Fasting in the Greek Orthodox Church

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Fasting is an important part of the Orthodox Christian faith. Most consider fasting when we plan on taking Holy Communion or during Great Lent. There is so much more to fasting than people may realize. So, how should people approach fasting in the Greek church?

This article provides an overview on the subject of fasting in the Greek Orthodox Church. If you have any questions, you should consult with your priest for more information.

Fasting in the Bible

Jesus Christ Himself fasted regularly. As you may recall, He fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness before undergoing an onslaught of temptations from Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). Also, throughout the New Testament, Jesus told his disciples to fast as a way to achieve spiritual victories. By doing that, He established that fasting is important for all Christians.

Why is Fasting Important?

There are several reasons why fasting is important. A lot of it has to do with why the individual is fasting in the first place. In other words, its importance is tied to its meaning, and the meaning is tied to the reason for doing it. For example, fasting before Holy Communion has a much different purpose from fasting during Holy Lent.

Fasting is About Abstaining

When we think of fasting, we know that we are supposed to abstain from food and at the very least, strictly regulate what we are putting into our bodies. However, it is not only an abstention of food, but also sin while we fast. By showing that we have control over what we take into our bodies, we show that we also have the potential to take control of our sins and lead a repentant life.

Duration of Your Fasts

There are a few basic levels for fasting in the Orthodox Church.

  • Non-Fasting Days. There are some days throughout the year when fasting isn’t permitted. For example, the week after both Christmas and Easter are both fast-free.
  • Weekly fasting. The Orthodox Church has declared that Wednesdays and Fridays will be fast days each and every week except if those days fall on any days that are intended to be fast-free. Ask your priest for more information
  • Communion fast. In order to receive Holy Communion, we must fast. Communion must be the first thing to touch our mouths that day. However, exceptions can be made if eating is a medical necessity. Just consult with your priest.
  • Fasting during Lent. During this time period, Orthodox Christians should fast for the duration. However, different times during Lent have different requirements. Check with your priest for more information.
  • Other special feast days. Fasting is also required during certain feast days in the church calendar. Your priest will have more information about how to fast during these days and when they are.

How Should You Fast?

Many of our fasting conventions were developed hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. The world was a different place back then. Do those older fasting rules still apply today? The short answer is that they could still apply today, but not necessarily. For example, if someone is following a vegan diet to begin with, they would find it pretty easy to undergo an Orthodox Christian fasting ritual.

Since fasting is all about abstaining, does this make sense for them since this is how they normally eat? What about people who take medications and need to eat food in the morning? How about those who are required to follow a restricted diet for their health and can’t eat some of the foods that are allowed during a fast? Everyone is different, so the best thing to do is to talk with your priest to come up with a good approach for fasting that makes sense for your lifestyle.

As you can see, fasting is a special event in the Greek Orthodox Church and it is one of the tools of our spirituality. By fasting regularly, we are able to grow in our faith. However, each person’s fasting schedule can vary because fasting is all about abstaining, and this could change depending on the individual. The best approach is to discuss this with your priest so that you could come up with a fasting routine that makes sense.


Orthodox Wiki – Fasting

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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