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Author Topic: What are the OFFICIAL rules of fasting in the eastern orthodox church?  (Read 1360 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: June 29, 2011, 10:15:32 AM »

Mainly, I wanted to know: Do you fast from water? I heard somewhere that you are supposed to eat one meal in the evening. Does this mean you don't drink water until evening? Also, is it true that shellfish is always allowed?

I am only interested in hearing about the EOC, not the OOC.
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2011, 10:19:35 AM »

Why do you assume there is only one, official way to fast?

Which kind of fast--Eucharistic, seasonal, or daily? Which jurisdiction? Under which authority/spiritual father? There is no singular EO way of doing anything.
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2011, 10:38:13 AM »

Always rely on your spiritual father, when you are unsure, then you can't go wrong.
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2011, 10:53:26 AM »

Why do you assume there is only one, official way to fast?

Which kind of fast--Eucharistic, seasonal, or daily? Which jurisdiction? Under which authority/spiritual father? There is no singular EO way of doing anything.

I don't mean Eucharistic fasting. I mean fasting for Lent and/or Wednesday's Fridays etc.

I don't think this idea "discuss with your spiritual father" is orthodox. I think it is liberal Protestant. I think the Orthodox tradition was that the church would make certain guidelines (In the Coptic and Ethiopian Church, for example, food and water are forbidden until 3PM during Lent except on weekends) and you are required to follow it unless you have permission from your spiritual father. But I don't think we should need permission to fast, (unless of course your spiritual father has forbidden it, then you must not fast in obedience to him).
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« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2011, 10:56:59 AM »

I understand the rules may vary by region. Just tell me the rules of a particular jurisdiction (eg russion or greek).
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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2011, 11:26:26 AM »

Why do you assume there is only one, official way to fast?

Which kind of fast--Eucharistic, seasonal, or daily? Which jurisdiction? Under which authority/spiritual father? There is no singular EO way of doing anything.

I don't mean Eucharistic fasting. I mean fasting for Lent and/or Wednesday's Fridays etc.

I don't think this idea "discuss with your spiritual father" is orthodox. I think it is liberal Protestant. I think the Orthodox tradition was that the church would make certain guidelines (In the Coptic and Ethiopian Church, for example, food and water are forbidden until 3PM during Lent except on weekends) and you are required to follow it unless you have permission from your spiritual father. But I don't think we should need permission to fast, (unless of course your spiritual father has forbidden it, then you must not fast in obedience to him).

I don't think the strict fast, according to the canons, is kept anymore today. Commonly, in the Easter Rite, there is abstinence from meat and dairy, etc., and some fasting--as in eating less. Not eating or drinking until the ninth hour is rare, and would not apply to most since many have to work and have other conditions that make this difficult to do on a daily basis.
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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2011, 11:30:10 AM »

A bishop I know said that fasting is primarily a "tool" not a "rule." There are guidelines to help us get the most benefit from fasting. Fasting is not a goal in itself but a way to train ourselves. His advice was to do whatever you did the last time and a little bit more.
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« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2011, 11:34:31 AM »

In the OCA during lent we always fasted from meat, dairy, and oil during great lent.

But it does vary by region. 

Many people give up more than just particular food items for lent.
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« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2011, 12:31:44 PM »

Why do you assume there is only one, official way to fast?

Which kind of fast--Eucharistic, seasonal, or daily? Which jurisdiction? Under which authority/spiritual father? There is no singular EO way of doing anything.

I don't mean Eucharistic fasting. I mean fasting for Lent and/or Wednesday's Fridays etc.

I don't think this idea "discuss with your spiritual father" is orthodox. I think it is liberal Protestant. I think the Orthodox tradition was that the church would make certain guidelines (In the Coptic and Ethiopian Church, for example, food and water are forbidden until 3PM during Lent except on weekends) and you are required to follow it unless you have permission from your spiritual father. But I don't think we should need permission to fast, (unless of course your spiritual father has forbidden it, then you must not fast in obedience to him).

I don't think the strict fast, according to the canons, is kept anymore today. Commonly, in the Easter Rite, there is abstinence from meat and dairy, etc., and some fasting--as in eating less. Not eating or drinking until the ninth hour is rare, and would not apply to most since many have to work and have other conditions that make this difficult to do on a daily basis.


But I have read online a few sites saying that only one meal per day is to be eaten on certain fasting days. (Even the Catholic Church has this rule). My question is, if I am eating one meal per day should I be restricting my water. I don't care what people do. I want to know what the church tradition/canon is. Also what were the EARLY CHURCH canons?
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2011, 12:47:41 PM »

Why do you assume there is only one, official way to fast?

Which kind of fast--Eucharistic, seasonal, or daily? Which jurisdiction? Under which authority/spiritual father? There is no singular EO way of doing anything.

I don't mean Eucharistic fasting. I mean fasting for Lent and/or Wednesday's Fridays etc.

