No slight intended towards anyone else on the forum. Sea of Verbage has an unflattering ring to it, I should have used a different metaphor.
In general, I prefer not to think about what I give up, but rather on what I add to my spiritual devotions. We are not giving things up for God, but simply avoiding certain things in our lives to better concentrate on and prepare for the Great Feast of Holy Pascha.
From the OCA Rubrics for 2009: Concerning Fasting
What precisely do the rules of fasting demand? Neither in ancient nor in modern times has there ever been exact uniformity, but most Orthodox authorities agree on the following rules:
On weekdays (Monday to Friday inclusive) during the seven weeks of Lent, there are restrictions both on the number of meals taken daily and on the types of food permitted; but when a meal is allowed, there is no fixed limitation on the quantity of food to be eaten.
It has always been held that these rules of fasting should be relaxed in the case of anyone elderly or in poor health, In present-day practice, even for those in good health, the full strictness of the fast is usually mitigated. On weekdays—except, perhaps, during the first week or Holy Week—it is now common to eat two cooked meals daily instead of one. From the scond until the sixth week, many Orthodox use wine, and perhaps oil also, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and less commonly on Mondays as well. Permission is often given to eat fish in these weeks. Personal factors need to be taken into account, as for example, the situation of an isolated Orthodox living in the same household of a non-Orthodox, or obliged to take meals in a factory or school lunchroom. In cases of uncertainty each should seek the advice of his or her spiritual father.
- On weekdays of the first week, fasting is particularly severe. According to strict observance, in the course of the five initial days of Lent, only two meals are to be eaten, one on Wednesday and the other on Friday, in both cases after the Liturgy of the Presanctified. On the other three days, those who have the strength are encouraged to keep an absolute fast; those for whom this proves impractical may eat on Tuesday and Thursday (but not, if possible, on Monday), in the evening after Vespers. they they may take bread and water, or perhaps tea or fruit-juice, but not a cooked meal. It should be added at one that in practice today these rules are commonly relaxed. At the meals on Wednesday and Friday xerophagy is prescribed. Literally this means 'dry eating'. Strictly speaking, it signifies that we may eat only vegetables cooked with water and salt, and also such things as fruit, nuts, bread and honey. In practice, octopus and shellfish are also allowed on days of xerophagy; likewise vegetable margarine and corn or other vegetable oil, not made from olives. But the following categories of food are definitely excluded:
- animal products (cheese, milk, butter, eggs, lard, drippings)
- fish (i. e. fish with backbones)
- oil (i. e. olive oil) and wine (all alcoholic drinks)
- On weekdays in the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth weeks, one meal a day is permitted, to be taken in the afternoon following Vespers, and at this meal xerography is to be observed.
- Holy Week. On the first three days there is one meal each day, with xerography; but some try to keep a complete fast on these days, or else they eat only uncooked food, as on the opening days of the first week. On Holy Thursday one meal is eaten, with wine and oil (i. e. olive oil). On Great and Holy Friday those who have the strength follow the practice of the early Church and keep a total fast. Those unable to do this may eat bread, with a little water, tea, or fruit-juice, but not until sunset, or at any rate not until after the veneration of the Plashchanitsa at Vespers. On Great and Holy Saturday there is in principle no meal, since according to the ancient practice after the end of the Liturgy of St. Basil the faithful remained in church for the reading of the Acts of the Apostles, and for their sustenance were given a little bread and dried fruit, with a cup of wine. If, as usually happens now, they return home for a meal, they may use wine but not oil; for on this one Saturday, alone among Saturdays of the year, olive oil is not permitted.
- On Saturdays and Sundays in Lent, with the exception of Holy Saturday, xerography is relaxed and two main meals may be taken in the usual way, around mid-day and in the evening, with wine and olive oil; but meat, animal products and fish are not allowed.
- On the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and Palm Sunday fish is permitted as well as wine and oil, but meat and animal products are not allowed.
- Wine and oil are permitted on the following days, if they fall on a weekday in the second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth week; First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist (Feb. 24), Repose of St. Raphael (Feb. 27), Holy Martyrs of Sebaste (Mar 9), Forefeast of the Annunciation (Mar 24), Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (Mar 26), Repose of St. Innocent (Mar. 31), Repose of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow (Apr. 7), Holy Greatmartyr and Victorybearer George (Apr. 23), Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark (Apr. 25), as well as the Patronal Feast of the church or monastery.
- Wine and oil are also allowed on Wednesday and Thursday of the fifth week, because of the vigil for the Great Canon. Wine is allowed—and, according to some authorities, oil as well—on Friday in the same week, because of the vigil for the Akathist Hymn.
At all times it is essential to bear in mind that "you are not under the Law but under grace" (Rom. 6:14) and that "the letter kills, but the spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6). The rules of fasting, while they need to be taken seriously, are not to be interpreted with dour and pedantic legalism; "for the Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).
Some say what money you are obviously not spending on food should be given as alms, and of course every opportunity to attend the many services of the Church during this time should be taken advantage of if circumstances permit.
Edited by John Litster, 04 March 2009 - 10:00 PM.