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Fasts in Orthodox Church

Fast means abstinence of certain kinds of food. In the Old Testament, we find many references concerning fasting.

In the New Testament, we find that our Lord Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and nights before He embarked upon His mission. Referring to evil spirits, He said: “This kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:21).

The Orthodox Church prescribed fasting for the following reasons:

  • Fasting restrains the body and stimulates spiritually, such as humility, piety, kindness, and so on.
  • Fasting should always accompany repentance, especially before confession and Holy Communion.
  • With fasting we prepare ourselves for great holidays and for the Holy Communions.
  • With fasting we commemorate the events from the lives of our Lord and His saints.

There are four fasting seasons prescribed by the Orthodox Church:

  • Advent, which begins six weeks before Christmas, on November 28th (according to the new style Calendar). In Serbian, it is called “Božićni post“.
  • Lent, which begins seven weeks before Easter. In Serbian, Lent is called “Vaskršnji  post“.
  • The Apostolic Fast  was instituted in memory of Sts Peter and Paul, the Holy Apostles.This fasting begins a week after Pentecost and lasts until the holiday of Sts Peter and Paul, july 12th, according to the new style Calendar. This fasting is called in Serbian “Petrovski post”.
  • The Fast of our Lady was instituted in memory of the Assumption of the Mother of God. This fast begins on August 14th according to the new style Calendar and lasts until the Day of Assumption, August 28th. In Serbian, this fast is called “Gospojinski post”.

The Orthodox Church has ordered that every Wednesday and Friday throughout  the year should be observed as fasting days. The reason for this is that on Wednesday, Judas betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ, and on Friday, our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified on the Cross and died.

There are an exception to this order of the Church. During the folloving weeks, the Orthodox Christians do not have to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays:

  • Week after the Nativity to Holy Cross Day  (January 7th to 18th).
  • Week after Sunday of Publican and Pharisee.
  • Week following Meat-Fare Sunday
  • Week after Easter (Bright Week)
  • Week after  Pentecost (Duhovi)

The official days of fasting are also the following holidays (according to the new style Calendar):

  • The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, in Serbian “Krstovdan” (September 27th).
  • The Eve of Theophany, which is, in Serbian, called also “Krstovdan” (January 18th).
  • The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, in Serbian called “Usekovanje” (September 11th).

Every Orthodox Christian has to prepare himself by fasting for confession and Holy Communion. On the day when one partakes of the Holy Communion, he is not permitted to eat or drink anything from at least midnight on.

In the days of tribulation, a Bishop may impose the observance of special fasting days.

Тhere are also votive fasting days. Every Orthodox Christian may make a resolution of his own to fast on certain days of the year, unprescribed by the Church, for his own personal reasons.

The most important thing about fasing is this:
Fasting will achieve its aim only if it is combined with penitence, more intense piety, and practice of the Christian virtues, such as humility, forgiveness, kindness, charity... and so on.