Now that Great Lent is upon us and the Church offers the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evening, the question of fasting and Holy Communion again raises to the surface. On Sunday we know (provided we are healthy and no other prohibitions from our doctor regarding fasting) that we should refrain from all food and drink until after we receive Holy Communion on Sunday mornings. But what if we are planning on receiving Holy Communion on Wednesday night, when should we fast?
For those adults who are physically able, we are asked to fast just as we would on Sunday morning all day from the time we awake until after we receive Holy Communion. It is acceptable to drink simple beverages such as coffee or tea or preferably water (not milk, milkshakes, beer etc) until about noon and then complete fast until Holy Communion. I must remind you that fasting is not meant to make you ill, but to be an offering to God and discipline of our bodies. If you become light headed or need some food, by all means have a small snack especially if you are in a situation where you must remain alert such as driving or other physical labor. If you must eat during the day, a light breakfast and light lunch should be sufficient followed by a complete fast following lunch until Holy Communion.
For those children who already fast on Sunday morning, they should be asked to follow as much of the fast as they are able. As parents this will require discernment in how are children are behaving and feeling. Again it is not meant to make our children ill, however many times our children can fast more than we realize and it should be encouraged as an offering to God and spiritual discipline. For children who do not yet fast, a small snack should be offered around 4pm.
For everyone who is receiving Holy Communion, or Holy Unction or any other Mystery (Sacrament) of the Church, the Church teaches us to fast in preparation and we should do this to the best of our abilities. Great Lent is a perfect time to exercise our free will and to offer our “bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” Romans 12.11) It has always been the understanding of the Church that fasting is forbidden for those who have a medical condition requiring food for medications or other requirements such as pregnant and nursing mothers. We must remember that fasting is a spiritual discipline and not meant to cause physical harm.