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The spiritual renewal of man is aided by two things, prayer and fasting. All the saints attained salvation not only by prayer, but also by fasting. "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting," said the Saviour about driving away an unclean spirit (Matt. 17:21).

For the ancient Christians, fasting meant eating nothing at all or eating a little of the simplest kind of food, bread and water. Nowadays, although most people do not fast with such strictness, we should still abstain from meat and dairy products on fast days, as well as from everything excessive, and we should try to deepen our prayer and thoughts of God. Fasting forms in us the habit of abstinence; it helps man restrain his passions; it strengthens the spirit while weakening the flesh.

Times for fasting were laid down in the ancient Christian Church, following the example of Jesus Christ, Who fasted for forty days and spoke about fasting (Matt. 6:16-18).

Some fasts are only for one day, while others last for many days. The one-day fasts include every Wednesday and Friday and certain other days in the year, except that fasting is not required during the following times: the fast-free weeks after Pascha and Pentecost; the period from Christmas till Epiphany Eve; Cheese-fare Week or Carnival and the week of the Pharisee and the Publican.

Among the extended periods of fasting the most important is Lent, called the Great Fast, which begins seven weeks before Pascha, right after Forgiveness Sunday. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week or Passion Week, because it commemorates the Passion of our Saviour. On Friday of Passion Week (Good Friday), it is customary not to eat anything until the bringing out of the Shroud of our Lord. The other seasons of fasting are: a) the Dormition Fast, which lasts for two weeks (August 1-15 by the church calendar, August 14-28 on the civil) and was instituted to prepare us for the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God; b) the Apostlesí Fast or St Peterís Fast, which prepares us for the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, beginning on the Monday following Pentecost Week and lasting until July 12 (civil calendar), when the feast is celebrated; c) the Christmas Fast or St Philipís Fast, which prepares us for the feast of the Nativity of Christ and lasts for forty days, from November 28 till January 6 (civil calendar). The last day of this fast, Christmas Eve, is kept with special strictness; people do not eat anything until the first star has appeared in the sky.

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