– The problem of keeping a healthy diet, controlling one’s blood pressure, and not becoming overweight is essential for a large number of people. This is a serious problem for one’s health and well-being. Bread, pasta and potatoes are not very healthy types of food, especially if one eats only these for two months. Another problem is fasting food being too expensive. However, ancient feat actually meant spending the money saved from eating fasting food on charity. What should people do now? How to determine what should one eat during a fast?
– I believe dividing products up into fasting and regular food here is a pure convention. Certainly, meat is connected with blood and is always associated with non-fasting food, but anyway the division is relative, especially now in the twenty first century.
A fast in the Old Testament and many cultures meant total rejection of food itself, not division of products into fasting and non-fasting food, but total rejection for a certain amount of time. When the Lord called Nineveh to repent, all Ninevites, from infants to elderly, fasted, i.e. refused from any type of food. This abstinence is very strict. When we associate a fast with a change from one type of food to another, a fast may not even take place, because the quality of fasting food may surpass the quality of non-fasting food.
We should understand very well what a fast meant in the culture where it originated. In the Mediterranean region, where the fast originated, there always were a lot of vegetables and fruit, which could be fresh throughout a year. Meat, on the other hand, could be by no means a daily meal. At times, people could have no meat at all on the table and ate more fasting food than regular, especially the poor.
We have totally different conditions of a fast now.
If one has a problem with digestion, the type of food a person eats is not the point, the point is how this person determines abstinence for themselves. If one abstains from something for the sake of a fast, this fast may serve as a sacrifice to God.
We have stopped associating a fast with the time of abstinence.
I think one should determine one’s own list of fasting and non-fasting food during a fast. Hardly all clergymen will understand this, but I believe one can try to do this. One should determine the products one will refuse from for certain. For example, I can live perfectly without sweets, cannot I? It is hard, but I can. I have a sweet tooth and it is hard to live without sweets for me. For example, can I live without cigarettes? It is very hard for some people. Extremely hard. But what if one manages to do this at least for several days a week? What else can I live without? It will be hard for me, but still it will be real.
Let us compare chicken with prawns and mussels. Chicken is a non-fasting type of food, but shellfish is a fasting type of food. However, shellfish is of another quality – a higher level of pleasure. However, what is wrong with chicken or chicken soup?
I think that an honest and zealous person should have a right, a certain freedom to clearly and honestly determine their own list of products for a fast, especially if one has a health problem or a problem with digestion, or other problems connected with one’s body.
One should choose something that will give one a definite feeling that one is fasting.
One should think and talk about personal, honest and zealous abstinence. A fast is the condition, under which one feels a little bit hungry. Meals lack something and one tolerates it and copes with it. It is impossible to feel full during a fast. If one feels full and happy and have a large number of fasting food, well, what sort of Fast is it, really?
Translated from the Russian by Maria Trushanina