I don't think this idea "discuss with your spiritual father" is orthodox. I think it is liberal Protestant. I think the Orthodox tradition was that the church would make certain guidelines (In the Coptic and Ethiopian Church, for example, food and water are forbidden until 3PM during Lent except on weekends) and you are required to follow it unless you have permission from your spiritual father. But I don't think we should need permission to fast, (unless of course your spiritual father has forbidden it, then you must not fast in obedience to him).

I don't think the strict fast, according to the canons, is kept anymore today. Commonly, in the Easter Rite, there is abstinence from meat and dairy, etc., and some fasting--as in eating less. Not eating or drinking until the ninth hour is rare, and would not apply to most since many have to work and have other conditions that make this difficult to do on a daily basis.


But I have read online a few sites saying that only one meal per day is to be eaten on certain fasting days. (Even the Catholic Church has this rule). My question is, if I am eating one meal per day should I be restricting my water. I don't care what people do. I want to know what the church tradition/canon is. Also what were the EARLY CHURCH canons?

Why do you want to know?
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2011, 12:59:38 PM »

If you're looking for something "official", you might try this page. You may find similar guidelines on the websites of other jurisdictions. They will not be consistent (though accidents do happen  Cheesy). Pay careful attention to the sentence on the page I suggested: "All fasting in the parish is done under the supervision of the Pastor."
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« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2011, 01:12:53 PM »

I don't think this idea "discuss with your spiritual father" is orthodox. I think it is liberal Protestant.

Having the guidance of a spiritual father, and being obedient to him, is very Orthodox.  Doing everything on your own, as you personally see fit, is liberal Protestant.

I think the EO's would agree with this.
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« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2011, 01:15:11 PM »


But I have read online a few sites saying that only one meal per day is to be eaten on certain fasting days. (Even the Catholic Church has this rule). My question is, if I am eating one meal per day should I be restricting my water. I don't care what people do. I want to know what the church tradition/canon is. Also what were the EARLY CHURCH canons?

If you are looking to the EO's to give you a stricter fasting rule than you have in the Coptic Church, I'm not sure you will be successful.  In my experience, the EO's are strict in their fasting, but the Copts and Ethiopians are stricter.
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« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2011, 01:23:27 PM »

Why do you assume there is only one, official way to fast?

Which kind of fast--Eucharistic, seasonal, or daily? Which jurisdiction? Under which authority/spiritual father? There is no singular EO way of doing anything.

I don't mean Eucharistic fasting. I mean fasting for Lent and/or Wednesday's Fridays etc.

I don't think this idea "discuss with your spiritual father" is orthodox. I think it is liberal Protestant. I think the Orthodox tradition was that the church would make certain guidelines (In the Coptic and Ethiopian Church, for example, food and water are forbidden until 3PM during Lent except on weekends) and you are required to follow it unless you have permission from your spiritual father. But I don't think we should need permission to fast, (unless of course your spiritual father has forbidden it, then you must not fast in obedience to him).

I don't think the strict fast, according to the canons, is kept anymore today. Commonly, in the Easter Rite, there is abstinence from meat and dairy, etc., and some fasting--as in eating less. Not eating or drinking until the ninth hour is rare, and would not apply to most since many have to work and have other conditions that make this difficult to do on a daily basis.


But I have read online a few sites saying that only one meal per day is to be eaten on certain fasting days. (Even the Catholic Church has this rule). My question is, if I am eating one meal per day should I be restricting my water. I don't care what people do. I want to know what the church tradition/canon is. Also what were the EARLY CHURCH canons?

The Church tradition is...ask your spiritual father. What works for one person may lead another the wrong direction when it comes to fasting. As an example, in monasteries, from what I've seen, the novices will eat a small breakfast on the days where they generally only have one meal. And while the spiritual father may give a very spiritually mature monk a strict rule, he'll give a spiritually younger monk a much more lax rule. I don't believe there is a "one size fits all" in the Church.

The problem with looking at canons, especially with something like this, as hard rules is that it misses the point. They are guidelines, meant to help us, but they are also meant to be tailored to each person's spiritual needs and abilities. That's the spiritual father's job.
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« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2011, 01:27:33 PM »

I don't think this idea "discuss with your spiritual father" is orthodox. I think it is liberal Protestant. I think the Orthodox tradition was that the church would make certain guidelines (In the Coptic and Ethiopian Church, for example, food and water are forbidden until 3PM during Lent except on weekends) and you are required to follow it unless you have permission from your spiritual father. But I don't think we should need permission to fast, (unless of course your spiritual father has forbidden it, then you must not fast in obedience to him).
Lol wut?

Do you know why there are so many Protestant churches all over the U.S.? It's because some guy didn't agree with the pastor, he had a few people backing him, and they ran off to create their own churches. I know this by experience.

