Why Orthodox Christians Fast Before Communion: A Spiritual Discipline

Orthodox Christianity 101
By Orthodoxy Christianity 101
March 26, 2024

In the rich tapestry of Orthodox Christian traditions, fasting before receiving Holy Communion holds a place of significant importance. This practice, deeply rooted in the church’s history and theology, is not merely a ritualistic observance but a profound spiritual discipline that prepares believers to receive the Eucharist. This article explores the reasons behind this fasting, its spiritual significance, and how it shapes the faith and practice of Orthodox Christians.

The Theological Basis of Fasting Before Communion

  1. Preparation for the Sacred: In Orthodox Christianity, the Eucharist is considered the actual Body and Blood of Christ. Fasting before Communion is seen as a way to prepare oneself to receive such a holy sacrament. It’s a physical and spiritual act of making oneself ready and worthy to partake in this sacred mystery.
  2. Remembrance of Sacrifice: Fasting serves as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifices and suffering. It’s a way for believers to connect with the passion of Christ, reflecting on His life, death, and resurrection.
  3. Spiritual Cleansing: Fasting is also viewed as a tool for spiritual cleansing and introspection. By abstaining from certain foods or practices, believers are encouraged to focus inward, confess sins, and seek spiritual renewal.

Historical Context

The practice of fasting before receiving Communion dates back to the early church. The Didache, an early Christian document, instructs believers to fast before baptism and on Wednesdays and Fridays, a tradition that extended to include fasting before Communion. This historical context underscores the continuity and depth of the practice within Orthodox Christian spirituality.

The Practice of Fasting

  1. Types of Fasting: Fasting in the Orthodox Church typically involves abstaining from meat, dairy, and, in some cases, oil and alcohol. The duration and strictness of the fast vary, often depending on the liturgical season, personal health, and spiritual guidance.
  2. Eucharistic Fast: Before receiving Communion, Orthodox Christians traditionally fast from all food and drink from midnight until the time they receive the Eucharist. This fast is both a physical and spiritual preparation, creating a state of hunger and thirst not just for physical nourishment but for spiritual communion with God.

The Impact of Fasting

  1. Deepening Faith: Fasting before Communion is a discipline that deepens one’s faith. It’s a tangible expression of a believer’s devotion and a constant reminder of the need for spiritual nourishment.
  2. Enhancing Communal Worship: This practice also enhances the communal aspect of worship. As the faithful fast and prepare together, there is a sense of shared purpose and unity in the act of receiving Communion.
  3. Personal Reflection and Growth: The discipline of fasting provides an opportunity for personal reflection, repentance, and spiritual growth, allowing believers to approach Communion with humility and a renewed sense of purpose.

Challenges and Contemporary Practice

In modern times, adhering to the practice of fasting can be challenging. The fast-paced lifestyle, health issues, and the lack of understanding of its significance can lead to a diminished observance. However, many Orthodox Christians continue to uphold this tradition, finding in it a source of spiritual strength and connection to the ancient faith.


Fasting before Communion in Orthodox Christianity is a practice rich in spiritual significance. It is a discipline that prepares believers physically and spiritually to receive the Eucharist, deepening their faith and connection to the church’s traditions. As a bridge between the past and present, it remains a vital aspect of Orthodox Christian life and worship.

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