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Is seafood permitted during Lent?


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#1 Guest_Cal Oren

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Posted 22 February 2004 - 01:44 AM

During Great Lent, we are allowed to eat various types of shellfish without backbones. I would like to know the origins of this particular distinction, i.e., between fish and shellfish.


#2 Fr Averky

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Posted 23 February 2004 - 01:24 AM

Cal Oren,

Interestingly, I have not had a discussion with anyone about this for several yers, but as I recall, there are those who eat shell fish and such seafood because they do not have blood.

Some Russians only eat shellfish on Lazarus Saturday, although it has become more and more popular. However, it is good to keep in mind that when eating seafood, still, it should not be prepared as some "gourmet" dish, but simply and modestly, as in keeping the spirit of the Lent. We fast out opf sorow and feast because of joy.

Have a blessed Lent.

hieromonk Averky


#3 Guest_David Alette

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Posted 25 February 2001 - 08:46 PM

Is the eating of shellfish allowed during Lent? Also, what about the rules against oil?

---david


#4 Guest_Patrick Leigh

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Posted 27 February 2001 - 02:29 PM

The parish bulletin from my Church this month has the following as "Guidelines for the Observance of Great Lent":

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY:

Abstinence: Meat and meat products, dairy products, fish.

No Abstinence: Shellfish, vegetables and vegetable products, olive oil, wine, fruit, grains.

MONDAY-FRIDAY:

Abstinence: Meat and meat products, dairy products, fish, olive oil, wine.

No Abstinence: Shellfish, vegetables and vegetable products, fruit, grains.


#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 01:39 AM

However, it is good to keep in mind that when eating seafood, still, it should not be prepared as some "gourmet" dish, but simply and modestly, as in keeping the spirit of the Lent. We fast out opf sorow and feast because of joy.


My Priest says we should not Feast during the Fast. Food is to be kept in moderation. How many ascetics have said to leave the stomach hungry so as to have more effectual prayer?

Some one once told me the reason behind the shellfish/ fish theory was that shellfish are bottom dwellers and in biblical times, they would not be caught dead eating a scummy bottom dweller. So the decision to allow shellfish during the Fast was a way of turning people's stomachs so they would not over-indulge in this type of seafood.

Why is it I gain weight during the fast? Perhaps now because I so often Feast during the Fast on the modern day delicacies of the scummy bottom dwelling stomach turning craestacians.

Perhaps this Lent I will pray more than I eat?

Paul

#6 Trudy

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 04:47 AM

Why is it I gain weight during the fast?



It may be because of the complex carbohydrates that we use to fill us up. (Pasta, bread, etc.)

Perhaps this Lent I will pray more than I eat?


May I do the same!

Athanasia

#7 Father David Moser

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 04:51 PM

Some one once told me the reason behind the shellfish/ fish theory was that shellfish are bottom dwellers and in biblical times, they would not be caught dead eating a scummy bottom dweller. So the decision to allow shellfish during the Fast was a way of turning people's stomachs so they would not over-indulge in this type of seafood.


I don't think anyone really "knows" why this is - I've heard as many explanations as there are people. The simple fact is that this is the tradition we have received from our ancestors and forefathers in the faith.

My own personal explanation for this is that shell fish do not have discernable "blood" and since the blood is linked closely to the soul, a creature without discernable blood is not ensouled and thus can be consumed without unduly inflaming the passions. St Basil the Great also indicates that cold blooded animals (fish in particular) have "inferior souls" because while they have discernable blood, it is "inferior" to that of warm blooded animals. Good science? probably not - but good spirituality? I'd bet on St Basil. By extension then this is why fish is sometimes permitted during a fast but other meat is not. (Being that an inferior soul it inflames the passions to a lesser degree). But then this is all my own opinion and not really necessarily the "real" reason.

Fr David Moser

#8 Kosta

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 07:37 AM

I too have been told thats its because regular fish have blood. (which is true). We do fast from everything that is derived from a blood animal. So this explanation is satisfactory for me.

#9 Peter Farrington

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 08:53 AM

I would suggest that there is some 'cultural' element in whether or not seafood is allowed during Great Lent. In the Coptic Orthodox tradition we are not allowed sea-food at all during the Fast.

And I can remember being rather scandalised when an EO priest told me that he had a shot of spirits during Lent to keep out the cold during the services, and that this was normal. But then I was in a relatively warm environment, and because of the situation of the Coptic Orthodox under the Muslim Yoke the use of alcohol at all has tended to be deprecated.

My Dad was never very impressed by my insistence that in the distant past here in England beer was considered a fasting food, and indeed everyone drank small beer, a very weak ale, because it was safer, having been boiled in the beer making process, than drinking water.

Sorry, I don't mean to wander off into alcoholic side roads, and I don't drink much in any case, but I just wonder if some/most of the practical differences in the keeping of the fasts are cultural and local.

Peter

#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 01:36 PM

Sorry, I don't mean to wander off into alcoholic side roads, and I don't drink much in any case, but I just wonder if some/most of the practical differences in the keeping of the fasts are cultural and local.



Although for reasons of universal unity there is a basic rule which the whole Orthodox church tries to follow there are local variations.

Thus during some fasts according to Russian tradition (I have seen this particularly during the fast of Sts Peter & Paul) fish is permitted even though according to the calendar it may not be. I used to think this was just due to slackness until I found clear record of it even before the time of Peter the Great. So I'm thinking this could have arisen because at some times of the year little other source of protein was available from the crops or whatever.

On the other hand among newer people to the Faith especially here in the west where so many different types of food are constantly available there tends to be more strict adherence to the fast as it is written on the Calendar.

