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Fasting in the Orthodox Church

(The canons use fasting and abstinence synonymously)

The fasting rules of the Orthodox Church either in ancient times or in the modern era have never been in exact uniformity. The following regulations for fasting have been taken from the canons and interpretations found in The Rudder (Pedalion), which contain the sacred canons of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

It should be noted that these rules should be relaxed in case of the elderly or those in poor health. In modern day practice the full strictness of the fast is usually followed in Monastic communities and not required for those living in everyday life. On weekdays except during the first week of Great lent or holy week it is now common to eat two cooked meals instead of one. From the second to the sixth week many Orthodox will use wine and oil on Tuesday and Thursday and sometimes on Mondays as well. They will often eat fish in these weeks. Personal factors are to be taken into account, for example the situation of Orthodox living in the same home as non-orthodox or those who must eat meals in restaurants, business cafeterias or school lunchrooms.

The rules of fasting are to be taken seriously but they are not to be interpreted with rigid legalism. When deciding on the level of fasting the following verses from the New Testament should be considered.

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the Law but under grace. (Rom. 6: 14)

Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but the Spirit for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3: 6)

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14: 17)

DAYS OF FASTING

Eve of Nativity December 24

Eve of Theophany January 5

Beheading of John the Baptist August 29

Exaltation of the Cross September 14

All Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year with the exception of the fast free weeks and days.

Fast Free Periods

The week that follows the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

Cheese Fare Week - all foods are eaten except meat

Bright Week

Pentecost Week

Nativity Season December 25 to January 4

Dec 24, Jan 5, Aug 29, Sept 14, all Wed, & Fri.

Abstinence From.........Meat, Dairy Products, Fish, Olive oil, Alcoholic Beverages

No Abstinence From................Shellfish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts

On days of fast both the amount of food eaten and the number of times a day are regulated. No food should be eaten between meals and at meals smaller portions of food should be eaten. For some it is customary to eat only one meal a day.

SEASONS OF FASTING

Great Lent…………………………………………….…….Cheese-fare Sunday to Pascha

Nativity Fast (Advent)……………………………………. November 15 to December 24

Sts. Peter & Paul Fast………………………………….…….All Saints Sunday to June 28

Dormition Fast………………………………………..……………August 1 to August 14

Great Lent: Cheese-fare to Pascha

Abstinence From…………………Meat, Dairy Products, Fish, Olive Oil, Alcoholic Beverages

No Abstinence From…………………..…………….Shellfish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts

On days of fast both the amount of food eaten and the number of times a day are regulated. No food should be eaten between meals and at meals smaller portions of food should be eaten. For some it is customary to eat only one meal a day.

Annunciation March 25 & Palm Sunday

No Abstinence From…...... Fish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts, Olive oil, Alcoholic Beverages

Saturday and Sunday during Great Lent

Abstinence From……………………………………………………Meat, Dairy Products, Fish

No Abstinence From..... Shellfish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts, Olive oil, Alcoholic Beverages

On Saturdays and Sundays the quantity and number of meals is not restricted.

Nativity Fast: November 15 to December 24

St. Peter and Paul Fast: All Saints to June 28th

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Abstinence From……………………………..………………………….. Meat, Dairy Products

No Abstinence From……. Fish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts, Olive oil, Alcoholic Beverages

Wednesday and Friday

Abstinence From……………….….Meat, Dairy Products, Fish, Olive oil, Alcoholic Beverages

No Abstinence From………………….………………..Shellfish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts

During the Nativity fast from Dec 13 to 24 the fast becomes stricter with oil and alcoholic beverages permitted only on Saturday and Sunday and fish removed on any day.

Dormition Fast: August 1 to 14

Monday through Friday

Abstinence From……………….….Meat, Dairy Products, Fish, Olive oil, Alcoholic Beverages

No Abstinence From………………….………………..Shellfish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts

Saturday and Sunday

No Abstinence From……. Fish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts, Olive oil, Alcoholic Beverages

On days of fast both the amount of food eaten and the number of times a day are regulated. No food should be eaten between meals and at meals smaller portions of food should be eaten. For some it is customary to eat only one meal a day.

Transfiguration, August 6

No Abstinence From……. Fish, Vegetables, Bread, Fruit, Nuts, Olive oil, Alcoholic Beverages

Recommendations: by Archpriest Andrew Harrison

For those who are new to fasting or because of everyday lifestyle, strictness is at your discretion. As your spiritual father, I recommend the following:

During the regular times of the year abstain from meat on Wednesday and Friday. You may add dairy products on Friday. (Wednesday commemorates Christ betrayal, Friday his crucification)

Great Lent

Abstain from meat during the entire 40 days. On Wednesday and Friday you may add Dairy Products.

Nativity, St. Peter and Paul, Dormition,

Abstain from meat on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.