This question regards Matthew 5:20:

"For I say to you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

and the orthodox interpretation of it. I found this site that basically says that the fasting on Monday is done by monks, but also observed by pious orthodox believer that ye may exceed the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees.

Is that why orthodox fast on Monday?

I don't mean to be rude, but I find much of orthodox theology concerning Theosis to be pelagian, as trying to earn heaven by merit, and while I know that the Orthodox Church does not teach that one can enter heaven by it's own power. It still feels like some strive from the bottom of their being to be more pious and righteousness that others, as it were a race, where Christ stands passive and the end of the ladder, while sinners try desperately to climb the ladder, always climbing never reaching the end. Always admiring the saints, never daring to feel worthy. And even know never daring to feel worthy, still, always fearing and questing, am I good enough, will I be received.

Being told that the saints themselves where not sure if they are saved, then, much more shall the laity fear their fate.

  • @Sola Do not use comments to answer question or make theological points.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 10:45
  • What was this in reference to? Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 14:39
  • Monday is equidistant from the other two well-established fast days, and, just as the other two, it also commemorates sad warnings or events, related to Passion Week; specifically, the cursing of the fig tree. So, while Matthew 5:20, in conjunction with Luke 18:12, might provide a pious, post-factum explanation, it is not the actual historical reason for the emergence of Monday as a sacred day within the Christian East; as for your next to last paragraph, that constitutes an entire question list, in and of itself.
    – user46876
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 23:47
  • I find much of orthodox theology concerning Theosis to be Pelagian - That's because heresies are not complete untruths, as much as half-truths, or deformations of truth; Pelagius' error, specifically, lied in thinking that fallen creation, unaided by grace, achieves salvation; the diametrically-opposed belief, that the fallen creature is passively saved by grace alone, is also considered heretical, for the same reason other such pairs of polar opposites are regarded as false as well (Judeo-Islamic monotheism, and pagan polytheism, as opposed to a Trinitarian understanding of God; etc.)
    – user46876
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 0:00

2 Answers 2


Monks fast on Mondays because Monday in the daily liturgical rite is dedicated to Angels and monks conduct "angelic life". Current Orthodox liturgical rite originates from VI century.

The link that you provided is definitely wrong with the aim of fasting, it is not to overcome someone in merits (as Pharisee thought in the parable about Pharisee and Publican) which is obvious pride but to repent of sins.

This site (Russian only) has a collection of interpretations of Matthew 5:20 from 14 Orthodox Holy Fathers and modern theologians, none of them mention fasting.

If some lay person with the blessing of his spiritual father takes the feat of fasting on Mondays - that is not delusion if he keeps the mentioned repentant disposition of the soul and does not think that he does something special. St. Nikodemos writes about fasting on Mondays that "those among the lay people who want to fast this day are praised before the Lord and will get appropriate retribution" (link).

In the Patericon of Volokolamsk (Russian), there is a story when two brothers, noble men, were captured by Tatars and one of them was fasting on Mondays even in captivity. Once an Angel appeared in front of him in the form of a man. The Angel took him and walked with him through the Tatars without them noticing anything. When Tatars found out that he disappeared, they killed another brother. When the man was saved, he asked Angel: "Who are you?" - "I am the Angel of Monday". The man later became a monk.

  • 1
    Interesting. Are you able to expand this answer to provide more information than what Wikipedia provides? Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 12:22
  • 1
    The expansions on this answer are great, but this is an English language site and most of the users don't speak Russian. I happen to be married to somebody that does and have a leg up in that regard, but it's not very useful to link to resources different that the post they are used in. Are there no English language versions of these resources you could link instead?
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 10:44

Eastern Orthodox Christians do not necessarily fast on Mondays. It is up to a believer to decide whether to fast on Mondays and his motivation to do that is also his own.

And Christ surely didn't meant fasting when He was speaking that verse.

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