Just as there are times for feasting in the Church, there are also times for fasting. Jesus Christ Himself often fasted and insisted that the people fast as well (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; Luke 2:37). Fasting is not merely a set of dietary laws or legalistic requirements; it is practice intertwined with prayer and almsgiving. Prayer enables us to communicate with God and allows us to develop a deep personal relationship with our Lord and Savior. The aim of fasting is to make us keenly aware of our dependence on God and to help liberate us from the cares of this life. Prayer and fasting are then accompanied by almsgiving – works of mercy charity and compassion. Thus, it is clear that even those who for reasons of health cannot fast from certain foods, can still fully participate in the discipline of fasting - one can fast from earthly desires, give alms to the poor, direct their lives to a more serious sense of prayer and strive to redirect their will to coalesce to the will of God. When accompanied by prayer and almsgiving, fasting is a spiritual aid which disciplines the body and soul, and thereby enables our whole being to draw closer to God. Because of the profound spiritual affects of fasting, the Orthodox Church has pastorally connected this spiritual discipline with our contemporary existence in the course of every week as well as with the celebration of major holidays in the liturgical calendar.
In combination with prayer and almsgiving, an Orthodox Christian fasts to the best of his/her ability, from meat, dairy products, eggs, fish and olive oil. Orthodox Christians should fast every Wednesday - in memory of Judas’ betrayal of Christ; as well as every Friday - in memory of Christ’s Passion and Death upon the Cross (unless another feast of the Church takes precedence). Orthodox Christians practice the fast during Great Lent and Holy Week, the Dormition Fast from August 1 to 15, and other days that the Church specifies.