Fasting is more than just abstaining from certain foods; it's a spiritual journey that brings us closer to God and strengthens our faith. In the Antiochian Orthodox Christian tradition, fasting is a cherished practice, deeply woven into the fabric of our spiritual life. I'm excited to share with you the essence of the Antiochian Orthodox fast calendar, a guide that helps us navigate through the fasting seasons with understanding and purpose.

may, 2024

june 2024

02junAll Day29The Fast of the Holy Apostles

august 2024

01augAll Day14Dormition of the Theotokos Fast

29augAll DayFeast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist

september 2024

14sepAll DayFeast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross

november 2024

15novAll Day24decThe Nativity Fast (Advent Fast)

december 2024

24decAll DayNativity Fasting: The Eve of the Feast of the Nativity of our LordThe Eve of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord (Dec. 24)

january 2025

05janAll DayThe Eve of the Feast of Theophany

Wednesday And Fridays Fasts

In the Orthodox Christian tradition, Wednesdays and Fridays are designated as regular fasting days throughout the year. This practice is deeply rooted in the history and spiritual life of the Church, serving as a weekly reminder of the Passion of Christ and the sacrifices made by the Holy Apostles.

The Significance of the Fast

The custom of fasting on Wednesdays commemorates the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot, while fasting on Fridays honors the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. This tradition is not merely a matter of dietary restriction but is a spiritual discipline aimed at fostering a deeper relationship with God and a more Christ-centered life. The goal of these fasting days is to cultivate a spirit of repentance, humility, and mindfulness of our spiritual and moral commitments.

General Rules of the Fast

On Wednesdays and Fridays, Orthodox Christians abstain from meat, dairy products, and, in many traditions, olive oil and wine. This abstinence is not just about refraining from certain foods but is a holistic approach to fasting that includes moderation in all aspects of life. Full meals are taken with simplicity and mindfulness, with an emphasis on prayer and spiritual nourishment over physical satisfaction.

Suggested Prayers

During these fasting days, Orthodox Christians are encouraged to increase their prayer life, participating in the Divine Liturgy when possible, and incorporating special prayers and readings into their personal devotions.

Observing the fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, Orthodox Christians engage in a rhythm of life that continually brings them back to the core events of their faith—the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ—and the foundational acts of the Apostles. These fasting days serve as a regular opportunity for spiritual reflection, growth, and renewal, helping the faithful to live out their Orthodox Christian faith in the context of the modern world.

Special Days Of Fasting

1 - January 5th: The Eve of the Feast of Theophany

On the Eve of the Feast of Theophany, Orthodox Christians around the globe observe a day of solemn fasting, marking the final preparation before the celebration of Christ's baptism in the Jordan River. This fast is deeply rooted in the tradition of the Orthodox Church, reflecting a profound spiritual readiness to commemorate the revelation of the Holy Trinity and the sanctification of the natural world through Christ's baptism.

The Significance of the Fast

The fast on January 5th serves as a spiritual conduit, preparing the faithful to witness the Theophany, one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Christian Church. Historically, this fast echoes the Church's call for purification and sanctification of the faithful, mirroring the purifying waters of Christ's baptism. The religious goal of this fast is to attain a deeper communion with God through prayer and fasting, aligning oneself with the divine will and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

General Rules of the Fast

Orthodox Christians observe this day with a strict fast, abstaining from meat products, dairy products, and eggs, in line with the traditional fasting disciplines of the Church. The consumption of fish, olive oil, and wine is also typically restricted on this day to maintain the fast's solemnity. The faithful are encouraged to partake in full meals modestly, emphasizing spiritual nourishment through prayer and reflection over physical sustenance.

Suggested Prayers

The Eve of Theophany is marked by profound liturgical services that immerse the faithful in the mystery of Christ's baptism. The Great Compline, often served on the eve, is a time for solemn reflection, featuring hymns and readings that recount John the Baptist's role and the revelation of the Holy Trinity. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, followed by the Great Blessing of Water, is a central element of Theophany Eve, symbolizing the sanctification of the waters and, by extension, the entire creation.

As Orthodox Christians observe the fast on the Eve of Theophany, they do so with a spirit of anticipation and reverence, preparing their hearts to celebrate the divine manifestation and the sanctification of the natural world. This fast, observed across various traditions and calendars within the Orthodox Church, underscores the universal call to purification and spiritual renewal inherent in the Orthodox Christian faith.

