Let us fast with a fast pleasing to the Lord. This is the true fast: the casting off of evil, the bridling of the tongue,
the cutting off of anger, the cessation of lusts, evil talking, lies and cursing. The stopping of these is the
fast true and acceptable. ~ Monday Vespers of the First Week
A special word must be said about fasting during Great Lent. Generally speaking, fasting is an essential element of the Christian life. Christ fasted and taught men to fast. Blessed fasting is done in secret, without ostentation or accusation of others (Mt 6:16; Rom 14). It has as its goal the purification of our lives, the liberation of our souls and bodies from sins, the strengthening of our human powers of love for God and man, the enlightening of our entire being for communion with the Blessed Trinity.
The Orthodox guidelines for fasting include no meat allowed after Meatfare Sunday and no eggs or dairy products after Cheesefare Sunday. These guidelines exist not as a Pharisaic “burden too hard to bear” (Lk 11:46), but as an ideal to strive for; not as an end in themselves, but as a means to spiritual perfection crowned in love. The Lenten services themselves continually remind us of this. The Lenten services also make the undeniable point that we should not pride ourselves with external fasting since the devil never eats and fasts continuously!
The fast of Great Lent continues from Meatfare Sunday to Pascha, and is broken only after the Paschal Divine Liturgy. Knowing the great effort to which they are called, Christians should make every effort to fast as well as they can, in secret, so that God would see and bless their efforts.
In addition to fasting during the Lenten season, the Orthodox alone among Christians also practice what is known as Eucharistic or liturgical fasting. This fasting does not refer to the normal abstinence in preparation for receiving the Holy Eucharist; it means fasting from the Eucharist itself.
During the weekdays of Great Lent, the regular Eucharistic Divine Liturgy is not celebrated in Orthodox churches since the Divine Liturgy is always a paschal celebration of communion with the Risen Lord. Because the Lenten season is one of preparation for the Lord’s Resurrection through the remembrance of sin and separation from God, the liturgical order of the Church eliminates the Eucharistic services on weekdays of Lent. In order that the faithful would not be entirely deprived of Holy Communion on the Lenten days, however, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated on Wednesday and Friday.
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St John Chrysostom on Fasting
“Enter the Church and wash away our sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law.
Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent.”
“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works:
• If you see a poor man, take pity on him.
• If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.
• Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet
and the hands and all the members of our bodies.
• Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
• Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
• Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.
• Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
• Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
• For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?
May He who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete
the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us.”