Monday, April 13, 2009

How Should One Fast During Holy Week?

Here is my translation of a question and answer exchange with Igumen Pakhomy (Bruskov), rector of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Saratov:
Question: How should one fast during Passion Week?

Answer: Fasting during these days should be especially strict. The monastery Typikon prescribes dry-eating [сухоядение; xerophagy] during the first three days of Passion Week. On Great Thursday, due to the celebration of the Liturgy, hot food and oil are allowed. On Great Friday one does not eat any food at all, although the very weak are permitted bread and water after sunset. On Great Saturday bread and wine are blessed after the Liturgy, and food without oil is permitted at trapeza.

Laypeople should remember that this rule was designed specifically for monastics, whose entire lives during these days are connected with the Divine services. Such fasting is often not possible for laypeople that continue to work at their usual jobs and are burdened by family responsibilities. Therefore there is no “parish rule,” given that laypeople live in very different circumstances, and have very different spiritual and physical capacities. A spiritual father should determine how strict one’s fasting should be based on individual circumstances.

I would particularly like to mention that the Typikon allows the use of wine on several days of the Great Fast, and even of Passion Week. One should remember, however, that wine in the East, were the Studite and Jerusalem Typikons were compiled, was an everyday drink, something like tea for us. In Russia it is another story altogether. Therefore, in my opinion, Christians in our country would do better to refrain from the use of wine during Great Lent, with the exception of Great Feasts, namely the Annunciation of the All-Holy Theotokos and the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem. According to received tradition, faithful who are preparing to receive Communion during the Paschal night should refrain from eating after six in the evening.

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