Fasts

FASTING AND THE FASTING CALENDAR

That we will fast is assumed by Christ in Holy Scriptures.  It is one of the necessary tools of our ascetical struggle to draw near to God.  The Church has a very organized approach to fasting, and while it can be a bit confusing at times, it gives us a rhythm of life that produces peace and joy in the Orthodox Christian.

TERMS

Fasting:  This can mean total abstinence from food and drink or simplified eating and drinking.  Note that  fasting day is calculated from midnight to midnight with regard to the fasting prescriptions.

Total Abstinence: No food or drink (except water and herbal teas, if hydration is absolutely necessary).  With the guidance of one’s spiritual director, total abstinence is traditionally observed on the first three days of Great Lent and from Great Friday until Pascha.

Eucharistic Fast:  The total abstinence at least from the previous midnight for communing at a morning Liturgy or from the partaking of a light breakfast (certainly no later than noon) until Holy Communion is received at an evening Liturgy.

The traditional fasting discipline:  refraining from eating meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, wine and oil.  Shellfish is traditionally permitted.  It is good to moderate the amount of food we consume on these days (consider eating smaller portions) and to refrain from eating between meals.  Under the advice of a Spiritual Father some people may only eat one (1) meal per day during fasting periods.  Remember that all fasting should be under the guidance of your spiritual advisor.  In certain circumstances he may relax the traditional fast at his discretion.

Katalysis:  a slight relaxation of the fasting regimen, such as the allowance of wine and oil, or fish, wine & oil.

SEASONS OF FASTING

St. Andrew of Crete, author of the Great Canon and of Mary of Egypt, our icon of repentance

The Great Fast – The traditional fasting discipline is observed during the Great Fast which lasts from Pure Monday through Great and Holy Saturday (with katalysis for wine and oil on Saturdays and Sundays [except on Great and Holy Saturday when oil is not permitted], and for fish, wine and oil on the Annunciation [March 25] and Palm Sunday).

The Dormition of the Theotokos

The Dormition Fast – The traditional fasting discipline is observed during the Dormition Fast which lasts from August 1st through 14th (with katalysis for wine and oil on Saturdays and Sundays; and for fish, wine & oil on the Transfiguration [August 6th]).

The Nativity Fast – The fast is divided into two periods.  the 1st period is November 15th through December 19th when the traditional fasting discipline is observed with katalysis for wine & oil on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for fish, wine & oil on Saturdays and Sundays.  The 2nd period is December 20th through 24th when the traditional fasting discipline is observed with katalysis for wine & oil only on Saturday and Sunday.

The Apostles Fast – The traditional fasting discipline is observed during the Dormition Fast which lasts from the Monday after All Saints Sunday through June 28th (with katalysis for wine & oil on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and fish, wine & oil on Saturdays and Sundays).

NOTE:  These are the general rules concerning fasting during the four canonically appointed fasting seasons.  You will notice that we never fast on a Saturday or a Sunday without there being katalysis for wine and oil, except on one Saturday alone — GREAT AND HOLY SATURDAY when there is katalysis for wine, but not for oil (oil implying food made more tasty by being cooked in or with oil as opposed to simple xerophagy or ‘dry eating,’ meaning raw fruits, vegetables and grains or those soaked or cooked in water).

CANONICAL FASTING DAYS

All Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year (the traditional fasting discipline being observed) except during the five canonically appointed fast-free or moderated-fast periods:

  1. from December 25th – January 4th,
  2. the week following Pharisee and Publican Sunday,
  3. the week following Meatfare or Judgment Sunday (this week being a moderated-fast since we abstain from meat but may eat other types of food on all days of the week),
  4. the week following Pascha, and
  5. the week following Pentecost.

Additionally, a katalysis for fish, wine & oil is granted for all Wednesdays and Fridays of the Pentecostarion (the period between Pascha and Pentecost).

The following three commemorations appointed in the Menaion, when the traditional fasting discipline is observed except when these commemorations coincide with a Saturday or Sunday, there being katalysis for wine and oil in those instances:  Elevation of the Cross, September 14; the Eve of Theophany, January 5; and the Beheading of the Forerunner, August 29.

PERIODS OF NO FASTING

  • from December 25th – January 4th,
  • the week following Pharisee and Publican Sunday,
  • the week following Meatfare or Judgment Sunday (this week being a moderated-fast since we abstain from meat but may eat other types of food on all days of the week),
  • the week following Pascha (Bright Week), and
  • the week following Pentecost.
  • Further, in general there is no fasting if you are pregnant, nursing a newborn or experiencing a serious illness.

KATALYSIS IN GENERAL

When a FEAST OF THE MASTER (1st class) or a FEAST OF THE MOTHER OF GOD (2nd class) coincides with a feast day, there is katalysis for fish, wine & oil.

When a COMMEMORATION OF A VIGIL OR POLYELEOS RANK (3rd class) (for example, December 6 for the Feast of St. Nicholas) coincides with a fast day, there is katalysis for wine and oil (and also for fish if it is the patronal feast of the monastery or church temple – in our parish’s case, September 26 for St. John the Theologian).