Wednesday, January 17, 2007

HOW TO FAST DURING LENT

HOW TO FAST DURING LENT
By the Reverend Father Athanasios Demos

(Father "Al" was my spiritual director while at seminary. He gave out this information to his seminarians every year. With a slight re-wording, I have recommended this to my parishioners every year since I was ordained.)

If one truly desires to fast, s/he must not sin! The spiritual fast is the truest form of fasting, from evil thoughts, words and deeds. Being weak and vulnerable beings, we find ourselves “prone” to sin. The church recognises our need to experience a physical fast to assist us in training ourselves to fast spiritually. Even the terminology we use is a misnomer. We do not fast, we abstain! To fast physically one does not eat. For example, we truly fast from midnight until we receive Holy Communion during Divine Liturgy by partaking of nothing! So when we speak of fasting in preparation of a feast day, such as Pascha (Easter), we are actually abstaining from certain foods. I would like to offer these following suggestions for your Lenten fasting:

Try to do the best you can without condemning yourself or others.

Read the suggested “degrees of fasting” list below and select one that you believe you can accomplish.

During each “fasting” period try to “upgrade” your previous “degree of fasting” until you reach a level which inspires you to seek an even higher degree of fasting and higher spiritual goals.

Note: Persons who are ill, on prescribed medications or specialised diets or who have other valid reasons are exempted from fasts which could harm their health. In most cases, the fast may more than often aid one’s health, especially in light of recent physiological findings. Strict abstinence is not allowed on Saturday (the seventh day of God’s creation and day of rest) nor on Sunday (The day of Christ’s Holy Resurrection). The strictest monks touch oil to their lips on these days in order to break their fast. In al cases, please consult with your parish priest for guidance and assistance.

Please examine the “degrees’ below and begin where you feel you can accomplish that particular degree of fasting:

1. THE MINIMAL DEGREE:

a. The first week of Lent abstain from meat
b. On all Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent abstain from meat.
c. Holy Week: abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil. This includes all day Holy Saturday, the strictest fast day of the year. The fast must be continued even after you have received Communion on Holy Saturday morning.

2. THE LIGHT DEGREE:

a. The first week of Lent abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil.
b. On all Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent abstain from meat.
c. Holy Week: abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil. This includes all day Holy Saturday, the strictest fast day of the year. The fast must be continued even after you have received Communion on Holy Saturday morning.

3. THE MODERATE DEGREE

a. The first week of Lent abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil.
b. On all Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil.
c. Mid Lent week: abstain from meat all week.
d. Holy Week: abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil. This includes all day Holy Saturday, the strictest fast day of the year. The fast must be continued even after you have received Communion on Holy Saturday morning.

4. THE CONSERVATIVE DEGREE

a. The first week of Lent abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil.
b. All during Lent abstain from meat.
c. Holy Week: abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil. This includes all day Holy Saturday, the strictest fast day of the year. The fast must be continued even after you have received Communion on Holy Saturday morning.

5. THE STRICT DEGREE

a. All during Lent abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs.)
b. Holy Week: abstain from meat, fish, dairy products (including milk, butter, eggs, etc.) and oil. This includes all day Holy Saturday, the strictest fast day of the year. The fast must be continued even after you have received Communion on Holy Saturday morning.

6. THE CANONICAL DEGREE

a. All during Lent and Holy Week: a glass of water and a morsel of bread each day.

Note: Even the strictest fast should be broken on The Annunciation (March 25) and Palm Sunday, when fish is allowed.

Please do your best without condemning yourself and others. In all cases, you should spend more time in Worship, by attending Lenten services and giving more time to Prayer. Meditate on God’s love for you and how you can return that love to God through your love for others. Partake often of the Holy Sacraments. Read your Bible each day as well as the spiritually inspiring writings of the Church Fathers. Give to those in need. Offer more of your time, talent and treasure to the church. Turn off the TV and spend more time with family and friends. Use moderation in food, drink, and social engagements. Judge not, rather humbly seek your own true repentance, to change and return to the path of righteousness as your soul continually seeks union with God each day of your life and forever more

MAY YOU BE BLESSED WITH A SPIRITUALLY EDIFYING AND INSPIRING LENT.

2 comments:

John J (India) said...

Dear Fr.,

Thanks for the pointers.

The Byzantine Rambler said...

Dear John J:

I pray that that Fr Al's prudent reflection helps inspire your participation in this beautiful season!

The Byzantine Rambler

 
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