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Fasting during famines and other catastrophes


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#1 Ryan

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 04:10 PM

My question is entirely for research purposes (I'm writing a young adult book set in Russia at the time of the Mongol conquest). In Orthodox countries, when famines or other disasters occurred, were the fasts ever relaxed, whether with the clergy's permission or not? For instance, if the grain and vegetable crops had failed particularly badly, would people go hunting game to feed their families? Would this be considered scandalous or gravely impious? Thanks for any information.

#2 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 04:28 PM

During WWII, the monastic community of St Job of Pochaev had to flee their monastery and were counted among the refugees. Among the brotherhood was a young novice who was very pious and very strict. The only food that they had at that time was that provided by the relief services. The novice was sent on an errand to the city and the abbot gave him a "lunch" consisting of a sausage (monastics don't generally eat meat at all) since that was all they had at that time. The novice was "scandalized" but took the lunch with him, and determined not to even touch it. On the trip, he became filled with pride due to his self-constraint and strict keeping of the fast. Our Lord, seeing his error, sent the novice a trial - the horse spooked and began to run uncontrollably pulling the cart with the novice along with him in a wild career. The novice tried everything to stop the horse and calling out in prayer begged for help and protection. Finally the horse stopped, just short of a drop off that would surely have upended the cart and injured the novice. In his relief he unthinkingly reached for the bag and devoured the whole lunch sausage and all. Then he realized that he had just eaten the sausage that he had determined, in his self will and pride, that he would not touch (though it had been blessed by his abbot) and was humbled before God.

This young novice is now the eldest of all the bishops of ROCOR and known for his life of humility and piety - Archbishop Alypy of Chicago. This story was related to me by his one-time cell attendant - Fr Averky.

Fr David Moser

#3 Paul Cowan

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 06:58 PM

I seem to remember reading when Orthodoxy was first introduced to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, since the winters were so severe, and there was no vegetation, they ate seals and fish and other things that lived in/on the snow and waters.

I can't see God willing His people to die just because He sends them a "correcting" plague or famine or drought.

Paul

#4 Ryan

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 11:31 PM

Thanks both of you for your very helpful responses. I love that story of Archbishop Alypy!

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 October 2011 - 07:41 PM

Perhaps related to this thread are the following. St Afanasii (Sakharov) (1887-1962) was a Russian bishop (of Vladimir) who spent 33 years in the Soviet camps. In those camps, clergy would keep the fast by trading the meat they were given for other prisoners' bread. St Afanasii found that each Pascha, somehow, a tin of fish would be sent to him. On one occasion during Great Lent, he was being transported from one camp to another. On the journey, a tin of fish was given to him. Being very hungry, he reasoned that in the circumstances, it would be reasonable to eat this fish; but that Pascha, no tin of fish came to him. My wife and I took two Fathers from the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra on a tour of Britain during the Apostles Fast. The Fathers has asked the hegoumen, Vladyka Feognost, if, travelling in Britain, they might relax the fast. They were told they could not and we had to find ways of enabling them to observe this obedience. A few years ago, we saw a documentary about a black Briton who spent two weeks with a family in Ethiopia. Their existence was a wretched as can be imagined; they lived on wild cabbage soup and lived in a hut made from branches and leaves. But they kept the fasting rule of the Ethiopian Church in not eating before 3pm. The only bread they ever had was one loaf given at church (to which they had a walk several kilometres) each Sunday. I think of such things when I think that fasting is difficult.




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