‘I get closer to my faith’: Greek Orthodox people on the importance of fasting for Easter

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With Orthodox Easter around the corner, the Lent period leading up to Holy Saturday and Anastasi continues.

The Greek Herald decided to speak to members of Greek communities all over Australia to hear their thoughts on the importance of fasting.

Father Iakovos

Father Iakovos, the parish priest of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Queanbeyan, told The Greek Herald that fasting was something very important in our faith, especially during Orthodox Easter.

He said fasting was about making a sacrifice just like Jesus Christ did for us.

“We fast in honour of God and for ourselves, to renew ourselves spiritually,” Father Iakovos said.

“Fasting is about finding peace within ourselves and showing our love for God. It is also about holding ourselves back because we want to become humble and be loved by Christ as we ourselves love Christ.

“And in return, we receive the Holy Communion, which is the food of all foods, that fuels our mind and body.”

Father Iakovos shared that although fasting has become harder for some, it’s an important practice that needs to be maintained.

“All generations have temptations, especially the newer generation,” Father Iakovos said.

“In previous years and centuries, we used to fast because we didn’t have food to eat. But today, we have motivations because we have so many things to eat.

“The youth today, however, they have more knowledge, and they are still choosing to participate in the fasting because they want to, despite having all this temptation in front of them, which is beautiful.

“They are doing what God is requesting from them and because of this, they develop more peace and love towards God.”

Father Iakovos added that that he loves to see everyone attend church services, especially during Holy Week.

“All ages which come to church are always welcome. Especially the youth because they have more temptations in their lives. It gives me great pleasure when I see the youth in the church, no matter if they fast and receive Holy Communion or not,” Father Iakovos said.

He concluded by wishing everyone a Happy Easter.

Iphigenia
Iphigenia lighting a candle at church.

Iphigenia Thanopoulos

Iphigenia Thanopoulos, a 23-year-old Greek Australian from Sydney, New South Wales is one of many young people in the Greek community who continue the practice of fasting for Orthodox Easter.

“My mum always incorporated fasting for Lent in our diet, but it was always an option, like if I didn’t want to, I didn’t have to,” Iphigenia told The Greek Herald.

“It was always something that all my family participated in, from my grandparents to my parents and now me.”

Iphigenia said she continues to practice her faith and fast for Easter as it was something of great importance to her.

“In the Bible, it talks about how Jesus Christ used fasting and prayer to achieve spiritual victories to help achieve goals. This was followed by his disciples, and then they gave it to us,” she said.

“I think that’s what motivated me to keep it up, but it was just something my parents always taught me and it’s what the church taught too, and I definitely think it’s something that should be passed on to future generations.”

The 23-year-old shared that for her, fasting is not just about abstaining from food. She is currently participating in a vegan fast.

“It’s more than that. Fasting helps us to have our minds and everything on Christ,” Iphigenia said.

“Although it can be challenging, that’s not why I do it, and I also don’t do it because I want to prove something, I do it as it allows me to get closer to my faith. It also makes me feel good and feel closer to God at the end as well.

“During this time, it’s not enough to just fast from food. You’ve got to do the rest as well which includes praying, reading the Bible, looking into your spiritual books and seeing your spiritual father.

“You also have to watch what you say and what comes out of your mouth too, not just what goes into it.”

When asked whether Iphigenia thinks many people still fast, she said she thinks they do.

“I think with the help of the youth groups, especially with the ones we’ve got going on in Sydney, I think young people are becoming more aware of what fasting is and how we can use it,” Iphigenia said.

“And I think that if we continue to teach our religion and practice it to our future kids, it will continue to be passed on to coming generations.”

Natasha-and-Dimitri-cracking-eggs
Natasha and son Dimitri cracking eggs.

Natasha Manikas

“It was something instilled in my life by my parents,” Natasha said.

“As a child you didn’t get much of a say though either. It was a bit of a “αυτό μαγείρεψε η κατσαρόλα” (this is what the pot cooked up).”

Natasha said fasting for Easter is important as it is a “physical and spiritual cleansing of the body and soul.”

“Lent is more than just abstaining from certain foods, whether it’s just cutting out meat or doing the full fast, that cleanses the body,” she said.

“There’s also abstaining from swearing or gossiping, which cleanses the soul.”

The Canberra mum described the feeling of commencing fasting.

“At the beginning, I felt tired, as my body was getting used to the new caloric intake, you know less protein and more carbs,” Natasha said.

“It took a week to build up my energy reserves again, but Cheesefare week helped with this a little as it eased the body into Lent – it’s not as much of a shock to the system to go from normal eating to no oil.”

Despite fasting having its challenges, Natasha said it was a rewarding experience.

Natasha-her-husband-Nikos-and-son-Dimitri
Natasha, her husband-Nikos and son Dimitri.

“It is challenging when surrounded by others who don’t fast,” she said.

“Lunchtimes on the school playground can be a bit rough when everyone has delicious foods and you’re stuck with a ‘lettuce sandwich.’ But when you get to Holy Week and you can see the finish line, you feel a certain sense of accomplishment.”

When asked if she thinks people still fast, Natasha said she likes to think so.

“I’m sure the older generation do, but the newer generations may stick to just the Holy Week,” she said.

“Growing up, from Monday to Friday, my family would fast and have no oil. Saturday and Sunday, we would have oil and seafood, and fish on March 25th and Palm Sunday. My sister and I really looked forward to hot chips on the weekend.

“I think nowadays it’s so much easier to fast though, as we have so many vegan options, so you don’t need to spend hours in the supermarket checking the ingredients list.”

Natasha said it’s important to continue passing down Easter traditions with coming generations.

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