Tag Archives: fasting

2011 Summer Unplugged: My Media Fast

I have not been blogging much lately and I thought the time had come to share about my little summer experiment. Beginning today I am committing to a media fast.

What’s does a media fast look like?

  • No Facebook: I will still receive personal messages as emails
  • No Twitter
  • No newspapers
  • No news or church gossip websites
  • No news radio
  • No blog posting
  • No Television: Versus and Netflix excluded
  • No responding to non-urgent email or voice mail except one, 1 hour session everyday

Why abstain from all that information?

I am tired and distracted. I have done this to myself. I have been sleeping with my phone on “in case of emergencies.” I have been reading about national and Church politics and what people eat for dinner and what mall and restaurant they are visiting and I am fed up with my lack on peace. It’s not you, it’s me. I have taken in too much information. Bleh.

What am I going to do instead of reading about Arnold Schwarzenegger and the OCA?

I intend to listen to music, read, write, hike, play the Ukulele everyday and play and pray more with the family.

God bless and keep you this summer! Christ is Risen!

Fr. James



Filed under A Good Life

an abundant flow of light: zeal for fasting in great lent

You know that decent penitence accompanied by tears that spring from the depth of the heart will melt and burn away the filth of sin. Light a fire and make pure the soul that has been defiled. In addition, penitence through the visitation of the Spirit generously imparts an abundant flow of light to the soul, whereby it is filled with mercy and good fruits (James 3:17). I pray, therefore, fathers and brethren, let us use fasting both during this third week of Lent and in those that follow, as we daily add fervor to fervor and zeal to zeal, until we arrive at the Sunday of Easter with souls and bodies alike resplendent.  St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses, Page 174

If you want to read more about St. Symeon, I wrote about my love for St. Symeon and his writings here.

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Filed under Flames of Wisdom, Orthodox Christianity

fasting and feasting during great lent

This coming Monday (known as Clean Monday) we begin Great Lent. Much is said about fasting and abstaining from certain foods. But Great Lent is also about fasting from certain attitudes and characteristics that creep into our hearts and minds. A friend sent me a list of fasts and feasts that we need to keep this Lent. I asked for a blessing to reprint the list here on Scholé. He asked to remain anonymous.

Consider the following which are more important than what you put in your stomach.  Disciplining the stomach and its appetites helps with all the rest.

FAST from self-concern and FEAST on compassion for others.

FAST from discouragement and FEAST on hope.

FAST from lethargy and FEAST on enthusiasm.

FAST from suspicion and FEAST on truth.

FAST from thoughts that weaken and FEAST on promises that inspire.

FAST from shadows of sorrow and FEAST on the sunlight of serenity.

FAST from idle gossip and FEAST on purposeful silence.

FAST from problems that overwhelm you and FEAST on prayer that sustains.

FAST from criticism and FEAST on praise.

FAST from self-pity and FEAST on joy.

FAST from ill-temper and FEAST on peace.

FAST from resentment and FEAST on contentment.

FAST from jealousy and FEAST on love.

FAST from pride and FEAST on humility.

FAST from selfishness and FEAST on service.


Filed under Orthodox Christianity

the purpose of fasting

Today the Orthodox Church begins 8 weeks of fasting. This week we are vegetarians. Beginning next Monday we are vegans for 7 weeks. Fasting is one of those disciplines that has not only fallen by the wayside for most Christians but there is now push back from many about the purpose and the meaning of fasting. What you find below the picture of my dinner last night is adapted from a teaching by Fr. Tom Hopko.

My dinner table last night. Delux Hamburgers before the 8 week fast from meat.

One of the most powerful things that can be said about fasting is that Jesus Himself fasted and taught His disciples to fast.

And when you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men, but your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)

The purpose of fasting is to gain mastery over oneself and to conquer the passions of the flesh. It is to liberate oneself from dependence on the things of this world in order to concentrate on the things of the Kingdom of God. It is to give power to the soul so that it would not yield to temptation and sin. According to St. Seraphim, fasting is an “indispensable means” of gaining the fruit of the Holy Spirit in one’s life (Saint Seraphim’s Conversation with Motovilov), and Jesus Himself taught that some forms of evil cannot be conquered without it (Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29)