But even here where this is not clearly indicated there is no absolute consensus about the use of vegetable & canola oils or margarine.

Most though take 'no wine' days to mean no alcohol at all.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#11 Karena Hryniuk

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 01:47 PM

Hello Peter,

The only other explanation I've heard on the seafood issue - is that because most shellfish don't have a backbone or much of a nervous system, there is no pain in the fetching process. Cows Pigs chickens fish all have backbones of course, and the pain caused in the slaughtering creates the idea/act of eating them a "sacrifice".

The beer? Not sure about that one. But have again heard the stories of the nuns in the monasteries many years ago, drinking either beer or wine with all their meals.

IC XC
~Karena

#12 Rebecca Gabl

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 04:51 PM

Is there a difference between olive and non-olive oil?

#13 Paul Cowan

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 03:39 AM

Is there a difference between olive and non-olive oil?


I would like to know this also. I have seen some very specific and some say none what so ever. Is olive oil not used because it was so prevelant back then (and now) that it is more challenging to abstain from or should we abstain from all oil? And why oil? I understand animal products and wine, but why oil?

I thought we were to put it on our faces so men would not know we were fasting by looking disfigured as the Pharisees do. (paraphrased)

Paul

#14 Kosta

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 05:43 AM

Dear Paul,

Thats interesting you said that. I asked my Father (my actual biological father not spiritual) why he fasted olive oil, and he told me when he was growing up in greece that all he had. He came from a poor village and meat was only eaten during special occasions but olive oil was abundant. The trees grow wild and is a staple crop for the region.

#15 Paul Cowan

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:18 PM

Dear Paul,

Thats interesting you said that. I asked my Father (my actual biological father not spiritual) why he fasted olive oil, and he told me when he was growing up in greece that all he had. He came from a poor village and meat was only eaten during special occasions but olive oil was abundant. The trees grow wild and is a staple crop for the region.


Thank you Kosta:

I suppose this goes to what Fr. Raphael (I think) said in another thread that some observances ARE regional and perhaps the church has made them universal because She deemed it good for the whole?

I don't have as problem with this, just curious what other things started out local and went public. We did all start from virtually the same locality so it is only reasonable we will take our communal practises to the world.

Paul

#16 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:51 PM

Thank you Kosta:

I suppose this goes to what Fr. Raphael (I think) said in another thread that some observances ARE regional and perhaps the church has made them universal because She deemed it good for the whole?

I don't have as problem with this, just curious what other things started out local and went public. We did all start from virtually the same locality so it is only reasonable we will take our communal practises to the world.

Paul


I have never done a historical study on this but reading between the lines it seems that the fasting rules we follow originate in the Hellenic-Roman & Byzantine worlds.

Thus olive oil was and still is a basic staple in this part of the world as is fish.

What is more difficult to know however is exactly the role these things had in people's diet. Was olive oil for these people like salt for us? Or more like an added condiment?

Thus in many monasteries I have been in during Lenten periods, going without olive oil is not equated with doing without the basics, not eating cooked food or what is called dry-eating. Rather it is interpreted as going without something which adds to the taste of things and simplifying one's diet. Thus vegetable or canola oils are used as is margarine. I get the sense this is especially so among those who follow a more Russian tradition in fasting where there is a long tradition of working the fasting rules out according to a set of circumstances very different from the Mediterranean world of old.

In any case a certain amount of interpretation is always called for. After all what else would we call the tradition of eating caviar on Lazarus Saturday which is described in all the Russian versions of the Triodion?

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#17 Robert Hegwood

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 11:34 PM

The way it was explained to me several years ago was that the different gradations in foods reflected degrees of luxury in the ancient world. So the more luxurious a food was the higher up on the list it was. Added to this was the conversation of warm blood, cold blood, no discernible blood etc. It was ulimately tied to St. John the Forerunner who ate locusts and honey. If bugs were OK for St. John as ascetical fare they are OK for us...and shellfish are just big bugs of the sea.

I was also told there were varieties of local practice. Greeks would fast only from olive oil but Russians from all oil. In Alaska in the colder regions the indigenous Orthodox people there ate a lot more fish during fasting seasons because vegetable fare is much harder to come by that food from the sea. For them fresh vegetables are the luxury.

#18 Olga

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 07:06 AM

From my experience, Greeks would certainly abstain from all oils, not just olive oil. Otherwise fried food or food cooked in or with oils such as vegetable or sunflower would be permissible. I have yet to come across any (observant) Greeks who would agree with this, and this would include both here in Australia, as well as in Greece.

#19 Kosta

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Posted 07 March 2007 - 08:42 AM

In greece if one abstains from olive oil he abstains from all oil. Its the only oil they have. One of my relatives in greece has a dive of a gyro stand in Athens, This place is a whole in the wall, yet for the deep fryer he uses virgin olive oil (as does everyone else)

#20 Kris

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Posted 08 March 2007 - 08:09 PM

From my experience, Greeks would certainly abstain from all oils, not just olive oil. Otherwise fried food or food cooked in or with oils such as vegetable or sunflower would be permissible. I have yet to come across any (observant) Greeks who would agree with this, and this would include both here in Australia, as well as in Greece.


This seems to agree with what I've been told by my spiritual father who said "oil is oil" when I asked him about this when I first began fasting.

On the other hand, I was once told (hesitantly) by an OCA priest that the reason wine and oil are not permitted during the fast is simply because these used to be stored in animal skins, and had nothing to do with the nature of wine or oil as such.

Personally I'm pretty sceptical of this second opinion, since wine and oil are permitted on saturdays and sundays, but no such allowance is made for any animal product. But I thought it was worth mentioning.




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