2 - August 29th: Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist

The Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist, observed on August 29th, stands as a poignant day in the Orthodox Christian liturgical calendar. This day commemorates the martyrdom of John the Baptist, a pivotal figure in the Orthodox faith, known for his role in preparing the way for Christ and baptizing Him in the Jordan River. The fast associated with this feast is one of solemn reflection on the virtues of courage, truth, and the ultimate sacrifice for faith.

The Significance of the Fast

The fast on this day is observed in remembrance of John the Baptist's unwavering commitment to truth and righteousness, leading to his beheading by Herod Antipas. This event, steeped in the tragic interplay of sin and virtue, calls Orthodox Christians to a day of strict fasting, mirroring the gravity of the occasion. The religious goal of this fast is to inspire the faithful to embody John's virtues, standing firm in their faith and convictions in the face of worldly challenges and moral trials.

General Rules of the Fast

Orthodox Christians observe this day with a strict fast, abstaining from meat, dairy products, and olive oil, reflecting the day's solemnity. The consumption of fish is traditionally forbidden, emphasizing the penitential nature of the fast. Full meals are taken with moderation, with the faithful encouraged to focus on spiritual nourishment through prayer, rather than physical sustenance.

Suggested Prayers

The liturgical services on this day are marked by hymns and readings that recount the life and martyrdom of John the Baptist, highlighting his role as the forerunner of Christ. Orthodox Christians are encouraged to participate in the Divine Liturgy, where special prayers and hymns dedicated to John the Baptist are offered, reflecting on his righteous life and unjust death.

Observing the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist, Orthodox Christians honor the memory of a saint who paid the ultimate price for his fidelity to God's commandments. This day serves as a powerful reminder of the cost of discipleship and the eternal value of standing for truth in a transient world.

3 - September 14th: Feast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross, celebrated on September 14th, holds a place of profound reverence in the hearts of Orthodox Christians worldwide. This feast commemorates two historical events: the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena in the fourth century and the return of the Cross to Jerusalem from Persia in the seventh century. It is a day that symbolizes the triumph of the Cross over sin and death, as well as the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of humanity.

The Significance of the Fast

The fast associated with this feast is observed on the day itself, serving as a spiritual preparation to honor the Cross, which is the symbol of our salvation. The goal of fasting on this day is to draw closer to the mystery of Christ's sacrificial love and to reflect on the power of the Cross in our own lives. It is a time to venerate the Cross, which, through its suffering and victory, offers each believer the path to resurrection and eternal life.

General Rules of the Fast

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross, Orthodox Christians engage in a strict fast, abstaining from meat, dairy products, and olive oil, in reverence for the solemnity of the day. The consumption of fish is traditionally restricted, emphasizing the penitential nature of the fast. Faithful are encouraged to partake in full meals with moderation, focusing their hearts and minds on the spiritual significance of the Cross rather than on physical nourishment.

Suggested Prayers

The Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross is marked by the solemn veneration of the Cross, which is brought out for the faithful to worship. Special hymns and prayers are offered, exalting the Cross as the instrument of our salvation and the sign of Christ's ultimate love for mankind.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross invites Orthodox Christians to reflect on the central mystery of their faith: that through the Cross, joy has come into all the world. Observing this feast with fasting, prayer, and veneration, the faithful renew their commitment to bear their own crosses with dignity, inspired by Christ's example and sustained by His victorious love.

Special Seasons Of Fasting

1 - The Great Fast (Great Lent): Sundown on Cheese Fare Sunday through Holy Saturday

The Great Fast, or Great Lent, is the most significant and solemn fasting period in the Orthodox Christian liturgical calendar, beginning at sundown on Cheese Fare Sunday and culminating on Holy Saturday, just before Easter Sunday. This sacred time is dedicated to preparing the faithful both spiritually and physically for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Significance of the Fast

Great Lent traces its origins back to the early days of the Christian Church, serving as a period of strict fasting, intensified prayer, and almsgiving. The primary goal of this fast is to cleanse the soul, repent for sins, and draw closer to God. It mirrors Christ's 40-day fast in the desert, offering the faithful a time to reflect on their lives, make amends, and grow in their faith and devotion to God.