I do agree that you shouldn't necessarily have to ask your priest to fast, but it's always beneficial to seek guidance. Everyone on this board fasts differently, and I'm sure that priests fast differently, too. You're not going to get one answer.
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« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2011, 01:40:03 PM »

St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, in his interpretation of the 64th canon of the Holy Apostles, says the following:

Quote
Fasting is one thing, and leaving off fasting is another thing, and abolishing fasting is still another thing. Thus, fasting, properly speaking, is complete abstinence from food of all kinds, or even when one eats but once a day, about the ninth hour, dry food, or, more explicitly speaking, plain bread and water alone. Leaving off fasting is when one eats before the ninth hour, even though it be merely figs, or merely currants or raisins, or anything else of this kind; or if, besides bread and water, he should eat also some kinds of frugal and cheap comestibles, such as, for instance, legumes, wine, olive oil, or shellfish. Abolishing fasting, on the other hand, is when one eats of all foodstuff’s, including meat, say, and fish, and milk, and cheese, and the rest.

At the link below, Met Kallistos (Ware) describes the common Lenten Fast kept by local Orthodox churches throughout the world:

http://aocm-portmatilda.org/fasting.html

St. Gregory Palamas, in one of his Lenten homilies, speaks of the fast of one meal a day, taken in the evening, as being standard for the laity of his day, and that this rule was easy enough that all should be able to follow this practice unless prohibited by poor health.  If someone claimed to not be able to keep the fast due to poor health, however, he insisted that such a person be sent to a pious physician to verify this claim and would not simply take a person’s word for it.  In principle, the fast of one meal per day, taken after the ninth hour (3pm), should be followed by all Orthodox.  In practice, most probably only abstain from certain foods on fast days (meat and dairy) and probably do not limit quantity.  If “most” or “many” don’t do what is proper, however, that is of little consequence before God.  We will all have to answer for our own obedience or lack thereof, and what the majority does or does not do will be of little help at the Judgment.

In the Orthodox Church, fasting is inseparable from prayer and participation in the Holy Mysteries.  When and how to fast correctly in the Orthodox Church is extremely difficult to memorize, since some fast periods allow fish and/or wine and oil on certain days, some days are strict fast days when no food should be taken, some weeks there is no fasting, etc.  For this reason, the best guide for fasting is the liturgical calendar.  If one is not fasting liturgically, following the liturgical life of the Church and participating in its mysteries, such a fast can hardly be called Orthodox or Christian. 

Regarding water, this is rarely restricted even in the most ascetical monasteries and sketes.

Concerning the role of the spiritual father, fasting must be linked with obedience or else it can lead to pride and demonic delusion.  As the Fathers remind us constantly, the demons fast perfectly and yet this does not make them holy.  Fasting under obedience links fasting with humility and as such may be pleasing to God.  Anyone can abstain from food, and such abstinence does not necessarily profit the soul if it is not linked with humility, obedience, the Mysteries of the Church, prayer, and the giving of alms.  If a person is weak, a spiritual father may allow a person to relax their fast in order that they not fall into despair, with the hope that the person will grow in strength over time.  With those who think they are strong, a spiritual father may relax the fast if a person seems to be becoming proud of “his accomplishment”.  If a person is keeping the eating regulations perfectly, and yet is critical of others, judgmental, or indulging in carnal sins, then something is terribly wrong.  A spiritual father is essential for helping a person apply the tools of the Church properly for the healing of the soul. 
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« Reply #16 on: June 29, 2011, 01:45:37 PM »

If you try to fast without proper guidance from a spiritual father, it will lead you to become either arrogant and Pharisaical, or perhaps to a greater fall, if you don't have the strength to maintain the rule you've chosen for yourself. Look at what those in your church are doing. If they aren't following the canons to the letter, ask your spiritual father what you should do. He might tell you to follow the canonical rules, or he might tell you to follow a different rule. Whatever he says, do it.

Obviously, it is good if you have the strength to subdue your passions to the extent of taking no food or drink until the ninth hour, as the Church officially teaches. But it is no good if doing so makes you think you're better than those who do not keep this rule. We don't have the ability to keep any of God's laws, were it not for His strength supporting us.

As my spiritual father once told me, obedience is greater than asceticism. Remember the story about St Simeon the Stylite. Some brothers were envious of his ascetic feats and told him that the Church authorities wished him to come down from his pillar immediately. Of course, at once he started to climb down. The brothers then repented and told him it was only a test, so he returned to the top.

Thanks @jah777 for the quotation.
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« Reply #17 on: June 29, 2011, 02:13:57 PM »

And of course, there's St. John Chrysostom on fasting:

Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user. He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good. So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail
Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.
In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.
Let the mouth fast from disgraceful and abusive words, because, what gain is there when, on the one hand we avoid eating chicken and fish and, on the other, we chew-up and consume our brothers? He who condemns and blasphemes is as if he has eaten brotherly meat, as if he has bitten into the flesh of his fellow man. It is because of this that Paul frightened us, saying: "If you chew up and consume one another be careful that you do not annihilate yourselves."
You did not thrust your teeth into the flesh (of your neighbor) but you thrusted bad talk in his soul; you wounded it by spreading disfame, causing unestimatable damage both to yourself, to him, and to many others
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/ChrysostomFasting.php
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« Reply #18 on: June 29, 2011, 04:35:41 PM »

Living an Orthodox Life: Fasting

http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/pr_fasting.aspx
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