We are well into the Orthodox Easter Lent period which started on Clean Monday 15 March and ends on Holy Saturday.
But what does the Easter fast mean for our Church? How many of us follow it and how? Are there “good” and “bad” foods? Can fasting be an opportunity to detoxify our body?
There are no “good” and “bad” foods, clarifies Father George Athanasiadis, priest of St Spyridon Clayton, who explains the true meaning of fasting.
“Easter fasting and fasting in the Orthodox Church in general is a spiritual education, where one sacrifices the delicious and nutritional pleasures which one replenishes with prayer, charity, church attendance and culminates in participation in Holy Communion.
This is a general rule. Not all people can fast in the same way, for many different reasons. But everyone must make their effort in moderation and without exaggeration.”
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In the more modern age of fasting, many who follow the Orthodox faith tend to fast for the last week leading up to Easter Sunday.
“In the past, we who came from Greece initially fasted, later we assimilated with the people here and the western habits, we stopped fasting and now we return to fasting. And the best part is that most of all, our children are fasting,” Fr George said.
20-year-old Niki Alexiadou has been living in Australia for the last nine years and started fasting last Easter.
“I fast because I feel good doing it, thinking that Jesus did so much for us and the least we can do these days to show him our love is to fast.”
The young woman from Thessaloniki has set a goal, in addition to fasting, to attend as many as possible of the Easter Sequences.
“I have really taken to it, although I have often wondered if I will be able to endure so many days, but several have already passed and I am doing well, so I believe that I will finally succeed,” Ms Alexiadou said.
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45-year-old second generation Greek-Australian Natalie L has been following the great fasts of the Orthodox Church for the last 20 years or so.
“I like that for 40 days our religion gives us an opportunity to cleanse our body and our soul, while at the same time I see the ecological aspect of the issue,” she said.
“It’s very good to be able to control yourself, because this way the feeling of enjoyment becomes even greater when the fast is over and you can eat the foods that you abstained from.”
Fasting periods, especially during Lent, are a good opportunity to detoxify and relax the body from the burden it receives from the ‘heavier’ foods we usually consume.
All this, provided that we are healthy and have a balance in our diet, replacing the missing ingredients with other suitable ones, explains the well-known dietitian – nutritionist Jordan Psomopoulos.
“During fasting, what is basically missing is animal products. A good solution to get all the essential amino acids, all the proteins of high value is to combine legumes with rice or eat seafood,” he said.
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The experienced dietitian warns contrary to what one would expect, many gain weight during the fast.
“We must try not to exceed the intake limits of fasting food because when we fast, we have the false feeling that we have not eaten enough and therefore have room to consume more fasting sweets. Eating at reasonable times and the including all food groups is also important during the fasting period,” Mr Psomopoulos advised.
Regardless of the motivations that push us to fast, the Lent period can be an ideal opportunity to detoxify our spirit and our body.
*Translated and abridged by Marianna Alepidis