It is quite obvious that
fasting was not a symbol but a
commandment in the Old Testament and New Testament. Our
Protestant brethren do not utterly deny fasting but they have
practically cancelled it. Here, I will not discuss the subject of
fasting in general with its importance, benefits and spirituality
because all these can be read about in our book entitled The
Spirituality of Fasting.
Points of variance:
Our Protestant brethren say that fasting should be practised
secretly between man and God, following the Lord's
commandment in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.6: 17,18).
(2) Our Protestant brethren do not have fixed fasts for all the believers at set times and on certain occasions, but most of their fasts are individual practices. The individual fasts whenever he likes, in the manner he likes, and the Church has no authority over him and does not interfere in his fast.
(3) Our Protestant brethren
depend on a misinterpretation of
the verse: "Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or
regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a
(4) Our Protestant brethren
disagree with vegetarian fasting
and with abstaining from foods of animal produce. They accuse us
that in doing so, at least the second part of the following verse
applies to us: "…. in latter times some will depart from the faith,
giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons...
forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods
which God created to be received with thanksgiving" (ITim.4:
Reply to the objection concerning fasting in secret
There are two kinds of worship: individual and communal.
prayer for example, there is individual prayer; you pray
in your room, to your Father who sees in secret. This does not
cancel the existence of communal prayer for all the groups of
believers to pray in one spirit, in one soul and in one voice.
Examples of such prayers are numerous in the New Testament.
One of these examples is the prayer of the believers after the
release of Peter and John from prison: "So when they heard
that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and
said..." (Acts 4: 24).
Of course the Lord's commandment regarding praying in secret (Matt.6: 6) does not apply to such prayer.
(b) Likewise in charity,
there is a charitable deed done in
secret as an individual act in which you do not let your left hand
know what your right hand is doing (Matt.6: 3). But this does
not cancel the general charity collected from everyone, as when
King David collected donations to build the Temple. He
mentioned in detail how much he contributed, and how much
was contributed by the leaders of the fathers' houses, the leaders
of the tribes of Israel, the captains of thousands and of
hundreds, and the officers over the king's work (1Chr.29: 3-9).
Another example is when the rich people put their gifts in the
Temple treasury and the poor widow put in two very small
copper coins (Lk.21: 1,2).
(c) Likewise in fasting, there is individual fasting practised in secret that does not cancel the general fast shared by the whole community of believers.
Reply to the objection: Is communal fasting a Biblical doctrine or not?
There are numerous examples of communal fasts in the Holy Bible, such as:
(a) The people's fast at the time of Esther
All the people fasted
together at the same time for one
purpose, praying for one request of the Lord, and the Lord
accepted their fast and granted them their request (Esth. 4).
(b) The fast of the people of Nineveh
They all fasted together and not in secret, and the Lord accepted their fast and forgave them their sins (Jon.3).
(c) The people's fast at the time of Nehemiah and Ezra
says: "Now on the twenty-fourth day of this
the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in
sackcloth, and with dust on their heads" (Neh.9: 1). And Ezra
(d) The fast at the time of Joel
Bible says: " 'Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, 'Turn to
Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with
mourning.’... consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather
the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders,
gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go
out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room"
(Joel 2: 12-17).
(e) The Apostles' fast in the New Testament
When the Lord Jesus Christ was asked why His disciples did not fast, He replied: "But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast" (Matt.9: 15). The Apostles did fast together and not in secret, and the Lord accepted their fast.
examples of the Apostles' fasts: "As
they ministered to
the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me
Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'
Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them... "
(Acts 13: 2,3).
(f) St. Paul fasted for a long time together with all the people on the ship (Acts 27:21)
Therefore communal fasting
is acceptable and is a
Biblical doctrine. It is proof of the oneness of soul in worship
and in approaching God, especially if the purpose of the fast is a
matter that concerns the whole community, or if the whole community partakes in the fast, as they do in prayer, in one
There is no hypocrisy in communal fasting
In communal fasting there is no distinction between one person and the other. The level and depth of the fast of each individual remains ‘in secret’. In the New Testament there is not one single verse that prevents communal fasting.
Reply to the objection of fasting in set times
Fasting in set times is also a Biblical doctrine, as the Lord defines in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah: "The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth" (Zech.8: 19). The reason of defining times for fasting may be to regulate communal worship. Occasions of fasts in Christianity have Christian implications: each fast has its own spiritual aim, effect and reason.
Reply to the phrase "...let no one judge you"
The Apostle did not say: "Let no one judge you in fasts", but he said: "...let no one judge you in food or in drink." By this he meant the unclean foods forbidden to the Jews and the types of food which they considered impure.
