General articles on fasting
After prayer, the Holy Fathers attach a particular
importance to fasting. They understand the soul and body as one entity and treat
them as such in all of their manifestations. The soul has a life-giving, as well
as a ‘death-giving’ influence on the body and vice versa.
There is no fulfillment of the human character unless
all the components of the soul (intellect, will and emotion) and of the body,
act together. This is impossible to achieve without fasting, both physically and
Fasting does not mean that we are merely to abstain
from certain foods. In the first place it implies a renunciation of evil
thoughts, desires and actions.
Physical fasting is certainly an important means of
successful combat against sin, especially the sin of pride, which is the
“mother of all sins.”
The body which sins together with the soul should
also share virtue with the soul.
Real fasting is above all abstention from every type
of greed, lust and frivolousness. The Holy Fathers say that, unless we fast
spiritually, God will not accept our physical fast. Fasting has a primarily
spiritual meaning and is intrinsically linked to our whole spiritual life. Real
fasting helps a person achieve inner peace and tranquility. It is when he
achieves this peace that one learns that his salvation lies only in God’s
hands, in His all-mercifulness.
The founder of Christian asceticism, our Savior Jesus
Christ, strengthened Himself with a lengthy fast before setting out to work on
the salvation of the human race. All ascetics also used fasting as a means of
helping them embark on the journey of the Cross to serve the Lord. By fasting,
we do not intend to destroy our bodies, but rather to destroy our passions.
Fasting teaches us to eat smaller quantities of food
rather than simply to eat more infrequently. It is unreasonable to wait until
a certain moment of the day, then rush to the table and insatiably devour
enormous quantities of food, fasting or not. We should avoid being choosy and
satisfying our palates. Foods should be simple, not spicy and exotic.
Food should be taken on a regular basis and in such
quantities that the body can draw benefit from it to be our ally in virtue and
good works. Other wise it may happen that the soul also loses its strength
when the body weakens.
Holy Orthodox Church has established four fasts during the year: Great Lent (7
weeks before Pascha), the Apostles’ Fast, the Fast of the Dormition and the
Nativity Fast. There are also fasting days during the year – every Wednesday
and Friday (except during Bright Week and the week after Nativity) and on
certain feastdays: the day before Theophany, the Beheading of John the Baptist
and on the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross.
this page we would like to present a guideline for fasting, as prescribed by
the Orthodox Church. Sources from the Serbian Orthodox Church have been used.
fasts are stricter than others. Great Lent is the strictest Fast, together
with the Fast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. During these two fasts, oil
is allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays and on certain feasts. For example,
on the Feast of the Holy Martyrs of Sevastopole, oil and wine are allowed. On
Palm Sunday, fish, oil and wine are permitted, as well as on the joyous feast
of the Annunciation, unless it falls during the last week of Lent – Passion
Week. During the Dormition fast, fish is allowed only on the feast of the
Transfiguration of our Lord.
Apostles’ and Nativity fasts are more relaxed. Oil is allowed on Tuesdays,
Thursdays and weekends, whereas Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are no-oil
days. There are certain feasts during which fish and wine are also allowed:
the Presentation of the Theotokos, the feast of St Nicholas etc.
are certain days during which we abstain from food completely, or eat only
bread and water. This is usually done on Holy Friday and on the first three
days of Great Lent.
are the basic guidelines, but every Christian should always consult his or her
priest or spiritual father before the beginning of a fast. Not everyone can
take upon himself the strict rule of abstention, especially the very young,
the very old, the sick, pregnant and lactating women and those who engage in
hard physical labor.