February 27, 2019


Subdeacon Anton Sloboda offers a theological reflection every Wednesday at Holy Eucharist Parish. This was the reflection that he shared on February 27th, 2019

by Sd. A. Sloboda

Glory to Jesus Christ!

As we are getting closer to Lent, our Church reminds about the importance of fasting. Today, in his letter to the Romans,* the Apostle Paul helps us to form a right attitude about fasting. I would like to share some thoughts about fasting, specifically during Lent or "the Great Fast" as we call it.

As Ukrainian Catholics we follow our own ancient tradition of fasting that many may regard as stricter than what Roman Catholics practice. In general, members of the Roman Catholic Church are encouraged to fast from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent.

Although the practices and regulations may vary from region to region, during the Great Fast Ukrainian Catholics basically fast in this manner: **

On the First Day of the Great Fast: Strict Fasting: Abstention from meat, dairy and eggs, and foods that contain these ingredients

Throughout the First Week of the Great Fast: Abstention from meat the entire week

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays of the Great Fast: Abstention from meat products

During Great and Holy Week, we Abstain from meat products

On Great and Holy Friday, this again is a very Strict Fast: Abstention from meat, dairy and eggs

As you see, the list of fasting days during Lent in the Ukrainian Catholic Church is quite extensive, and stricter than the custom various Western Churches. However, if we compare our fasting practices to most Orthodox Churches - for them, our practices would probably seem to be extremely relaxed. For example, most Orthodox faithful are encouraged to fast from meat and dairy, eggs and even fish during the entire Great Fast, even on Sundays. For them fish is only allowed on the feast of the Annunciation and on Palm Sunday. Thus, if you compare the three fasting traditions: Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic from a nutritional and health benefits point of view I personally believe that ours is perhaps the most balanced for our society: eat less meat and eat more fish.

We can see that fasting, to a great extent, is about restricting ourselves from something concrete and material in order to make room for other important priorities. Fasting is more than not eating meat - it is about reminding ourselves that our habits should not control us and about being thankful for everything that God gives us. As the Apostle Paul tells us in the reading designated for today that those who fast from meat should thank God and those who do not fast should thank God. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.

As we prepare ourselves for this coming period of Great Fast let us make concrete commitments and let us help one another to be more thankful to God. During Lent we not only can exclude certain foods from our menus, but more importantly we can invite more people in need to our dinning tables. Many of us have been doing it already. Let us continue supporting one another in doing good, helping our neighbours and in serving our Lord. Amen


*Romans 14:6-9 (RSV)

"He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living."


**In both Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic Churches fasting and abstinence from certain types of food is not required from people who have reached the age of 60 and neither from children, pregnant women and some other categories of people: travelers, sick, those who can not choose what they can eat etc.

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