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Andrew Crook
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« on: May 21, 2011, 12:19:17 AM »

Hi everyone,

I hope I put this in the right board.  I've been intending to follow the fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, but I always find some excuse to give up on doing it.  I wonder what's going on?  I usually don't do it perfectly, or someone ends up offering me free food.. and I'm just not really used to fasting in general.  I never realized that it does take a certain amount of effort, and making yourself discontent.. to go about this whole thing.  Yet our society watches TV filled with commercials trying to get you to buy something, and listens to music which is always about some subject which isn't suitable for the whole family. 

So I'm not very good with this whole fasting stuff, and yet I was never really brought up in the Orthodox faith either.  I know if my family did the fasting, it would be easier for me.. but alas, it was God's will that I should not be a cradle Orthodox.  I'm sure this is probably related to one of the seven deadly sins..

Any ideas on getting me on the right track..?
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2011, 12:36:43 AM »

I would talk to your priest, he will probably be able to help you get started more than anyone else.
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« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2011, 09:57:03 AM »

Yeah I will, my priest's last day is this Sunday.  Then we will get a new priest, and I suppose I should give him a week or 2 to settle in..
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« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2011, 11:57:41 AM »

For the last three years I've fasted for the 40 days of lent (One small meal a day, not before 5 p.m.). This past year, the third one, was the first time I did the whole thing successfully and made it through all of lent without breaking my rules. I would say just keep at it, you get better with practice. Don't get too down on yourself if you fail.
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« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2011, 01:33:59 PM »

My priest always instructs us to do the best that we can.  I sometimes forget the Wednesday and Friday fasts too.  I have only been Orthodox for a little over a year.  This last Lent I made it without meat of any kind from Meatfare Sunday to Pascha, but I did eat some dairy occasionally.  That is better than I did last year while stile a catachumen.  Father tells us to do our best, and to try to do even better next year, so I would advise to just keep trying.  Wanting to fast is the first step in the process.
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« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2011, 04:55:34 PM »

i don't know if it's the same in the eastern orthodox churches, but in the oriental orthodox, we don't fast for the 50 days after Pascha. which means we start the wednesday and friday fasts again from 13th june, when the apostle's fast starts.
i was received into the church during saint mary's fast, but in that time, i was just refraining from meat and still eating dairy products.
so it's important to do what you can and build up gradually. my priest was equally good at reassuring me i didn't need to live like a desert father and at checking i was actually fasting once i had been orthodox for a while. i usually check things with him once a month or so (technically it's called 'confession', but it feels like a chat with dad. quite a strict dad, but a very caring one).

interestingly before i became orthodox, for several lents, i decided to fast from swearing (usually at work, saying 'this is a load of ****'). i never managed more than a few days, but the more i tried, the more success i had, and the longer i was able to keep off bad language after the end of the fast. so it's something that takes time and patience.

if you live with other people, start gradually and build up. make lovely vegan borscht for them or falafel and salad and fry them an egg or two to go with it while you go egg-free. maybe start by fasting only the wednesdays and fridays in the apostles' fast, and then the next time there is a fasting season (eg. saint mary's fast) then fast all the weekdays, and so on...

remember to add to your fast prayers. otherwise it's like apple pie without the apple. there is no point in fasting without praying, and growing in God's love for people and being generous.
all orthodox churches have some kind of prayer book, don't worry, very few people manage half an hour of prayer 7 times a day! it's just an ideal, but it is important to pray on getting up and going to bed. find the prayer book for your church, and meditate on the psalms, worship God in His holiness and ask His help for problems that you and other people have.

keep it up, and pray for me too, a sinner.
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2011, 06:42:31 PM »

Judging by the calendar from the Greek Archdiocese that I have, there are most certainly fasting days shortly after Pascha, though it seems that most of - not all but most - of the Wednesdays and Fridays have only a partial fast (allowing wine and oil).
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« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2011, 09:19:20 AM »

oh, i see.
could you tell me more about which days are fasting?
i have some eastern orthodox friends, i don't want to offer them the wrong food in fasting days.
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Andrew Crook
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« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2011, 10:27:36 AM »

Mabsoota,

  There is a free calendar at http://www.goarch.org/  Click on the "Calendar of Saints" for each month.  As long as your EO friends use the New Calendar, they should be fine as that's what the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese uses.
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« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2011, 01:11:50 PM »

Get with your godparents /sponsors to see how they fast and get recipes---this is one of their obligations as your sponsor---to demonstrate the daily practice of Orthodoxy.