This reminds us of the
vision which St. Peter the Apostle
saw in connection with directing Cornelius. The Apostle saw a
great sheet in which were all kinds of food and he heard a voice
telling him to kill and eat. But Peter said: " ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’ And a voice spoke to him again the second time, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common' " (Acts 10: 14,15).
regarding these foods which were considered impure
and unclean, that the Apostle Paul said: "...let no one judge you
in food or in drink. " For at the beginning of Christianity, the
first people who became Christians were Jews who tried to
“Judaize” Christianity, that is, to bring into Christianity all the
Jewish customs such as unclean food, purification, keeping the
Sabbath, moon festivals, celebrations of the beginning of
months and Jewish feasts (such as the Passover, the Unleavened
Bread, the Trumpets, the Tents and the Atonement Day). St.
Paul wanted to resist the Judaization of Christianity. That is
why he said: "Therefore let no one judge you in food or in
drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,
which are a shadow of things to come" (Col.2: 16,17).
Hence this was not an occasion of talking about fasting but it was an occasion of talking about the Jewish customs which the converted Jews wanted to bring into Christianity.
Reply to the subject of vegetarian food
(a) Firstly, we would like to say that fasting in our Church is not merely eating vegetarian food but it is abstaining from eating for a certain time followed by eating vegetarian food (food free from animal fat).
(b) Vegetarian food was the food which God presented to Adam and Eve in Paradise (Gen.1: 29) and also after the sin (Gen.3: 18). All animals were fed on vegetarian food, namely grass (Gen. 1: 30).
(c) The Holy Bible did not allow the eating of meat until after Noah's Ark (Gen.9: 3) when the world had degraded to the extent that made God send the Flood.
(d) When God led His people
in the Wilderness of Sinai, He
offered them vegetarian food, that is, manna (Num.11: 7,8). He
did not allow them to eat meat (quails) until after their wailing,
groaning and the degradation of their spirits. When God gave them
meat He struck them with a severe plague which caused the death
of many of them (Num.11: 33). The place where they were buried
was named ‘Kibroth Hattaavah’ (which means ‘Graves of
Craving’) because they had craved to eat meat.
notice that vegetarian food was the food which Daniel
and the three youths ate. The Lord blessed their food and their
health was better than all the servants of the king (Dan.1: 12,15).
The reasons for using vegetarian food are that it is light food which does not stimulate the bodily desires and it was the original food which God presented to man.
the objection concerning abstaining from certain
The verse in the Holy Bible on which our Protestant brethren depend does not speak about Church discipline, but says: "...some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons... forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving" (ITim.4: 1-3). Probably the people whom St. Paul is referring to are the Manichaeans and the Mandaeans who forbade marriage, meat and wine. The Church excommunicated them and condemned all their heretic publications.
The Church does not forbid the eating of
meat and similar foods, but abstains from eating them during
fasts as an ascetic
practice and not because they are unclean food. This is
proved by the fact that people eat these foods when they break
Daniel ate pulse only and abstained from all other foods, yet he was not condemned according to the aforementioned verses. Likewise, John the Baptist abstained from certain foods and so do all ascetics everywhere and in every age.
Asceticism for a certain time is one thing and forbidding food is another. We have to say an important remaining point.
Church authority in organising worship
The Church has regulated the fasts and has laid down for them spiritual rules and set times based on spiritual grounds. Thus the Church maintains the fasts and they have remained essential and indispensable spiritual practices.
Church has the right, or rather the obligation, to organise
for the benefit of her members various spiritual practices so they
may worship the Lord together in one spirit. Here the Church
implement’s Lord's commission to her leaders: "...whatever you
bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on
earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matt.18: 18). Thus Church
discipline is biblically based.
Our Protestant brethren, in
adopting an individualistic and
congregational approach, made their congregation lose the benefits
of fasting, which is regrettably, almost extinct from the evangelical
Discipline is generally useful for the individual; it does not hinder his freedom but rather regulates its usage.
|| The Orthodox Faith (Dogma) || Family and Youth || Sermons || Bible Study || Devotional || Spirituals || Fasts & Feasts || Coptics || Religious Education || Monasticism || Seasons || Missiology || Ethics || Ecumenical Relations || Church Music || Pentecost || Miscellaneous || Saints || Church History || Pope Shenouda || Patrology || Canon Law || Lent || Pastoral Theology || Father Matta || Bibles || Iconography || Liturgics || Orthodox Biblical topics || Orthodox articles || St Chrysostom |||| Bible Study || Biblical topics || Bibles || Orthodox Bible Study || Coptic Bible Study || King James Version || New King James Version || Scripture Nuggets || Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus || Index of the Miracles of Jesus || Index of Doctrines || Index of Charts || Index of Maps || Index of Topical Essays || Index of Word Studies || Colored Maps || Index of Biblical names Notes || Old Testament activities for Sunday School kids || New Testament activities for Sunday School kids || Bible Illustrations || Bible short notes
|| Prayer of the First Hour || Third Hour || Sixth Hour || Ninth Hour || Vespers (Eleventh Hour) || Compline (Twelfth Hour) || The First Watch of the midnight prayers || The Second Watch of the midnight prayers || The Third Watch of the midnight prayers || The Prayer of the Veil || Various Prayers from the Agbia || Synaxarium