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What we are giving up for Lent


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#21 John Litster

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Posted 04 March 2009 - 09:58 PM

There seemed to be something odd about Mr. Blaydoe's post, and when I re-read it I noticed he had signed off simply as "Herman." What? No "Pooh"?? Not even "the penitent Pooh"? I know Lent is about giving up things that are close to us, but really... now how are we going to distinguish your insights from the rest of the sea of verbage? :P

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.

  • 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:
    • meat
    • 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.
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.

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.

Herman


Edited by John Litster, 04 March 2009 - 10:00 PM.
Added line


#22 Mary

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 03:06 AM

I did not grow up Orthodox, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. From what I understand, the Church tells us what we are to abstain from and I have been guided to follow this. I mean no disrespect to anyone when I ask, but do we pick and choose other things to abstain from as well? If we follow the fast as prescribed, is this not sufficient?
Stephen


Yes... it is enough to follow the fast as prescribed. And part of what is prescribed is other kinds of self control, besides just food... because refraining from eating meats, is of no use to us, if we are constantly tearing up our brothers and sisters. It is no use to add to the number of prostrations we do, or the number of services we attend, if at the same time, we do not control our other passions in any way. And... it can be a seemingly harmless pass time.... like shopping.

During Lent, with winter ending and spring coming in, there are many, many sales, of clothing items and countless other things. I can spend hours and hours looking at these things and making lists of what I might need or like to buy. But it does take a lot of time. So... I just toss all the fliers in the trash, and I don't go to any clothing store, till after Pascha. Basically, I'm trying to limit my shopping to basic necessities, and if I do wake up one morning and find that all my clothes have suddenly turned into rags, I will definitely go buy myself something.

in Christ,
Mary.

#23 Nina

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 04:27 PM

I received a distressed PM about Herman's post. Remember these are general rules. All should consult your spiritual father. Get his blessing for your fast! I suffered greatly last year because I tried a fasting rule according to my own will (harder than any time before and not taking rest even after a bad flu etc. because I thought "If monastics (or St. Mary of Egypt) can do it, I can too!", and it sent me to the hospital. This I found out later is plain egotism that did not help me at all. Because of that ego not only I stopped fasting altogether (although I couldn't eat anymore for some weeks), but also I missed all services, I missed Holy Week, Easter. And since then I can't fast at all... :(' I guess I depleted my body, but also since I did not receive the blessing of my SF this feat I took upon my shoulders was not blessed. Also I put unnecessary strain on all my loved ones who had to care for me. No Father advices us that the purpose of fasting is to starve/kill ourselves, but they advise that fasting is there to make us develop spiritually and be used as a tool in subduing passions and sins.

Since I, you have no grace of the Priesthood, please approach your SF and receive his blessing for everything new you might feel inspired to undertake this Lent. It may seem futile as it seemed to me, but we have no discernment to distinguish if something is from God or from the evil one. In my case it wasn't from God. So do not take the chances please. Ask your SF. He is there to help you although he might be very busy during this season. You can always make it up to him :) (offer to cook for him, change car oil etc. if he needs help :) )

#24 Kseniya M.

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 05:27 PM

I suffered greatly last year because I tried a fasting rule according to my own will (harder than any time before and not taking rest even after a bad flu etc. because I thought "If monastics (or St. Mary of Egypt) can do it, I can too!", and it sent me to the hospital. This I found out later is plain egotism that did not help me at all. Because of that ego not only I stopped fasting altogether (although I couldn't eat anymore for some weeks), but also I missed all services, I missed Holy Week, Easter. And since then I can't fast at all... :(' I guess I depleted my body, but also since I did not receive the blessing of my SF this feat I took upon my shoulders was not blessed.


Like you, I can't fast -- I became Orthodox knowing that, however. I've had a bad stomach since my teens, with chronic gastritis and even stomach bleeds if I'm not careful. My priest told me not to fast, of course. (Abstention is a different issue. It wasn't permission to go pig out on cheese!)

