, and like Jonah I will pray: From corruption raise me up, O God." -Ode VI, Irmos of the Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos

Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2009, 04:23:19 PM »
Maybe fasting isn't wise for the uninitiated who cannot yet receive Communion, but I would think there's nothing to hold you back from committing yourself to prayer and the works of mercy described in Matthew 25.  If anything, these two activities are probably more important than fasting itself.
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Offline HandmaidenofGod

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2009, 05:31:42 PM »
Thank you for you post Maureen. It helps a lot. I don't really have a Spiritual Father yet, but the priest at the mission I go to when I'm at home recommended I follow the fast as best I can given what they serve in the cafeteria at my school. There are usually plenty of options so I should not have too much of a problem trying to maintain it while getting some energy. But, I should talk to him to see if he recommends a less strict fast. Thanks again!

In Christ,
Andrew

The strength I speak of that comes from food is not the strength that we receive from the Eucharist. During Great Lent, we are severely attacked by temptation, demons, and just downright crankiness. The devil works very hard to divide us during this time. This is why the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified gifts is so important to us. It sustains us during this time, allowing us to receive the Holy Eucharist up to three times a week. (Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.)

As you are unable to partake of the Eucharist at this time, my concern is not that you will be unable to physically endure the fast (after all, there are plenty of vegetarians and vegans in this world who get along just fine) but that it will be spiritually difficult for you at this time.

Continue to speak with your priest, and do as he says. He knows you better than I, and can guide you accordingly.

In XC,

Maureen
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jer 29:11

Offline Shlomlokh

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2009, 01:00:06 PM »
Thanks to all who responded. I have another question. The abstinence from meat and dairy is throughout all of Lent, NOT excluding Sundays, correct? For some reason there is this notion in the Roman Catholic Church that when one gives up something for Lent, one is allowed to have it on Sunday because Sundays are not a part of Lent. Is this a tradition at all in the Orthodox Church? I was curious if it was and if it applied to the meat/dairy abstinence. Thanks again!

In Christ,
Andrew
"I will pour out my prayer unto the Lord, and to Him will I proclaim my grief; for with evils my soul is filled, and my life unto hades hath drawn nigh, and like Jonah I will pray: From corruption raise me up, O God." -Ode VI, Irmos of the Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos

Offline Fr. George

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2009, 01:41:49 PM »
Thanks to all who responded. I have another question. The abstinence from meat and dairy is throughout all of Lent, NOT excluding Sundays, correct? For some reason there is this notion in the Roman Catholic Church that when one gives up something for Lent, one is allowed to have it on Sunday because Sundays are not a part of Lent. Is this a tradition at all in the Orthodox Church? I was curious if it was and if it applied to the meat/dairy abstinence. Thanks again!

In Christ,
Andrew

Abstinence from meat and dairy are continued on Saturdays and Sundays; only wine and oil restrictions are relaxed on the 5 Lenten weekends.  They are most certainly a time of Lent, although not "fasting" per se - one is not allowed to strictly fast (i.e. no eating, or only one meal) on Saturdays and Sundays; they're not "Lenten" in that they still have Resurrectional themes and colors associated; there is no restriction on celebrating Divine Liturgy on these days, etc.  So they both "are" and "are not" Lenten.
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2009, 04:48:10 PM »
1) Don't, under any circumstances, read labels.

2) Think of fasting not as a means of accruig merit.  Think of it as a emptying kenosis: just like Christ emptied Himself of His divinity, so that we might obtain it, so to empty yourself of food so that the hungary might eat.

It is a means to an end, to show the body who is boss, and to show God how serious we are to repent (our priest pointed out how the Ninevites fasted although Jonah had not told the to do so.  In fact, he didn't even tell them to repent.  They just knew to fast to show how serious their repenteance was).  It's odd how the circumstances and purposes of not eating can be.  It's just been a week, and already I am having problems with resisting.  When I was on a hunger strike in jail, I went for weeks without eating, and yet didn't hungary at all.

