Preparation for Holy Communion. 10 things. Part 3. Fasting.

Preparation for Holy Communion

10 Things [1]


3.  Fasting is generally a part of preparation for Holy Communion.


Since the chief thing we must do to prepare for Holy Communion is try to live a Christian life, we should fast according to the typikon of the church (that is, according to the fasting rules for various days of the year), and according to our strength, and always under the guidance of our confessor.


Any confessor has many fasting rules for different people, depending on their spiritual maturity, physical health, zeal and strength of will.


In our day, there is much misunderstanding about fasting. Many people see our fasting tradition to be any or all of the following:


1.      Fasting is not applicable to lay people, but only to monks. 

2.      Fasting is only done during short parts of the year, and usually with accommodations to our apparently difficult modern life – for instance, abstaining from meat on the first week of Great Lent and Holy Week.

3.      Fasting is obligatory for three days, or perhaps a week before receiving Holy Communion, but usually not at any other times.

4.      Fasting is a set of arbitrary rules, which have little or no application to daily life, but a person feels “bad” when they do not fast, which is a good part of the time.

5.      There is one fasting rule for everyone, and it is too hard to do, so in essence, fasting is not attempted, except perhaps in the case of #3, above.

6.      Some are even influenced by sectarian ideas and believe fasting is some sort of attempt to be “saved by works”.


None of these things is remotely true. Fasting is a way of life; it is the way to life. It is not arbitrary rules that make us feel “bad’ when we do not follow them. If the reason for fasting is understood, it is immediately apparent that it is not just a set of arbitrary rules. It is also not a set of optional rules. It has never been “only for monks”.


An explanation of fasting is not part of the scope of this document, so the interested person, included the one “who has trouble fasting”, should talk to his confessor. Of course, if his confessor does not fast (and there is no medical reason), he should find another confessor!


From St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney


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  1. Dear Fr. Seraphim:
    Please bless!
    My husband and I are parishioners of Sts Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Church (OCA) in Milwaukee, WI. But we are also good friends with the parish of (ROCOR) Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, and their priest Fr. Vasyl Kuzmich. And he always says that frequent communion is bad for you, and that you need to fast 3 days before receiving communion. That's not the tradition I was brought up in, but I never argue with priests. We just never go to communion at the Holy Trinity Church. But it bothers me all the time – should I speak to Fr. Vasyl? Or show him some materials? Or just ignore and keep quiet about it?

    In Christ,
    Tatiana B. Miller

  2. Dear Tatiana:

    May God bless you! One of my daughters was baptized in the ROCOR Milwaukee church, years ago, by the ever memorable Fr Averky.

    There are many opinions about everything, and there are also true traditions.

    The opinion that one must fast 3 days before communion is relatively recent, and is an adaptation (in my opinion) to low church attendance and poor fasting, and overall – poor Christianity.

    Our bishops do not hold to this opinion. They encourage frequent communion, with preparation.

    In many American churches there is no preparation – no evening service, no prayers, no getting to liturgy on time. no confession (sometimes in a lifetime!) . This is also a wrong "opinion".

    We are Christians all the time, and should not just become observant a few days before Communion, and endure all the tedious prayers, etc (tedious because we rarely do them) before infrequent communion times.

    There are pious people who live a Christian life, with fasting, and prayer, AND also observe a 3 day fast. They are very rare. I cannot argue with their observance, because they are struggling to live a Christian life. The majority are lax, and not benefiting from their occasional (to them) superhuman efforts.

    This is a pervasive cultural problem – our modern laziness combined with what the priest is teaching, and the idea that "this is what the church teaches."

    I do not think you should talk to him. He has his opinions.

    My series is an attempt to teach the proper way to prepare for communion, stressing that this preparation occurs all seven days of the week!

    Thank you for your excellent comment. Sometimes I think I am shooting words into the void, and I love to see that someone is reading.

    May God bless you and help you in all things.



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