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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
    From: announce@list.stnicholasdc.org ... Apostrophe on the word fast. ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2013
      From: announce@...
      >Date: April 4, 2013, 8:30:24 AM EDT
      >To: <announce@...>
      >Subject: Fast
      Apostrophe on the word fast.

      >Fastis a Germanic word. Primarily it means abstaining from food; secondarily it means eating sparingly or abstaining from some foods. It comes into the Slavic languages as post. The Greek word is nesteía and it means the same thing: not eating, and, secondarily, not eating some foods.

      >Everyone knows the basic meaning of the word fast. The doctor tells you he wants you to come in for a blood test fasting, you know he means that you should eat nothing when you get up on the morning and that you will have nothing to eat until after the test. Fasting is not eating. And, fasting is from the morning.

      >From antiquity Christians would keep a fast by not eating all day and then taking a meal in the evening. It's the original idea behind the Wednesday/Friday fast. This is biblical stuff.

      >One can imagine that whatever spiritual benefits derive from fasting would come to a person regardless of how he broke his fast, in other words, regardless of what he ate.

      >One can fast for a day. One can fast for a period of time. The Great Forty Days for example.

      >One may fast—not eat all day, then eat—Monday through Friday. One may not fast—not eat all day, then eat—on the Sabbath and the Lord's Day. The Church nixes Saturdays and Sundays. Not at first, but very early in her history. It's why the Liturgy is served Sunday mornings—to minimize and confine the Eucharistic fast.

      >The first ecumenical council (Nikaia, 325 A.D.) makes an exception for the Holy and Great Sabbath which, a thousand years ago, was a day of fasting that concluded in the evening with Vespers with the Divine Liturgy during which neophytes were baptized and the Resurrection celebrated—everyone took holy Communion. (One can appreciate that the fast on this Saturday—like the eves of the Nativity and Theophany—was a Eucharistic fast leading into the feast.)

      >So. One fasts—one does not eat all day, then eats—Monday through Friday. Additionally, at the same time, one abstains from certain foods—e.g., meat, dairy, etc.

      >This is the only aspect of a fast period that continues over Saturday and Sunday. To use more precise language for our situation today: one fasts—one does not eat, then eats—and one abstains—one does not eat certain foods. Together they make up the Orthodox Christian notion of keeping a fast. Interestingly enough, these terms turn up in the hymnography we sing during the time of the Great Fast.

      >For most of us today what “fasting” we do is better termed abstinence. Abstaining from meat. Abstaining from dairy. Unfortunately this has led to label reading as an exercise in seasonal piety. Furgedaboudit.

      >Fr. Meyendorff came down heavily on label reading. He called label reading hariseeism. “Do what you can,” he would say. Want to do more? Do more of what the Church's tradition urges us to do. Enter more deeply into what the Church around the world is doing. Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving. Eschew silly notions. Like “Giving up Coke.” Or “Giving up chocolate.” Or some such. Pious solipsism. What value can there be in that? Better, think of fasting as training for the race, for the Christian life. Think of it as the nourishment for a sovereign spirit (remember? Psalm 50?): for self-control, for prudence, and perseverance.

      >We are a community of dependent creatures. No food and we're done for. Fasting and abstinence have worthwhile spiritual and moral goals. …..

      >One last word. Illness brings its own asceticism.

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