For me, to attempt to fast would be presuming upon God. Like you, I can look at Mary of Egypt, and other saints who ate next to nothing, but if I think, "I will fast, and God will take care of me," well, He might not because I'm also not practicing the kind of prayer that they did. And even if I did pray as they did, there is also the example of St. John Chrysostom, who ruined his stomach with too much fasting. I sometimes wonder if he, like me, had a bad stomach to begin with. (Mine is hereditary. Three of my grandparents died of stomach cancer.)

We are all different parts of the Body of Christ and we are all given different tasks. Some are great fasters, some are not. I think in Scripture it says something about the different parts of the body needing to perform their different functions without envying the others, a hand cannot be a foot nor the foot the head, and so on. I'm not sure what I am (perhaps the nail on the left little toe?), but I do know I'm not a great faster. Quelling my envy of those who are able to fast, now that's a different story.

Kseniya the Left Little Toenail

#25 Nina

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Posted 05 March 2009 - 10:43 PM

Like you, I can't fast -- I became Orthodox knowing that, however. I've had a bad stomach since my teens, with chronic gastritis and even stomach bleeds if I'm not careful. My priest told me not to fast, of course. (Abstention is a different issue. It wasn't permission to go pig out on cheese!)


See the thing is that I never liked to eat anyway (my mom had always to force me to eat since I was a toddler) so fasting was maybe easier for me. :) And maybe it wasn't a big sacrifice... although I would crave things during Lent of course!

#26 Kseniya M.

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 04:07 AM

See the thing is that I never liked to eat anyway (my mom had always to force me to eat since I was a toddler) so fasting was maybe easier for me. :) And maybe it wasn't a big sacrifice... although I would crave things during Lent of course!


LOL, and I come at it from a different direction -- I'd love to be able to fast, or at least try, so it irritates me when people use all kinds of excuses to get out of it when they are perfectly healthy. "Oh, it makes me cranky/gives me a headache/makes me feel shaky/whatever." Well DUH. Feeling that and not succumbing to it is part of what fasting is all about. Why are they passing up an opportunity to learn a great thing?

Does that sound too strident? I'm not trying to whine but maybe I am.

The point of everything, EVERYTHING, is to love God and love each other, because without love, fasting perfectly is just sounding brass. If we're not fasting (or performing whatever substitute ascesis our SF has prescribed) in order to please our loving and compassionate Father (and NOT in order to avoid juridical punishment for failure), if we're not serving our neighbor and forgiving our enemies -- we might as well just go home and grill up a steak.

Kseniya

#27 Paul Cowan

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 05:21 AM

we might as well just go home and grill up a steak.

Kseniya


Did someone say BBQ?

#28 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 10:32 AM

Did anyone see the episode of 'The Simpsons' in which they go to hell and Homer is at first delighted to see a BBQ but is distraught then to be told there are no burgers!

#29 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 01:16 PM

For Great Lent I'm giving up being nice.

ARGGHH!

#30 Kseniya M.

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 02:16 PM

For Great Lent I'm giving up being nice.

ARGGHH!


ROFLOL!!!

(Why do I hear that in a pirate tone of voice?)

-Kseniya the Landlubber

#31 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 02:45 PM

ROFLOL!!!

(Why do I hear that in a pirate tone of voice?)

-Kseniya the Landlubber


To err is human. To ARRRR! is pirate.

Sorry. Anyway. Apologies if my posting of the guidelines for fasting caused anyone grief. I thought it worthwhile to examine what the "standard" is, particularly in these days of lowered expectations. I thought I was careful to include the comments that this is NOT for everyone, only for those who are properly prepared and "up" to the challenge. I did think it useful that we all be aware, however, regardless of what we are presently able to accomplish. And I was not advocating "adding" in any way to the "standard" which is obviously pretty high to begin with. What I meant is that we should think in terms, not of what we are "giving up" in worldly things, but of what we will add in their place in getting "closer" to God. Time not eating can be spent in prayer. Money not spent on food can be given as alms. Time not watching TV can be devoted to more spiritual reading. If we are simply "giving things up" we are creating a "hole". If that hole is not filled with SOMETHING then it is just emptiness and may not be profitable. As someone else said, it is about making room, that is, rearranging the "furniture" of our lives to better accommodate God, at least for a season, and hopefully to carry some of that out throughout the rest of the year as well.

