Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Schmemann on Fasting and Liturgy

Lent began yesterday for us Byzantines, and Ash Wednesday is tomorrow. So it's an appropriate time to think about fasting.

On Sunday at coffee hour I learned about this article by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, "Fast and Liturgy." He argues, based on the typikon, that the length of the Eucharistic fast was intended to vary with the character of the occasion. The Divine Liturgy was to begin at the third hour on Sundays, the fourth hour on Saturdays, and the fifth hour on other days when it was celebrated. Given that the Eucharistic fast was to begin at midnight, it would be longer on days of a less festal character.

On a few particularly solemn days, the Liturgy was not to be celebrated until after Vespers - either a Vesperal Liturgy or a Presanctified Liturgy. On a day of strict fasting (such as the Beheading of St. John the Baptist or the Exaltation of the Holy Cross), there was to be no celebration of the Liturgy at all, and thus it would have to be postponed until the start of the next liturgical day, which began with Vespers. (My acquaintance at coffee hour said these would originally have been Presanctified Liturgies before such services were restricted to Lent.)

The Christian life is defined by the complementary poles of fasting and feasting. We pray and keep vigil, watching and waiting for our Lord's parousia. But we also experience a foretaste of the messianic banquet in the Eucharist. So we fast in preparation for feasting. We keep a Eucharistic fast before every Liturgy, and we keep a season of fasting before major feasts.

Of course Schmemann says it better. Read the article.

5 comments:

THE OLD GEEZER said...

I enjoyed looking over your blog
Great Blog Title
God Bless You, Ron
http://ronjoewhite.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

Anonymous said...

Come back to HookedonPirates!

wireless green mouse said...

I was just thinking earlier that I needed to find an Orthodox blog to add to my blogroll. Hurray for the next blog button. I really want to learn more about the Orthodox religion. It's not easy to find books on it (that or I'm not looking in the right place)

Roland said...

wireless green mouse,

Welcome! The most popular introductory book to Orthodox Christianity is The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. Another book I can recommend, which looks at a number of topics from an Orthodox point of view, is For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann. If you have any more specialized interests, I might be able to make other recommendations.

If you like podcasts or internet radio, look into Ancient Faith Radio.