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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2011, 05:13:36 PM »

hi, aveChriste11,
i looked at may's calendar but didn't see anything about fasting days.
i am interested to know when the EO fasting days are (esp. the ones between Pascha and pentecost).
did i miss it?
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« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2011, 05:26:26 PM »

It is all too easy to make excuses with excuses in sin, this I know very well myself. But, ask for God's help, and in the name of the Lord, try again with a sincere heart. If you don't cook, you can find some meatless soy-based products to start with like Boca burgers and salad. The point is to concentrate more on God and less on food. I know it might seem that we spend more time thinking about what we're going to eat on fasting days, but if we examined ourselves, we might find that we enjoy our non-fasting food far too much to want to give it up. The Lord sacrificed Himself for us, so we try to sacrifice our own will for to do His will. Fasting is our practice for this, not an end in itself. We fast from foods so that we might better learn how to fast from sin. It is definitely hard work. Just as for the Lord, for those who claim to be His disciples, the path to the bright eternal Pascha lies only through Golgotha.
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« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2011, 05:30:54 PM »

hi, aveChriste11,
i looked at may's calendar but didn't see anything about fasting days.
i am interested to know when the EO fasting days are (esp. the ones between Pascha and pentecost).
did i miss it?

In general, the Eastern Orthodox continue the Wednesday and Friday fasts after Bright Week. Some Antiochians do not, with the blessing of the Holy Synod for the return to an earlier practice. This is controversial with some. The day before Ascension, a Wednesday, is, IIRC, a strict fast day. I could be wrong. Then there is a Wed./Fri. fast up until Pentecost. No fasting during the week of Pentecost. The normal Wed./Fri. fast resumes after All Saints Day, the Sunday after Pentecost. At this time, the Apostles Fast also begins, on that Monday, and runs until June 29, whatever calendar one is on.
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« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2011, 05:10:31 AM »

v interesting, thanks. we begin the apostles' fast the day after pentecost till july 12th (we are old calendar at the moment).
i think overall our fasting is equally as strict as yours, just there are a few days when we fast and you don't and the other way round.
you guys eat more shellfish and we get more oil.
which suits me as i'm allergic to shellfish!
 Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2011, 12:05:14 PM »

v interesting, thanks. we begin the apostles' fast the day after pentecost till july 12th (we are old calendar at the moment).
i think overall our fasting is equally as strict as yours, just there are a few days when we fast and you don't and the other way round.
you guys eat more shellfish and we get more oil.
which suits me as i'm allergic to shellfish!
 Smiley
Doesn't some of your fasting include not eating anything until after noon?
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« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2011, 12:10:03 PM »

v interesting, thanks. we begin the apostles' fast the day after pentecost till july 12th (we are old calendar at the moment).
i think overall our fasting is equally as strict as yours, just there are a few days when we fast and you don't and the other way round.
you guys eat more shellfish and we get more oil.
which suits me as i'm allergic to shellfish!
 Smiley
Doesn't some of your fasting include not eating anything until after noon?

Technically, some of ours does too, according the canons, fasting until the 9th hour and then a small meal abstaining from meat and dairy and such.
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« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2011, 05:04:36 AM »

nicholas myra,
yes, on fasting days that allow fish, we should fast till around 12 and on strict fasting days (vegan) fasting should be till 3pm or sunset (if the person can mange it). in practice a lot of people don't mange this because of having to be very alert at work (HGV driver, nurse, manual labourer etc).
we discuss it with our priest and each person receives personal guidance.
nearly everyone fasts till 5pm or later on Good Friday, and a few do 24 hours with no food or water.
the really ascetic fast from midnight at the start of Good Friday till Midnight at the start of the resurrection feast.
i didn't meet anyone who did this so far, although any 'extra' fasting is supposed to be kept private to avoid pride, so it would be difficult to know. which i think is good.
our church stresses heavily avoiding pride, which was just what i needed (my problem area!)
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« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2011, 04:35:55 PM »

Does anyone else do water fasts for fast days? Before inquiring into Orthodoxy, I would sometimes practice intermittent fasting, which would consist of going one day a week without food (only water) or alternatively, having 18 hours of fast followed by a six-hour window in which to eat. Since beginning my inquiry, I have taken to occasionally doing a water fast for Wednesday/Friday rather than just abstaining from certain foods. It is not that difficult if one builds up the endurance.
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« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2011, 05:05:02 PM »

it was common among the protestants i spent most time with in my adolescence to do water-only fasts for 24 hours, or more commonly from evening (bed time) till waking more than 24 hours later. this would be done on average about once a month, in response to difficult personal situations or world situations. communal fasting was very uncommon as the secret nature of fasting was thought to exclude communal fasting (despite the fact the 'elders' in the book of acts used to fast together).

most people tried NOT to be regular with fasting, in case it ended up as a tradition.
however, very ascetic people would do it once a week, someone i knew used to do it wednesdays.
this was not thought to be related to any tradition (if he knew it was, i think he would have chosen a different day!)

from my research it seems this type of fasting is fairly common among independent protestant groups (and a few traditional protestants) in western europe. the eastern european protestants i know have only experienced 'black fasting' which is without water until evening or until the next day. it seems to be quite rare. they see fasting as 'orthodox'.

