Why Is the Nativity Fast Necessary? How to Fast Correctly, What Is Important to Do During the Fast?

Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanich) explains what a person should do if he cannot fast due to health reasons and why fasting is necessary at all.

– Your Beatitude, over half of days in a year are fasting days. Why are there so many? Why do we need fasting at all?

– Fasting is ancient Divine establishment. The book of Genesis tells us that immediately after the Lord created man, He forbade him to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was the first fast in the history of mankind. And, unfortunately, Adam and Eve broke this fast. We can say that the worldly history of mankind began with a violation of fasting. Therefore, an integral component of spiritual life of a person seeking to return to the fullness of communion with God is self-restraint. This is the main goal of the fast. A person should learn to curb his desires, give priority to the spiritual over the physical. This can only be achieved through years of exercise. Fasting is precisely this kind of a spiritual exercise. That is why the Church recommends that her members constantly practice fasting. In addition to many days of fasting during almost the entire year Orthodox Christians fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. This shows how important it is for our spiritual life.

 

– What should a person do if he cannot fast due to health reasons?

– In such cases, indulgence in fasting is allowed. A person who cannot fast in full severity should come to a priest before beginning the fast, explain the situation to him and receive a blessing for deviation from the rigidity of the fast. Usually, based on the person’s state and circumstances of his life, the priest helps to establish such a rule of fasting that the person can manage. We should not forget that fasting is not a diet, but a time of spiritual endeavor. Even if we cannot strictly abstain from food, we can read the Word of God and offer intensified prayer to the Creator.

 

– Fasting is not always possible at work, at a party, on the road, or in a non-church environment. To what extent should this be countered?

– In recent years, our society has become accustomed to the fact that its significant part strives to abide by church regulations in their life. Therefore, today, during many days of fasting, as a rule, a fasting menu is offered in canteens, cafes and restaurants. Co-workers at work are also usually calm and even respectful to those of their colleagues who observe the fast. Today, there are no such difficulties that haunted believers in Soviet society. Then society actively opposed religion. And openly declaring that you are fasting in Soviet times was almost a feat of confession. Nevertheless, even today our society is still far from true religiosity, because the life of a church person in a secular world carries many temptations.

We should remember that fasting is not just abstinence from certain types of food, but also time when we should teach ourselves to treat our neighbor with true Christian love. Loss of love, quarrels, contention and conflicts cannot be justified by the desire to observe the letter of the Church Charter. Indeed, the rejection of anger is a much more serious exercise for most of us than the rejection of certain types of food.

 

– What should a person who decided to fast not only gastronomically, but also inwardly, start from?

– We all know our heart very well: what are its main weaknesses, what are its main vices and passions. Therefore, when starting fasting, everyone can make a special promise that during fasting days he will refrain, for example, from jokes or idle talk, from anger or indignation. And when these unkind aspirations arise in our hearts, we should remember the promise we have made and try to suppress them right away. If we feel a special addiction to money or in general to material wealth in ourselves, then during this period we can take on a special commitment to carry out acts of charity. Thus fasting will become for us not only bodily, but also spiritual, inward activity.

 

Translated by Alyona Malafeeva

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