Concerning the question of how or whether to keep the fast in the presence of

others who are not Orthodox

"Those who are not satisfied with what they have to sustain life but who seek for more, make themselves the slaves of passions" St Anthony the Great

Is there any question that we can and should keep the fast, even in circumstances which place us at meals with those who are not Orthodox? So many people today are on so many special diets for reasons of health, conscious, religion or whatever that the only discomfort that is created is our own. Although I am a priest, I also need to keep a secular job in which I deal with not only my coworkers, but also a multitude of other people. As a result I find that I am often in situations where I am eating or drinking on a fast day with others. So what to do? The answer is easy - keep the fast, why not?

Even if you are in a situation where in accepting hosptiality from someone else you are presented with non fasting foods, it is quite easy. I simply tell my friends that I am on a "special diet" and must eat a "vegan" diet. That quite easily takes care of any problems. So I meet some friends to watch Monday Night Football (during the Nativity Fast) and the refreshments consist of pizza and beer and nachos. Well, it is quite simple to have soda and chips and avoid the meat cheese and alcohol. I go to a restaurant for a business lunch and it is almost too easy to order some kind of vegan dish - or even in a "Mom and Pop" diner to order some kind of salad and/or potatoes. And even if there is nothing at all, most places will serve water - you won't die from delaying one meal. No one else will really notice or care (if they do ask, simply mention that you are on a special diet - if they press further you can say that it is for reasons of conscience or religion - and if they push even further then it is very possible that they will be interested not only in learning about the fast, but in learning about the Orthodox Faith).

There are also a multitude of options if you are in a position to bring your own food - for munchies, chips and salsa, pita and hummus, baklazhan (that chopped eggplant stuff that is like a rough dip - I've also heard it called "poor man's caviar"). If you want to bring a "main dish" of some kind there are no end to the things that can be done with soy - the most common being tofu - also TVP and other similar chewy concoctions that replace meat in recipies. Deserts are full of fruity options. And don't forget the possibilites provided by seafood - especially shrimp is almost universally available. There are so many substitutes and recipies around that you won't try all of them in your lifetime without being a glutton anyway.

Even with family - they eventually understand. My non-Orthodox mother (who does a lot of meat/potatoes/cheese kind of things) managed to keep almost all of the food "lenten" when we visited last, and I this time, I hadn't said a thing - she did it all on her own.

So keep the fast, others won't be offended - in fact they may become fascinated. The only one you make uncomfortable with your fasting will be yourself by being overly self conscious. (OTOH, there is also no need to loudly proclaim how strictly you are fasting and how much of a burden it is that you bear and how you are gaining great spiritual benefit and blessings from God that those around you will not share because of their sin - see then the parable of the publican and the pharisee)

Priest David Moser moserd@PRIMENET.COM
St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
From a post to the "Orthodox Christianity" list, Wed, 20 Oct 1999

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