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Fasting is good for heart and long life

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  • Fr. K.K. John
    Fasting is good for heart and long life Question: How should an Orthodox Christian fast during Lent? Should he/she be fasting for the whole day? In that case
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2008
      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."

      My answer:

      (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.

      I suggest
      (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
      Holy Church.

      (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 !!
      # 003
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