so i would not expect to see many people who have practiced water fasts on this forum, we shall see, maybe i am wrong.
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« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2011, 02:22:29 AM »

Mabsoota,

The sign of the cross means it's a strict fast day, no dairy, no meat, no wine, no oil.   The sign of the grapes/olives means wine and oil are allowed.  The sign of the cheese means dairy is allowed.  The sign of the fish means fish is okay without bones for those specific days.  You might want to read the calendar for May and June in that light. 
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« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2011, 06:09:17 AM »

ah, i was expecting it to be obvious.
will try harder...
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« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2011, 12:38:03 AM »

When we fast, isn't it a guideline to try to only eat once a day?  I wonder what the view on hydrating/drinking was too..
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« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2011, 08:33:32 PM »

When we fast, isn't it a guideline to try to only eat once a day?  I wonder what the view on hydrating/drinking was too..

Fasting is about eating vegan; no dairy or meat (including poultry).  Less strict, fish can be eaten.   I eat three meals and a snack in between.  All vegan of course.  Some may be able to wait to eat until 12 pm or 6 pm, but that's not the rule.

And nothing wrong with drinking water or hydrating drinks as long as there's no dairy in it.
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« Reply #23 on: June 23, 2011, 07:28:44 PM »

When we fast, isn't it a guideline to try to only eat once a day?  I wonder what the view on hydrating/drinking was too..

Fasting is about eating vegan; no dairy or meat (including poultry).  Less strict, fish can be eaten.   I eat three meals and a snack in between.  All vegan of course.  Some may be able to wait to eat until 12 pm or 6 pm, but that's not the rule.

I have a job that requires a good deal of heavy lifting, and so even though I fast within the proscribed guidelines I make sure to eat enough so I don't run out of steam halfway through the day. I feel no guilt about this.
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« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2011, 08:07:58 PM »

When we fast, isn't it a guideline to try to only eat once a day?  I wonder what the view on hydrating/drinking was too..

Fasting is about eating vegan; no dairy or meat (including poultry).  Less strict, fish can be eaten.   I eat three meals and a snack in between.  All vegan of course.  Some may be able to wait to eat until 12 pm or 6 pm, but that's not the rule.

I have a job that requires a good deal of heavy lifting, and so even though I fast within the proscribed guidelines I make sure to eat enough so I don't run out of steam halfway through the day. I feel no guilt about this.
I'm the same way. I don't think the canons would condemn us if we eat was is necessary to keep functioning. Clearly, it would be different for different people and we can't forget that. No one size fits all (I wouldn't fit in a small anyway :p ).

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« Reply #25 on: June 23, 2011, 08:17:12 PM »

What helps me is to make small plans. "Today I'm going to have a jelly sandwich." That way I don't have time to kill (and temptation) when the next meal comes up. Also, do drink something- the goal of fasting is not to make you pass out.  Wink
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« Reply #26 on: June 24, 2011, 01:59:29 PM »

a lot of monks do fasts where they eat only once a day, but the 'easier' fasting should be done first, only progressing to 'monk-like' fasting when/if your priest feels you're ready.
the aim is to get used to ignoring your bodily desires, which greatly helps to resist sin, and to pray more and spend time repenting of your sins, which results in you being full of love from/for God and thus able to resist temptation to sin.

it is for this reason Jesus fasted 40 days and nights (i.e. no evening meal after day of fasting), to show us how fasting helps us to fight against sin. now most of us are not about to meet the devil himself pushing us hard to give up saving the world. so our fasts are lighter than a 40 fast (which would kill most humans).

which is a good thing  Wink
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« Reply #27 on: June 24, 2011, 02:33:06 PM »

I'm not sure what others have said, I didn't take the time to read everything, but to me fasting is like prayer. We can only learn how to do it by practice. The whole Christian life is constantly falling and then willing yourself back up. When you mess up, ask for forgiveness and strength and then press on. I think action, not accuracy, is the key. 
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« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2011, 03:41:54 PM »

When we fast, isn't it a guideline to try to only eat once a day?  I wonder what the view on hydrating/drinking was too..

Fasting is about eating vegan; no dairy or meat (including poultry).  Less strict, fish can be eaten.   I eat three meals and a snack in between.  All vegan of course.  Some may be able to wait to eat until 12 pm or 6 pm, but that's not the rule.

And nothing wrong with drinking water or hydrating drinks as long as there's no dairy in it.

The fasting described in the canons refers to a period of total abstinence from food and drink (usually until the afternoon - 3pm), the vegan stuff is secondary.

So you're wrong in saying that this is not the rule on days on strict fasting. However, like you said, not everyone is able to do this (ill health, physically demanding job, or whatever else it may be) and the rule is therefore not applied rigidly to everyone. You do what you can, according to your own strength and spiritual progress.
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