Rules and Suggestions
We know that fasting in the Orthodox Church is a practice that leads to greater prayer and spirituality. Fasting is a denial to the body, and a reminder to prayer and for growing closer to Christ. If you can deny your craving for certain foods, then perhaps you can deny your craving for gossip, or being dishonest or engaging in other sinful activities. If you can increase your stamina of fasting, then maybe you can increase your habit of prayer.
Remember, fasting requires practice and routine. Please speak to your spiritual father or Fr. Demetrios, if you have questions about fasting.
On the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website, you will find the Orthodox Calendar (www.goarch.org/chapel/calendar), which uses symbols to indicate the "fasting" days and "fast-free" days. On those days marked with:
- No symbol, then all foods are allowed.
- A cheese symbol — only dairy, eggs, fish, wine, and oil are allowed (refrain from meat).
- A fish symbol — only fish, wine, and oil are allowed (refrain from meat, dairy, and eggs).
- A grapes symbol — wine and oil are allowed (refrain from meat, fish, dairy, and eggs).
- A cross symbol — which is a Strict Fast — refrain from meat, fish, oil, wine, dairy, and eggs.
On a Strict Fast day, if you feel comfortable, then you can avoid all the previously mentioned foods. However, if you are a first-time faster, then try to avoid meat and fish. Children under the age of 12 years can practice fasting, if their parents feel comfortable. Then when they are older, they will be accustommed to fasting and can practice with their parents more seriously. Create a habit of fasting, and eventually it will become a daily practice.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with fasting from the perspective of various Church Fathers.
The Rule of Fasting in the Orthodox Church by Fr. Seraphim Rose
Three Helpful Principles of Fasting - A Letter to a new convert to Orthodoxy
Various Replies to Questions on Fasting - From Orthodox Tradition