Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Orthodox & Byzantine Catholic guidelines for fasting & abstinence during Great Lent 'versus' Roman Catholic fasting rules

Image result for lent fasting catholic byzantine
image from Catholic Voice
Eastern Christians fast from animal products and even wine and olive oil in some traditions during all of the four fasting periods of the year. Wednesdays and Fridays through the year are vegan as well. We might indulge in fish on Sundays. But do we really?
Roman Catholics barely fast at all, but if they fail at abstaining from meat on Fridays in Lent, they will go to Hell. But do they really?
In reality, Eastern Christians fast as well and as 'harshly' as they can and discuss their fasting plans with a spiritual father. The goal is 'more than last year and less than next year.' There is no 'letter of the law' because the ideal is no food at all. 
Perhaps the reason why Roman Catholic fasting guidelines are so 'easy' is because there seems to be more of a philosophy of sticking to the letter of the law (even so- there are concessions made for age, health, etc)- the Church does not want to burden the people with sin, so the fasting/abstinence guidelines are very do-able for the majority of people. 
So- the guidelines for fasting in the Eastern Christians churches are quite strict, but the personal responsibility to follow the ideal is potentially lax (when in conference with a spiritual father) and the guidelines for fasting/abstinence in the Roman church is quite relaxed while the personal responsibility is quite strict. Like so many parts of our faith, East and West are two sides of the same glass. 
image from St Sofia Ukrainian Catholic Church


  1. Thank you for this post. As a Latin Catholic, I've always been really confused about the Eastern fasting requirements, and this clears it up.

    Also, fwiw, as a Latin Catholic I find the Eastern practice inspirational. In recent years, during Lent, I've tried to make what little fasting that is acquired of us Latins a bit more rigorous, which oddly enough seems to make it a bit easier. At the same time, I've come to be amazed by all of the self imposed odd dietary restrictions that are self imposed by very secular people upon themselves, which I have a theory about, but which I'll expound on some other time elsewhere.

    Anyhow, this was very instructive and I was wondering about it.

  2. Is it so true about secular people imposing restrictions on themselves- I use this to my 'advantage'- if a 'pagan' can be vegan all the time- can't I forgo animal products occasionally for the love of God? :)

    1. Indeed. But another aspect of it is that people's hearts seem to cry out for a purpose for their actions, while at the same time their secular minds reject the meaning. It must be a product of the Fall, but it leads to rigorous self imposition of practices that are meaningless as they lack a true spiritual base. A diet (and indeed, an unnatural one) that is imposed only because a person feels that it might slightly extend their mortality is pretty pointless, after all.

      By the same token I read today of a practice in which people now attend a class, more or less, to arrange for their own false funeral so they can reassess their life. We don't have to, as we have Lent.


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