Fasting is good for heart and long life
"How should an Orthodox Christian fast during Lent? Should he/she be
fasting for the whole day? In that case is it allowed to fast after
receiving the Holy Communion? I know that one should refrain from
eating meat, fish etc during the Lent. What other things should one
take care of? I would like to know the Orthodox teachings about the
fast during Lent. Your reply would be a guideline for me for
observing the Lent this year. Regards, John Varghese."
(I), "Malayala Manorama dated Nov 29, 07 reported that fasting one
day in a month is good for heart. American heart association in its
88th annual meeting presented the report of an eight year study from
1994 to 2002 involving 4629 people. They found that the Mormons, who
call themselves a Christian sect, have the least incidence of heart
disease because they, as a matter of religious rite, strictly
observe one day fast in a month. Of others, who did not fast
monthly, 66% were found suffering from Coronary Artery disease,
which is a condition due to decreased amount of oxygen blood supply.
Fasting 24 hours reduces the amount of glucose in the blood/ heart
and that prevents disease. Smoking, coffee, and liquor are also
prohibited to Mormons." This supports my message to you last week
captioned, "Christmas without alcohol."
I worked with Marwadees in Bangalore for a long time. Some of the
good things I saw in them
(1) surely they fast every week on Friday from morning till evening,
(2) they start their daily duties with prayer in front of their God
(photo of Rama, Ganapathy, Saraswathi or Parwathi, etc); and
(3) they help their own kind. I sometimes wonder how our faithful-
mothers compel the children to eat in the morning before church
service lest they would collapse if they do not take food." This is
clipped from my earlier message nonetheless, it is still important.
I truthfully testify that since 1963 as an altar-boy I regularly
took part in the liturgies that fall on weekdays, including Good
Friday Service which started at 7.30 AM and ended at 4.00 PM without
taking food or drink before or in between. On weekdays, service was
from 7.00 to 9.00 AM; at the end there was breakfast and then rushed
straight to 5 KM distant Catholicate Collage. I have practiced
fasting before service for 45 years and still I find it good. I am
diabetic for the last 20 years and yet I have not broken my practice
of fasting on Sunday morning. I believe that is my strength. Fasting
will not hurt anyone on the contrary, it will help. As a principle
for spiritual preparation if one fasts before receiving Holy
Eucharist in empty stomach it is good for health of mind, body and
spirit. This I say to encourage all, young and old, to observe this
Holy Lent with proper fasting, prayer and humility for the blessing
of you, your family and the church.Fasting in Orthodox concept is
not merely abstaining from certain food and drink items but total
abstaining from evil thoughts and deeds. Isaiah chapter 58 lays down
the principles of fasting,
(1) unacceptable fast,
(2) acceptable fast,
(3) benefits of acceptable fasts.
(1) Unacceptable fast is: "You carry own pursuits, fast ends in
quarrelling and fighting, striking with wicked claw, you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high, v3-4.(2) Fast acceptable to
God is; "This is the fast I wish, keep a day of penance releasing
those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke, setting free
the oppressed, breaking every yoke, sharing the bread with the
hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the
naked when you see them, v 5-7. Penance, forgiveness and sharing are
the principles to emulate.
Purpose of fasting:
excerpts from our evening prayer (Pampakkuda namaskaaram):
(1) Fasting is a weapon to fight against Satan.
(2) One who is free from Jealousy, slandering, gossip and evil
thoughts and earnest in prayer, fasting and righteous deeds is
(3) Soul and body must fast together; as the body fasts from food
the soul must fast from all evil thoughts; keeping away from food
without repudiating evil thoughts is a contradiction and meaningless
From Lileo (midnight) prayer:
(1) be able to win over Satan and his forces who endlessly engage in
war with the faithful to defeat the spiritual fervor and to get them
over to his side.Note: St Peter says Satan is roaring like a lion to
devour the faithful; he tempts one when aims at steadfast faith and
righteous deeds. He will flee only when resisted. So fasting resists
(2) be able to inherit eternal life with the Lord; what else could
be a true believer's motivation?
(3) Worldly pleasures are indestructible imprisonment; alas, he who
binds his soul to the worldly pleasures. Blessed is the one who
inherits eternal life that is promised to God's astute followers.
(4) Adam's love of food made him eat the forbidden fruit; he was
exposed to shame and was driven out of paradise. Our Lord defeated
the desire for food by fasting and reinstated Adam.
(5) Fasting needs be done with purity of mind and body; it is the
bright spiritual wing that helps the faithful to attain eternal life.
(6) Chief aim of fasting is: to be able to inherit remission of sins
and forgiveness of trespasses.
(7) Be able to reconcile and be at peace with fellow beings and God.
(8) Be able to increase in deeds of righteousness.
(9) Be able to repent, to find mercy and be merciful to others.
(10) Be able to confess to others that Jesus Christ is Lord and
(11) To be able make a good name, free from hypocrisy.