General Rules of the Fast

During Great Lent, Orthodox Christians engage in a strict fast, abstaining from all animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Fish is also typically prohibited, with some exceptions on specific feast days such as the Annunciation and Palm Sunday. Olive oil and wine are usually allowed only on weekends. This period is marked by full meals that are simple and modest, focusing on legumes, vegetables, and grains, to maintain the body's strength while observing the fast.

Suggested Prayers

The prayer life of Orthodox Christians intensifies during Great Lent, with special services such as the Presanctified Liturgy, the Great Compline, and the Akathist Hymn being central to worship during this period. The faithful are encouraged to participate in these services and to incorporate additional personal prayers into their daily routines.

Great Lent is a profound spiritual journey that invites Orthodox Christians to embark on a path of self-examination, prayer, and fasting. It is a time to detach from worldly pleasures and draw nearer to God, preparing the heart and soul for the glorious celebration of Christ's Resurrection at Pascha (Easter). Through this period of solemn reflection and devout observance, the faithful are renewed in spirit, strengthened in faith, and reinvigorated in their Christian walk.

2 - The Fast of the Holy Apostles: Sundown of the Sunday of the Fathers through June 29

The Fast of the Holy Apostles, observed from the sundown of the Sunday of All Saints (the Sunday after Pentecost) through June 29th, is a cherished period of fasting in the Orthodox Christian Church. This fast honors the Holy Apostles and their tireless work in establishing the early Church, spreading the Gospel of Christ across the world.

The Significance of the Fast

The Fast of the Holy Apostles dates back to the early days of the Church, when the faithful would prepare themselves through fasting to celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th. The primary goal of this fast is to emulate the dedication, sacrifice, and missionary zeal of the Apostles. It serves as a period for Orthodox Christians to deepen their faith, engage in repentance, and recommit to spreading the Good News, just as the Apostles did.

General Rules of the Fast

During the Fast of the Holy Apostles, Orthodox Christians are encouraged to abstain from meat and dairy products. Fish, wine, and olive oil are typically allowed except on Wednesdays and Fridays, which are observed with stricter fasting, in accordance with the traditional fasting discipline of the Church. The faithful approach these dietary restrictions with a spirit of willingness, viewing them as an opportunity for spiritual growth and bodily discipline.

Suggested Prayers

Throughout the Fast of the Holy Apostles, Orthodox Christians are encouraged to increase their prayer life, seeking the intercession of the Holy Apostles for strength and guidance in their own missionary endeavors. Participating in the Divine Liturgy and engaging in personal prayers are central to this fasting period.

The Fast of the Holy Apostles is a time for Orthodox Christians to reflect on the sacrifices and contributions of the Apostles, seeking to embody their unwavering faith and commitment to Christ. It is an opportunity for spiritual growth, renewal, and a rekindling of the missionary spirit within the heart of every believer.

3 - Theotokos Fast: August 1st to 14th

The Theotokos Fast, observed from August 1st to August 14th, is a period of spiritual preparation for the Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Mother of God. This fast is a time for Orthodox Christians to honor the Virgin Mary, whose life of purity and obedience to God's will stands as a model for all Christians.

The Significance of the Fast

The tradition of the Theotokos Fast has been observed in the Orthodox Church for centuries, rooted in the Church's deep veneration for the Mother of God. The primary goal of this fast is to prepare the faithful spiritually for the celebration of the Dormition of the Theotokos, a feast that commemorates the Virgin Mary's "falling asleep" and her assumption into heaven. This period encourages the faithful to reflect on the virtues of the Theotokos, seeking her intercession and striving to emulate her life of humility, devotion, and love.

General Rules of the Fast

During the Theotokos Fast, Orthodox Christians traditionally abstain from meat, dairy products, and, in many traditions, olive oil and wine. Fish is also typically prohibited, except on the feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th, when fish, wine, and oil are permitted in celebration of the feast. The faithful are encouraged to approach the fast with a spirit of joy and willingness, seeing it as an opportunity for spiritual renewal and growth.

Suggested Prayers

During the Theotokos Fast, Orthodox Christians intensify their prayer life, seeking the intercession of the Virgin Mary for strength and guidance. Special services, such as the Paraklesis (Supplicatory Canon) to the Theotokos, are held during this period, offering the faithful opportunities to gather in prayer and song, asking for the Theotokos's protection and aid.

