Wednesday, January 17, 2007


(From the Melkite Eparchal Website)

Fasting for the Eastern Catholic means there is no consumption of solid food from midnight until noon. Abstinence is refraining from eating meat, dairy products, eggs, alcohol, fish and olive oil. Three approaches to fasting and abstinence have developed. These might be called 1) the Law - that is required of us, 2) the Tradition - that which devout followers adhere to, and 3) the Compromise - that which is most widely accepted.

The Law - that which is required

The first day of Great Lent is a day of fast and abstinence
All Fridays of Great Lent are days of abstinence from meat
Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence.

The Tradition - that which the devout follow

Every day of Great Lent is a day of fast and abstinence
On Saturday and Sunday fish, wine and olive oil are permitted.
Saturday and Sunday are not Fast days - food may be taken at any time.
Certain feast days are treated like Saturday and Sunday

Customary Compromises

The First, Middle and Last weeks of Great Lent are kept strictly. The other weeks are relaxed.

Abstinence from meat on all days of Lent.

Abstinence from meat on all Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent.

The idea of "fasting and abstinence" is to gain self-control, a simplification of life-style, a solidarity with the poor and hungry, and to return to Paradise. As such fasting and abstinence should always be focused towards making life simpler not more complicated. Additionally there is a liturgical fasting with no Divine Liturgy on weekdays.

Fast & Abstinence, Reasons why

In the Melkite Church there are four major periods of fast & abstinence: The Great Fast (or Lent) which precedes the Pascha of the Lord, the Fast of the Holy Apostles after the feast of the Ascension, the Fast of the Theotokos during the first 2 weeks of August, and the Pre-Christmas Fast.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God clearly reveals to His people the need for fasting. Jesus Our Lord, in the Gospel, taught that after He would ascend into heaven, His disciples must fast. The Holy Apostles clearly kept every Wednesday and Friday as days of fast and abstinence, as mentioned in the book of Acts.

Fasting is not extraordinary - for the Christian it is a regular aspect of the spiritual life. Fasting is depriving the body of food from midnight till noon. For the Christian the hunger that results is a real call to be mindful of our thirst for God. It is a call to identify with the poor, whom God loves especially. It is a way for us, as mature men and women to take charge of our body and of our needs, rather than to allow the body, its needs and passions to rule over our life.

Fasting is also a beautiful opportunity to express our solidarity and communion with Christians all over the world. There are many deeply moving stories of our brothers and sisters who observed the periods of fasting during harsh famines and wars. Imagine the power and the grace that is filling the world during this time of darkness and cold, as men, women and children, rich and poor, virtuous and sinful alike, together offer up penance for the sins of the world and in anticipation of the Coming of Christ!

Abstinence refers to the practice of foregoing all foods that come from animals (meats, poultry, dairy products, eggs).

From the creation of our Parents in Paradise to the time after the great flood, people ate only fruits, grains and vegetables. This is the food of paradise! The practice of abstinence reminds us of our high calling to manage all creation in the Name of the Lord. Our hunger for meat and other rich food serves as a reminder of the enmity that exists in creation as a result of sin. Especially during this holy season when the liturgy reminds us of the role that the stars, the angels, the earth itself, the beasts of the field, the ox and the ass all played in receiving the Savior of the world, abstinence calls us to set aside our enmity even with the animals in order to restore peace on earth.

Thus, we fast to experience hunger and, realizing our emptiness and dependence, to seek the One who alone satisfies our needs.

We abstain in order to strive for peace, to cleanse ourselves body and soul to worthily receive Our Lord.

Remember: the Church does not impose. Rather, as a loving Mother, She proposes.

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