I pray that all forumites enjoy a blessed and spiritually profitable Lenten Spring, and a glorious and transforming Great and Holy Pascha.

Herman the overly-loquacious Pooh

#32 Paul Cowan

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 02:51 PM

anyone grief. I thought it worthwhile to examine what the "standard" is, particularly in these days of lowered expectation.


I read this as being the monastic high water mark. SOmething we constantly strive to get to. If this is the standard all Orthodox do, I have a very long way to go to get there; if I ever getthere at all.

#33 Stephen Wendland

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 02:59 PM

For Great Lent I'm giving up being nice.

ARGGHH!


Fr R.V.
Yes, an angry pirate certainly would not be considered nice! Keep up the good work (I think?)

Paul,

I have some "morning star black bean burgers", so FIRE up the grill.

#34 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 03:02 PM

I read this as being the monastic high water mark. SOmething we constantly strive to get to. If this is the standard all Orthodox do, I have a very long way to go to get there; if I ever getthere at all.


I personally know of those who are not monastic who do, in fact, maintain such a discipline. In the interest of full disclosure, I certainly do not claim to be one of them. I must say I have concerns about someone following these guidelines to the letter being behind the wheel of a moving vehicle or otherwise operating heavy machinery. We do what we can with the idea that we can always do better, so as not to become self-satisfied. But I warn everyone not to take the words of a simple pooh of very little brain over the spiritual advice of their priests or spiritual fathers.

Caveat emptor.

Herman the Pooh

#35 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 03:36 PM

Fr Raphael Vereshack For Great Lent I'm giving up being nice.

ARGGHH!


Join the club!

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#36 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 05:13 PM

As another aside to this thread, among the many others, last night we had that wonderful 87 degree Texas weather in March, and instead of turning on the air our priest, who loves all things non-electronic, opened all of the windows and doors instead. After sweating for an hour and half, I told him that I hope we aren't giving up air conditioning for Lent. He just laughed at me. (that probably means we are).

Sbdn. Anthony

#37 Peter S.

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 09:28 PM

I am giving up meat, ice coffee, ice cream, milk chocolate.... some tastes that lasts for some seconds. But I must admit today I replaced it with dark chocolate and coke and dressing on my "vegan" burger. I have a vegan friend and he is more idealistic than me, and I wish I had....

My temperament and idle talk is also something to work with + other things. Hope I am gaining something. The canon of st. Andrew was a good start at least.

And Andreas, I have also heard that you get the Pascha that "fits" to your Lent, but I hope it will be better than that with some grace.

Peter

#38 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 10:26 AM

I should like to point out that the expression, 'Lenten spring' is tautologous since the etymology of the word 'Lent' is O.E. lencten, meaning 'spring'. It would be preferable if English had another expression for the Great Fast, though perhaps 'Great Fast' could suffice.

For the Great Fast, I've given up pedantry and verbosity.

#39 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 10:34 AM

I personally know of those who are not monastic who do, in fact, maintain such a discipline. In the interest of full disclosure, I certainly do not claim to be one of them. I must say I have concerns about someone following these guidelines to the letter being behind the wheel of a moving vehicle or otherwise operating heavy machinery. We do what we can with the idea that we can always do better, so as not to become self-satisfied. But I warn everyone not to take the words of a simple pooh of very little brain over the spiritual advice of their priests or spiritual fathers.

Caveat emptor.

Herman the Pooh


I also know lots of people who strictly fast from food the whole 40 day period. My two sister-in-laws fast from all animal products. They do not boast about this. In fact, last Sunday when the younger one was asked if she was going to fast (she should not of course have been asked in the first place but there are always those who say what they shouldn't) she replied that "she was going to try". A modest answer, especially since I know that she follows the very strict fasting rules very diligently.

I don't know whether the fact that most people fast here makes fasting easier. I suspect it does.

Effie

#40 Paul Cowan

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 07:12 PM

I don't know whether the fact that most people fast here makes fasting easier. I suspect it does.

Effie


I can say for sure the opposite of this statement is true on this side of the pond.




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