Lent 2021: rules and prohibitions, when you can caviar, myths about food, vodka and sex

Why is fasting needed?

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The stichera (church hymn) speaks about fasting: “We fast with a pleasant fast, pleasing to the Lord: true fasting means alienation of anger, abstinence of the tongue, putting aside rage, excommunication from lusts, accusations, lies and perjury. This impoverishment is a true and favorable fast.” Fasting is not a diet, and abstinence from certain types of food is not an end in itself, but one of the means of spiritual growth that the Church offers us. In one of his epistles, the holy Apostle Paul compares the path of a Christian to the training of an athlete who sits on a strict diet, trains hard, follows a regimen, and all in order to receive a crown, which will then inevitably fade. The Church calls us to spiritual efforts that will lead to an “incorruptible crown,” that is, not to the temporary joy of sports victory, but to the eternal joy of Heaven.

To help us in these efforts, the Church establishes fasts in remembrance of the most important events in the history of salvation. The most important fast is Lent, which is dedicated to the memory of the suffering, death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is a time of special spiritual concentration.

We all tend to go through periods of cooling off. It happens that the initial burning in faith, love for God, zealous desire for a pious life cools down. It cannot be said that a person has lost faith, but the worries of this age, the deception of wealth and other desires (Mark 4:19) are already beginning to drown out the word of God in him. And therefore, tradition invites a person to make a pilgrimage to the origins of faith, to clearly define his position: I am a Christian and therefore, in remembrance of the suffering of the Savior, for some time I will voluntarily restrain myself in some way, at least abstain from certain types of food. In the ancient Church, this abstinence also had a charitable meaning - Christians used the funds saved by refusing more expensive animal food to help those in need.

Fasting also serves as evidence of a person's spiritual nature - unlike an animal, which will always eat all the food it can get its hands on. A healthy animal will never abstain from food or from satisfying any of its biological impulses, and we often hear that a person is nothing more than an “improved animal.” Religious fasting is the simplest way to show that this is not so. It is our biological nature to seek the pleasure of tasty food and give free rein to our appetite, but we can decide that spiritual goals are more important and put our animal nature in place. Therefore, fasting is an ancient religious practice, widespread in the pagan world.

But Christian fasting also has its own characteristics. For a pagan ascetic, the body is the prison of the soul, something unwanted, which he eventually dreams of getting rid of forever. For a Christian, the body is, as one ascetic said, “brother donkey,” that is, something good in itself (God did not create anything bad in principle), but requiring it to be kept in subjection: we must ride a donkey, not a donkey on us.

Fasting helps us learn to subordinate our desires to reason and will, and reason and will to the word of God. However, it is important to note that during fasting everyone, and especially people who have recently entered church life, should exercise prudence and moderation so as not to harm their health - mental and physical.


Should I fast?

Let us note right away: fasting is not a diet. This is not only a voluntary restriction of food, but also a refusal of entertainment and much more in order to prepare the soul and body for the meeting with the risen Christ. Preparation for Easter also includes a positive program: prayer, charity, kind deeds towards loved ones and those far away, as well as renunciation of envy, anger, and condemnation. The latter is sometimes the hardest: we are much more judgmental of those who do not follow the rules we have set for ourselves.

If you are a believer, the question for you - to fast or not - is not worth it. If you have recently joined the faith and are ready to diligently follow all the rules, balance your strength. Perhaps you should, after consulting with your spiritual mentor, first choose a milder version of fasting. This will protect you from a breakdown, after which a person may lose faith in his abilities.

Let us also note: all statements that those who do not fast are unworthy of Easter are a myth. John Chrysostom , in the catechumen speech that is always read at Easter, mentions that the Lord accepts everyone - regardless of how diligently a person fasted. Therefore, churches treat with understanding parishioners who come to the Easter service, let’s say, having broken their fast a little in advance.

Why is food restriction necessary?

The meaning of Lent is to show “who is the boss of the house” - our body, which requires food, or our soul, which strives for the Lord. And in order not to delight the body with varied and plentiful food, at some point we say: “Stop! Now we will work on the soul, and you will eat what they gave you.” The body grumbles and resists, but when we control it, it becomes easier for the soul to assimilate spiritual food (prayers, Holy Scripture) and rush to God. In addition, thanks to fasting, we become able to empathize with the suffering of the Savior during Holy Week, which prepares us for Easter. Lent was established by the Church so that the brain and soul would first plunge into darkness and then rejoice - in contrast.

When can you eat caviar?

According to the rules of Lent 2021, fish and seafood can be eaten only three times: on the Feast of the Annunciation - April 7, on Lazarus Saturday - April 24 and on Palm Sunday - April 25. There is a tradition on Lazarus Saturday to eat not the fish itself, but fish caviar. This is due to the fact that caviar, like the Easter egg, symbolizes new life and rebirth. The resurrection of Lazarus in Christianity is considered a prototype, a “rehearsal” of the Resurrection of Christ.

At the same time, caviar can also be eaten on Annunciation and Palm Sunday.

Preparing for Confession

Is it necessary to fast before confession? If a Christian does not take communion after it, then the fast is only mental. It is voluntary. A person himself makes a decision whether to fast mentally or not.