We also don't go to the movies, listen to the radio, sit on the couch in front of the tube, etc.  Focus.  But remember, there is a purpose.  One Lent, my son had seen that I had taped the Batman episode (he loved the old Batman at the time), but that he would have to wait two weeks, till he was with me on the weekend (I relaxed the no TV rule on the weekends).  He got very angry and went off on how unfair that was, and it wasn't his fault he had to go by his mother's etc. etc.  What was getting him real angry was that he couldn't get the zipper of his pocket open: for some reason, he started tugging at it to open it when we started talking about Lent.  When I opened it for him, he put his hand in, pull it out and slammed it down on the table: a lot of change and a few dollar bills.  "Here," he said "I forgot about this."  "What is it?" I asked.  "It's for the poor people": he had brought money he had saved to put in our collection box for Lent. I figured that he gotten the right idea of what Lent was about, and although he didn't suggest it or expect it, I told him he would watch his video (which he declined).

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Offline Veniamin

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2009, 05:07:32 PM »
1) Don't, under any circumstances, read labels.

I've actually gotten completely different guidance from my previous priest.  According to him, Vladyka's rule for labels was that you stop reading after seven ingredients or the first chemical.  The reasoning is that when you're that far down the list, stuff's in such minute amounts that you're just being legalistic, since ingredients are listed by amount contained.  That's probably a more useful rule if you eat a lot of processed stuff; if you actually cook, no need since you can control what goes into the meal.
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2009, 09:05:40 AM »
1) Don't, under any circumstances, read labels.

I've actually gotten completely different guidance from my previous priest.  According to him, Vladyka's rule for labels was that you stop reading after seven ingredients or the first chemical.  The reasoning is that when you're that far down the list, stuff's in such minute amounts that you're just being legalistic, since ingredients are listed by amount contained.  That's probably a more useful rule if you eat a lot of processed stuff; if you actually cook, no need since you can control what goes into the meal.

I should add, read the label that says "Vegetable soup" or "Beef stew": take the former, eshew the latter.


Myself I have experience reading labels for the simple fact that when entertaining Muslims I have to make sure that there is no "pig" in the food, for their conscience's sake.

I don't think your advice is completely different: I venture that if someone tested it, I dare say our shopping carts would end up with the same things. (for instance, neither of us would take a can of "pork 'n beans," though looking at the stuff, I'd be suprised if pork appeared among the first six ingredients or before the first chemical.)
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Offline Veniamin

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2009, 10:37:48 AM »
I suppose that rule for labels is aimed at those who refuse to use the rule of common sense. :P
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Offline Shlomlokh

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2009, 10:24:31 PM »
Thanks again to everyone who contributed. When I talked to my priest about a week and a half ago, he told me to keep the fast as best I could, given what is served in the cafeteria and whatnot. I have not spoken to him recently, but I will see him on Sunday when I fly home.

I also had another question (sorry I'm so full of them :P) that relates to what am I to do in situations when I am at a non-Orthodox Christian's house for meals. I ask because I will be at my aunt's house on Friday, and I wouldn't want to burden her by asking her to find specific foods to eat, yet I still want to keep the fast as best I can, too. I told my parents about the fast (Methodists) and they were surprisingly supportive and wanted to get foods that I could eat. :o But what does one do in this situation? I had heard at the monastery (Holy Cross Hermitage in WV) I visited in early January they were talking about fasting and that if someone offers you something in love that isn't part of the fast, then you should accept it. Is this the correct understanding? Anyone with advice, feel free to speak up! Thanks again!

Andrew
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Offline SakranMM

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2009, 10:37:55 PM »
Andrew:

Yes, by all means - if you go to someone's house (and they aren't Orthodox or don't know you're fasting), and they offer you a steak on a Friday during Lent, eat it out of love, and be humble about it.  Just keep the fast in other ways that day; maybe pray more or something, I dunno - ask your priest for specific advice, but I think this is the most widely accepted general rule.

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Offline Alveus Lacuna

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2009, 02:19:40 AM »
Yes, my only advice is when you are a guest for a meal, NEVER turn away food, as it is a gift!  That doesn't mean you have to gorge yourself, but simply remember that the most important thing is to keep your fast secret.  If you trouble people who are entertaining you they might think that you are bragging.  Of course, if you are going to be a your parents' house for a while then for practical purposes you would need to tell them.  Anyway, best of luck to you!

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Re: Lenten Fasting
« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2009, 03:37:25 AM »
Saint John Chrysostom ::  On Fasting

Highly Recommended.  Words from a Church Father from the 4th century of use to us today.

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/ChrysostomFasting.php