The life of each Orthodox Christian should be ascetic. Without our spiritual and physical effort, aided by the grace of the God, it is impossible to free of a power of sin and to unite with the Lord. That is why Fasting in the Orthodox spirituality holds a very important place and without it there is no progress in any Christian virtue. In the distant past, the concept of fasting included the complete abstinence from any food, and later took on the meaning of abstaining from one type of food called "fatty", ie. the one that contains animal fat, but at certain times and food that is prepared on vegetable fat. A special kind of fasting is "dry eating" which means using of non-cooked, dry fasting food.
The post we came across in many religions, although it only in the Orthodox Christian tradition gets its full spiritual meaning and does not apply only to physical self-control but also implies an effort of a soul in virtues. Fasting existed even in the Church of Old Testament and with it the man's conversion to God was expressed, his contrition and repentance. With Fasting man calms down before his Creator. Physical effort of Fasting spiritually prepares a soul that with a prayer asks for help from the God. The God's commandment about fasting was still given still to his forefather Adam in heaven. Only when he violated the commandment of fasting, Adam fell into sin and pride. Therefore, the commandment on fasting is an integral part of the Law that the Lord through the prophet Moses delivered to the Jewish people. It was fasted in every misfortune and sorrow, in any danger of war and suffering, always when it was necessary to pray for the grace of God. Even our ancient prophets teach that to God is just pleasing the one physical fasting that is accompanied by refraining from every evil deed, word and thought. There are many examples of pious fasting also in the New Testament. Lord Jesus Christ fasts 40 days and nights before his sermon on the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord teaches us to fast secretly, without hypocrisy, in contrast to the Pharisees who are with their public fasting wanted to acquire human glory.
The Meaning of Fasting
The general goal of fasting is the purification of soul and body from physical and spiritual passions, as well as celebration of the God and his saints. The real fast has two sides, physical and spiritual ans consists of refraint of bad thoughts, desires and deeds, multiplication of prayers, good deeds and doing all evangelical virtues.
Orthodox Christians also regularly fast on Wednesdays and Fridays to commemorate, respectively, Christ's betrayal by Judas Iscariot and His Crucifixion.
FOUR MAIN FASTING PERIODS
1.The Great Lent is the period of six weeks preceding Holy Week in anticipation of the Feast of Feasts, Pascha, followed by the fasting of Holy Week. Great Lent is preceded by the Meatfast, that starts on the Monday after the Sunday of the Last Judgment through Cheesefare Sunday.
2.The Nativity Fast (or Advent; also called St. Philip's Fast, coming immediately after his feast on November 14), is the period from November 15/28 to December 24/January 6 (forty days) in anticipation of Christmas, the Festival of the Nativity of the Savior.
3.The Apostles' Fast is the period from the Monday after All Saints (a variable feast) to the feast day of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 28/July 12.
4.The Dormition Fast is the period of the first two weeks of August in anticipation of the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. It lasts from August 1/14 until August 28/15.
1. Eve of Theophany, January 5/18.
2. Elevation of the Holy Cross, September 14/27
3. Beheading of St. John the Baptist, August 28/ September 11
Fasting can be held during the year and at other special occasions:
1. In cases of war, great suffering and cataclysms bishop may direct people to fast doing so would appease God.
2. Spiritual elder can instruct his spiritual children to fast as а punishment for various reasons.
3. The Holy Fathers advise to fast from a few days before the baptism, sacrament of marriage or the ordination of priests.
4. In the Orthodox Church it is a common to fast before the sacraments of the Eucharist ( the Holy Communion).
After certain feasts, Orthodox Christians do not fast, in order to show their joy for the feast.
1. Afterfeast of the Nativity of Christ to Theophany Eve (December 25/January 6 through January 5/18)
2. Week following the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee (first week of the Lenten Triodion)
3. Bright Week (week after Pascha)
4. Trinity Week (week after Pentecost)