The point is that before confession you need to get in the mood. To do this, it is not enough to simply take a book with a list of sins, write out part of it and bring your notes to the priest. This, as some experienced priests say, is a formal report.

You need to want to repent. And fixing your life. For example, if a person smokes, he must desire with all his heart to give up this passion. And realize how disgusting smoking is before God. With these same lips, in which the cigarette was clutched, we venerate the Gospel, take communion, and kiss the cross. And we don’t even think about how much we insult the Creator.

What about idle talk? The very first ordeal that everyone has to go through - in a word. How much chatter and gossip comes out of our mouths? Girlfriends or relatives gather and it begins. They will wash everyone’s bones so that it won’t seem too small.

At least before confession, let's refrain from idle talk. From watching TV, sitting at the computer for a long time, listening to music. Let's leave visiting the theater and cinema for this time. Let’s better think about what and how we will say in confession. Without a book there are hints, but on our own we will write out those sins that weigh most heavily on us. And then we will rummage through the depths of memory. If you leave entertainment and delve into yourself, you can find so many interesting things.

Do they fast before confession? If you are not going to take communion, then fasting should be spiritual. We talked about this above.

So, preparation for confession includes:

Abstain from entertainment.

Aspiration within oneself.

Sincere repentance for your sins.

Firm determination to improve.

What happens if you eat meat during fasting?

There is a myth that if you eat something modest during fasting, even by accident, then God’s inevitable punishment is provided for this. It is a myth. As FAN previously wrote, there are people who in Orthodoxy are quite “legally” exempt from fasting: children, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and sick, as well as those who have to work hard, who are in prison, and so on. It also happens: a person who strictly fasts finds himself in a situation where refusing a quick treat means seriously offending his neighbor (and for a Christian, all people are brothers and sisters in Christ). It is believed that for the sake of peace and harmony it is better to break the fast than to provoke a quarrel. And even more so, you shouldn’t reproach and punish yourself if you accidentally ate something savory. It is much worse if you boast of your fasting in front of your neighbors, without hiding your condemnation of those who are fasting. This behavior is considered sinful.

roscontrol.com / Press service of Roscontrol

How to deal with your sex life

The complete prohibition of sexual life during Lent is one of the most persistent myths. It’s important to make a reservation here right away. All church regulations regarding physical intimacy apply exclusively to married spouses. Everything else, including marriage registered in the registry office, as well as what we usually call “civil marriage,” is considered by the church to be prodigal cohabitation and, naturally, does not approve either during Lent or during other periods.

Abstinence from physical intimacy between married spouses is prescribed not only during Lent, but also in the week preceding it, as well as in the first week after Easter (so as not to be distracted from spiritual joy). This, as you understand, is more than two months. It’s good if both spouses are deeply religious people, but what if only one person in the family came to faith?

In short, the church tries not to interfere in this interesting area of ​​human relationships. If the spouses cannot figure it out themselves, they can consult their confessor. At the same time, reasonable priests advise their spiritual children to act in such a way as not to jeopardize peace and harmony in the family, which is more important than observing many rules. It’s better to resolve issues that concern only two people among themselves, without bringing them up for discussion with anyone else.

What is a communion?

Is it necessary to fast before confession and communion? Yes, physical fasting is required before communion. Three days is the minimum. In addition to avoiding idle pastimes, the exclusion of certain foods is added. Animal origin, and on especially strict days they do not eat fish.

What is a participle? This is one of the main church sacraments. The union of man with God through the acceptance of the Mysteries of Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus Christ commanded his disciples to receive communion. Bread is the Body of Christ, wine is His Blood. He gave us the sacrament as a great mercy and hope of salvation.

What are multi-day fasts in Orthodoxy?

Fasting is a special religious practice that involves temporary abstinence from certain foods; in Christianity, this is food of animal origin, abstinence from bad thoughts, words, alcohol and other carnal pleasures. Since ancient times, the tradition of long periods of such restriction has taken root.

There are restrictions of different duration and severity. There are multi-day and one-day periods of abstinence. The diet and its saturation are determined by the event this period coincides with. The rules for a monk and a lay person will be somewhat different. The main tasks are to identify one’s own passions, repentance, cultivate strong-willed qualities, and focus on improving the spirit and body.

Is it necessary to rinse with vodka on the first day of fasting?

It is believed that in Rus' there was such a tradition: on the first day of Lent, which is called Clean Monday (also called Monday of Holy Week), you need to rinse your mouth with vodka to rinse the remnants of fast food from your teeth.

Let's face it, this is a myth, and a very harmful one at that. If such a tradition existed somewhere, then it is not worth considering it worthy of following. Since on the first Monday of Lent it is customary to refuse food altogether in order to take a break from the excesses of Maslenitsa, brushing your teeth with vodka on an empty stomach will not lead to anything good. Of course, not only medicine, but also the church, frankly speaking, condemns this savagery.

And in general, vodka and fasting are incompatible. Adult believers are allowed to drink a little wine on Saturdays (except Holy Saturday) and Sundays, as well as on the Feast of the Annunciation. Just a little and just wine. Fasting people should stay away from vodka.


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