(1) Fasting literally means fully and willingly abstaining from
eating and drinking anything. Not eating because of certain medical
requirements/tests or for want of enough food is not fasting.
(2) All Wednesdays and Fridays are fast days; Wednesday in honor of
Morth Mariam Basloos Yoldath Aaloho (Ever-Virgin St Mary, Mother of
God) because Annunciation took place on Wednesday and Friday in
honor of the passion and Crucifixion of our Lord.
(3) All Saturdays and Sundays are exempted from fasting, Saturday
our Lord went to hell and preached Gospel to all the departed, from
Adam to the time of Lord's visit. Sunday our Lord resurrected from
the dead; hence greatest of all feasts; it is the greatest
celebration of the Church.
(4) Second aspect is lent which is restriction of food. This is
clinically proven good for health and long life. Fatty and non-
vegetarian foods are sources of more energy and more energy leads to
more activity in flesh creating lustful temptations and less
concentration on spiritual matters; many fall out easily. Excess fat
and protein are stored in the body for a heyday. Continuous intake
of highly nutritious foods helps store more and more fats in the
body which if not checked might cause ill-health or even death. For
this reason fatty and non-vegetarian foods; milk, egg, meat and
their products, are prohibited during Lenten days.
(1) to avoid anything such as chocolates, soda, etc that would
create a craving to consume more and more (addiction).
(2) I strongly suggest, not eat food items, anytime which the Mosaic
Law has prohibited, e. g. pork, lobster, etc.
(3) must strictly abstain from alcohol, smoking and wine except
medicinal use. (4) Spouses may fast from conjugal relationship.
(5) Late HH Catholicos Mor Augen lifted the prohibition of fish by
an encyclical (Kalpana). Thus fish consumption need not be
considered as breaking the canon. Still, most faithful are found
following the old tradition, not eating fish during lent and I hold
it is good.
(6) During Lenten days we fast until noon that is, forgoing
breakfast. When fasting, the body utilizes the stored fat and burns
it into energy necessary to sustain life. This will prevent build up
of cholesterol, high blood pressure, clogging of arteries, diabetes
and a host of other illnesses. Empty or near-empty stomach is good
for prayer and meditation.Church insists on regular prayer and
meditation. Canonical prayers are better than extempore prayers for
they lead to penance and encourage growth in virtues while extempore
prayers are often babbling for selfish gains. Undivided attention is
the basic requirement for prayer and meditation; in full stomach it
is seldom possible. Food restriction helps the faithful to enhance
spiritual discipline; it is a proven fact, hold on to it.
(7) The most important reason why the Holy Church admonishes fasting
is to taste the state of the hungry and starving, how severe is the
condition of those starving and identify the faithful with suffering
fellow beings. According to estimates two third of the world
population is starving without means for one time square meals; our
motherland is under the grip of poverty! Though we are not better
than those suffering we are blessed more than them and it is our
duty to share our bounties with the less fortunate. We waste a
staggering amount of food, it is a crime, do not waste. Jesus asked
his disciples, "Collect the bread fragments," Jn 6:12.
(8) Posture is very important; stand while praying, it is our
tradition. Jenuflexion (kumpideel) is prescribed essential in which
all of joints, muscles, nerves and blood systems activate fully and
help burn the fat. It is the best form of workout, without the aid
of a machine, free of cost.
(9) There is exemption for patients taking medication at regular
intervals such as diabetes, post-surgery-patients, etc. Similarly,
those who need medication on timely basis might take small amount of
food, milk etc, which is not considered a canon breaking.
(10) Fasting after receiving Holy Quorbono is strictly prohibited
because there is no greater celebration than Holy Eucharist in the
(11) Day begins at 6.00 PM as per Jewish/Christian calendar. So
fasting ends at 6.00 PM.
(12) Holy Church admonishes the faithful to involve in humanitarian
activities; visiting the sick, the old and the weak, and almsgiving
such as financial aid to the deserving, poor and the oppressed, etc.
The Church admonishes every member to be kind and merciful to
others, forgive and not to offend others, shun violence and be at
peace with all fellow beings and kindred, shun filthy, wicked,
immoral life-style, evil words and habits and that is a full-fledged
transformation of heart from hardness to kindness; that is what is
expected of a faithful.
I recollect, in my younger days my mother used to save a handful of
rice each time when she put rice for boiling (pitiyari) which the
parish Moopan collected at regular intervals. That was the way
people practiced the virtue of charity even in scarcity and within
the limited resources.Are we not far better off now? I strongly
suggest all the faithful, except very old and very young and chronic
patients, forgo one-time meal a day during lent and place its value
in the piggy-bank provided to each family and or calculate the fair
value of forgone meals and make a check to the parish. That money
will be used for charity purposes alone. This donation is tax
exempted. Let us learn to do good things for others so that God will
richly bless us all in return and that is the essence of fasting and
Thankyou and God bless you !!