The Theotokos Fast is a time for Orthodox Christians to draw closer to the Mother of God, seeking her intercession and striving to live lives that reflect her purity, obedience, and love. It is an opportunity for spiritual growth and renewal, as the faithful prepare to celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos, one of the great feasts of the Orthodox Church.

4 - The Nativity Fast (Advent): November 15 to December 24

The Nativity Fast, also known as Advent, is a cherished period of anticipation and preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, observed by Orthodox Christians from November 15th to December 24th. This fast is a time of reflection, prayer, and fasting, leading up to the joyous celebration of Christmas.

The Significance of the Fast

The Nativity Fast has its roots in the tradition of the Church to prepare devoutly for major feasts. Similar to Great Lent before Pascha, the Nativity Fast is a period for Orthodox Christians to prepare their hearts and minds for the coming of Christ. The goal of this fast is not only to abstain from certain foods but to engage in a spiritual journey that includes prayer, almsgiving, and repentance, fostering a deeper relationship with God and a renewal of faith.

General Rules of the Fast

During the Nativity Fast, Orthodox Christians traditionally abstain from meat and dairy products, with fish, wine, and olive oil allowed on certain days, except for Wednesdays and Fridays, which are strict fast days. The faithful are encouraged to approach these dietary restrictions with a spirit of humility and willingness, seeing them as an opportunity for spiritual growth rather than as mere obligations.

Suggested Prayers

During the Nativity Fast, Orthodox Christians intensify their prayer life, participating in services such as the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos and the Advent Paraklesis, which are especially appropriate during this period. Additionally, the faithful might include in their daily prayers special petitions for the strength to observe the fast faithfully and for the grace to celebrate the Nativity of Christ with a pure heart.

The Nativity Fast is a time for Orthodox Christians to turn their hearts and minds more fully towards God, preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ with joy, love, and peace. It is a period of spiritual renewal and growth, offering the faithful an opportunity to reflect on the profound mystery of the Incarnation and its implications for their lives.

Embracing the Fast with Understanding and Joy

Fasting in the Antiochian Orthodox tradition is not just about following rules; it's about drawing closer to God and growing in our faith. Each fasting season and day has its own significance, helping us to live the liturgical life of the Church more fully. As we journey through these fasting periods, let's embrace the opportunity for spiritual growth, reflection, and renewal.

Remember, the guidance of a spiritual father is invaluable in navigating the fasting seasons. Fasting is not a one-size-fits-all practice; it's tailored to each individual's spiritual and physical needs. Let's approach fasting with a spirit of joy and anticipation, knowing that through this discipline, we are drawn into a deeper communion with God and with one another in the body of Christ.

May our fasting be a journey of spiritual growth, drawing us closer to the heart of God and the essence of our Orthodox Christian faith.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do Orthodox fast?

Orthodox Christians observe several fasting periods throughout the liturgical year, including the Great Lent, the Nativity Fast, the Apostles' Fast, the Dormition Fast, and most Wednesdays and Fridays. The start and end dates of these fasts are determined by the Orthodox liturgical calendar.

What time do Orthodox fast?

Orthodox fasting practices can vary, but typically, the faithful abstain from eating and drinking from midnight until noon, especially during strict fast days. The extent and manner of fasting can be adjusted based on individual health, spiritual guidance, and specific fast rules.

What calendar do Orthodox use?

Orthodox Christians primarily follow the Julian calendar for their liturgical year, which includes fasting periods and feast days. However, some Orthodox churches have adopted the Revised Julian calendar or the Gregorian calendar, aligning certain celebrations with the modern civil calendar.

How long do Orthodox fast?

The duration of Orthodox fasts varies. The Great Lent, the longest fasting period, lasts for approximately 40 days, leading up to Easter Sunday. Other fasting periods include the Nativity Fast, the Apostles' Fast, and the Dormition Fast, each with different lengths and observances.

Why do Orthodox fast for 55 days?

The 55-day fast refers to the Great Lent and Holy Week, culminating in Easter Sunday. This period includes the 40 days of Great Lent, Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, and the Holy Week. It's a time of intense prayer, repentance, and preparation for celebrating the Resurrection of Christ.

When do Orthodox fast for Easter?

Orthodox Christians begin fasting for Easter with the start of Great Lent, which occurs 40 days before Easter Sunday, not including Sundays. This fasting period is a time of spiritual preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.