Man does not fast because it pleases God if His servants do not eat, for, as the lenten hymns of the Church remind us, “the devil also never eats.” (Lenten Triodion) Neither do men fast in order to afflict themselves with suffering and pain, for God has no pleasure in the discomfort of His people. Neither do men fast with the idea that their hunger and thirst can somehow serve as a “reparation” for their sins. Such an understanding is never given in the scriptures or the writings of the saints, which claim that there is no “reparation” for man’s sin but the crucifixion of Christ. (cf. Romans 5:15-17, Ephesians 2:8-9)

Why have we fasted, and Thou seest it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and Thou takest no knowledge of it?  Behold, in the day of your fast, you seek your own pleasure and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and fight…Fasting like yours … will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness…to let the oppressed go free…is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them… Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall protect you. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; then you shall cry, and He will say: Here I am. (Isaiah 58:3-9)

Fasting in the body, oh brethren, let us also fast from sin.

This is the Church’s song in the lenten season of fasting. It is also the teaching of the saints.

…in fasting one must not only obey the rule against gluttony in regard to food, but refrain from every sin so that, while fasting, the tongue may also fast, refraining from slander, lies, evil talking, degrading one’s brother, anger and every sin committed by the tongue. One should also fast with the eyes, that is, not look at vain things…not look shamefully or fearlessly at anyone. The hands and feet should also be kept from every evil action.

When one fasts through vanity or thinking that he is achieving something especially virtuous, he fasts foolishly and soon begins to criticize others and to consider himself something great.

Saint Paul himself fasted, and in his teaching on food insists that men fast and do so in secret, without mutual inspection and judgment.

Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. For many of whom I have often told you and now tell you with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:17-19)

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything. Food is meant for the stomach, and the stomach for food – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (I Corinthians 6:12-13)

Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, called the abbot Hilarion to see him. A portion of fowl was set before them and the bishop invited the abbot to eat. The old man said, “Forgive me, Father, but since the time I took this habit I have never eaten anything that has been killed.” And Epiphanius said to him, “And from the time I took this habit I have let no man sleep who has anything against me, and neither have I slept holding anything against anyone.” And the old man said to him, “Forgive me, Father, for your way of life is greater than mine.” (The Sayings of the Fathers)

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Nativity Fasting Rules Explained

The fasting rules permit fish, and/or wine and oil on certain feast days that occur during the course of the fast. But not clown fish, yuk!

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Nativity Fast runs from November 15 until after Liturgy for Nativity and traditionally entails fasting from red meat, poultry, meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine. Fish, wine and oil are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, and oil and wine are allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The fasting rules permit fish, and/or wine and oil on certain feast days that occur during the course of the fast: Evangelist Matthew (November 16), Apostle Andrew (November 30), Great-martyr Barbara (December 4), St. Nicholas (December 6), St. Spiridon and St. Herman (December 12), St. Ignatius (December 20), etc. The Nativity Fast is not as severe as Great Lent or the Dormition Fast.

As is always the case with Orthodox fasting rules, persons who are ill, the very young or elderly, and nursing mothers are exempt from fasting. Each individual is expected to confer with their confessor regarding any exemptions from the fasting rules, and should never place themselves in physical danger.

There has been some ambiguity about the restriction of fish, whether it means the allowance of invertebrate fish or all fish. Often, even on days when fish is not allowed, shellfish may be consumed. More detailed guidelines vary by jurisdiction. The Church strictly states that from the December 20 to December 24 (inclusively), no fish may be eaten.

In answer to the question on your mind… YES, in the Antiochian Orthodox Church in America there is a dispensation for Thanksgiving.

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Filed under Orthodox Christianity, Sundays, Feast Days, Other Days

Lesser Ascesis

On October 15 we remember the Venerable Martyr Lucian, Presbyter of Antioch

St. John Chrysostom writes of St. Lucian:

He scorned hunger: let us also scorn luxury and destroy the power of the stomach that we may, when the time that requires such courage comes for us, be prepared in advance by the help of a lesser ascesis, to show ourselves glorious at the time of battle.

The part that I find most helpful is the bit about doing “lesser ascesis.” It confirms that fasting and denying oneself has benefit in the future when larger temptations come our way. Lesser ascesis is, according to Tito Colliander in his excellent little book, “Way of the Ascetics,” warfare directed against the life of self-will. He puts it this way,

If you have the urge to ask something, don’t ask! If you have the urge to drink two cups of coffee, drink only one! If you have the urge to look at the clock, don’t look! If you wish to smoke a cigarette, refrain! If you want to go visiting, stay home!


Filed under Orthodox Christianity