Guidelines for Fasting
Fasting is a holy tradition passed down to the Orthodox Church from the Old Testament times, and is one of the means by which we partake of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In guarding ourselves against gluttony and impure thoughts, words and deeds, we gain God's grace and power to resist spiritual temptations and the passions of the flesh. By abstinence we are able to set ourselves free from dependence on the things of this world and the desire for possessions in order to concentrate on our salvation. Only by bringing ourselves to true humility and repentance, accompanied by fasting, tears, prayer, and confession, can we ever hope to achieve the Kingdom of God and eternal life with Christ our Savior. Together with fasting and prayer, we should also strive whenever it is possible (particularly during the fasting periods) to give alms, to relieve the sick, the poor and the oppressed, and to do other good deeds from a pure and sincere heart. There are four canonical fast periods of the year, each having their own set of rules. During all of these fasting periods the Holy Orthodox teaches that we must abstain from eating meat, dairy products and eggs. The allowances of fish, wine and oil are governed according to the rank of the service or the day of the week; some local variations pertaining to these allowances are applied, according to the traditions of the parish.
These four fasting seasons are:
Great Lent: Fish is allowed only on the feasts of Annunciation & Palm Sunday.
Apostles' Fast (the day after the Sunday of All Saints until SS. Peter and Paul - June 29 - July 12): Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are strict fast days, on which fish is not allowed.
Dormition Fast (1/14 Aug. - 14/27 Aug.): Fish is permitted only on the feast of the Transfiguration.
Nativity Fast (15/28 Nov. - 24 Dec./6 Jan.): Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are strict fast days, on which fish is not allowed. After the feast of St. Nicholas (6/19 Dec.), fish is allowed only on weekends, but from 20 Dec./2 Jan. until the feast of the Nativity fish is not permitted.
The following are fasts of one day only:
Every Wednesday & Friday of the year, except during the fast-free weeks; Monday is also kept by Orthodox monks and nuns.
The day before the feast of the Theophany (5/18 Jan.)
Beheading of St. John the Baptist (29 Aug./11 Sept.)
Elevation of the Precious Cross (8/21 Sept.)
The following are fast-free weeks:
The holy days from 25 Dec./7 Jan. until 4/17 Jan.
Week of the Publican and the Pharisee
Week of Cheese-Fare (no meats, but fish, dairy products, and eggs are allowed)
Bright Week of Pascha