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I am under the impression that the fasting patterns of the Orthodox church were established over the course of several centuries. I am interested in some sources that would clarify when the pattern was "cemented". I am having a difficult time googling this question.

I would like to know a general date of when the pattern was established.

By "the fasting patterns", I mean the Lenten fast, the Apostle's fast, the Dormition fast, the Nativity fast, the fasting prior to receiving the mysteries/sacraments, and the normal fasting on Wednesday and Friday.

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I can't say that I know the answer, but I am going to try to find out; you have peaked my interest! –  Byzantine Oct 9 '13 at 3:22

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

According to Wikipedia:

The time and type of fast is generally uniform for all Orthodox Christians; the times of fasting are part of the ecclesiastical calendar, and the method of fasting is set by the Holy Canons and Sacred Tradition.

Sacred tradition could mean just about anytime (well, within reason...), but I found some things on fasting within the Orthodox Canons. In the LXIX Canon from the 85 apostolic canons:

Canon LXIX.

If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or sub-deacon, or Anagnost, or Psalt fails to fast throughout the forty days of Holy Lent, or on Wednesday, or on Friday, let him be deposed from office. Unless he be prevented from doing so by reason of bodily illness.

Since this canon (to the best of my knowledge) dates 'from 375 to 380 AD'1, we can say that the Wednesday and Friday fasts and Holy Lent were already established by that time.

One thing I might mention: I would be wary before I just went and read through the Canons of the Orthodox Church, looking for a certain thing (even if I used a search feature), because now-a-days, the Canons are really meant to be interpreted only by Bishops and clergy, and they are considered "more like guidelines anyway" by most people.

To continue where I left off, when I use my reasoning (uh oh...) it seems to me, that fasts such as the Dormition Fast, Great Lent, and The Nativity Fast would have been established much earlier than that specified date. Why? For instance, picture what would have happened after the death of the Theotokos. Personally, I can picture the Apostles reverently commemorating her repose every year, and gradually deciding to fast before that date... Not sure if that seems like logic to anyone besides me...

Well, that's all I have for now... If I learn anymore I will certainly update this answer.

For a little more on the Orthodox Fasts go to this link. Has about one sentence under the history, but oh well.

Also interesting to note is why Orthodox normally fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (Wikipedia):

In addition to these fasting seasons, Orthodox Christians fast on every Wednesday (in commemoration of Christ's betrayal by Judas Iscariot), and Friday (in commemoration of Christ's Crucifixion) throughout the year. Monastics often fast on Mondays (in imitation of the Angels, who are commemorated on that day in the weekly cycle, since monastics are striving to lead an angelic life on earth, and angels neither eat nor drink).

Perhaps those also were established early on...

Here is a link to the version of the Orthodox Canons which I used in my Answer.

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Thank you for the answer Byzantine. Would you please provide me with the link to this cannon and I will award you the bounty? I found this voskrese.info/spl/aposcanon.html but it uses more archaic English than what you provided. –  Matthew Moisen Oct 13 '13 at 21:57
Is this Apostolic Constitution confirmed cannons of the Orthodox Church? Do you know if anyone else subscribes to it-- Orientals, Catholics? –  Matthew Moisen Oct 13 '13 at 22:00
I agree with your logic and feel comfortable communicating it, but I am sure there is some source out there that scholars agree upon with mild consensus backing you up. –  Matthew Moisen Oct 13 '13 at 22:01
According to Wikipedia (sorry, I use that one a lot): These eighty-five canons were approved by the Eastern Council in Trullo in 692 but rejected by Pope Constantine. In the Western Church only fifty of these canons circulated, translated in Latin by Dionysius Exiguus in about 500 AD, and included in the Western collections and afterwards in the "Corpus Juris Canonici". Since the head of the Catholic Church rejected them, I think it is safe to say that only Orthodox truly adhere to them. Other than this, I couldn't find much on that subject. –  Byzantine Oct 14 '13 at 14:14
I edited my answer to contain a link to the version of the Orthodox Canons which I used. It actually isn't what I originally copy-pasted from, since I have a PDF file of The Rudder, but it is the same translation. –  Byzantine Oct 14 '13 at 14:20

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