Summer is almost over. Back to school sales abound. Teachers are busy prepping rooms, lessons, and materials. And children everywhere are getting in the last bits of vacation that they can.
In the Church we have another sign that summer is nearly over–the Dormition Fast begins. In the Orthodox Church, we observe this fast from August 1st to August 15th in preparation for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. This is the feast where we remember the falling asleep of the Mother of God.
As with other fasts, during this time Orthodox Christians abstain from all meat, dairy, oil, and wine. We simplify our diets in order to focus on the spiritual life. If you will be participating in the Dormition Fast, here are a few tips that may help you and your family:
Fasting Tips for the Dormition Fast
1. Keep Meals Simple
During fasting seasons, we are called to simplify our meals and focus on the spiritual realities of life. This can be hard to do if we are constantly trying to research great-tasting fasting meals, finding substitutes for our favorite treats, or spending hours in the kitchen each day. My advice? Keep the meals extremely simple and inexpensive.
Our family will be eating a lot of fresh produce (one of the best things about fasting at this time of the year!). We’re talking corn on the cob, salads, peaches and other fruits, etc. I try to add a bit of protein to each meal with some beans or nuts. One of our favorite meals is beans and rice with grilled veggie kabobs. So easy and so tasty!
2. Try to Lower Your Grocery Bill and Give the Difference
During the fasting seasons, the Church invites the faithful to enter more deeply into a life of prayer and almsgiving. One easy way to do this is to eat more simply and inexpensively during this time. Then,we can give the money that was saved to the poor.
For example, we currently have a $100 a week grocery budget in our house. If I can manage to save $20 each week since I won’t be buying dairy and meat, we can give $40 to our church or a charity. We could even use that money to buy canned goods to donate to a local food bank.
3. Study the Life of the Theotokos Together as a Family
It’s important to remember that fasting is not all about the food. We abstain from foods as we try to abstain from sin. We also focus our attention on the spiritual disciplines. One great discipline to practice as a family is that of spiritual study. Read the Bible or Bible stories at meal times, read the lives of the saints, and study spiritual texts.
This year during the Dormition Fast, I want to help my children learn more about the Theotokos. I hope to read passages in Scripture that foreshadow her role, read children’s books about her birth and early life, and read from the Tradition about her death.
4. Pray Together More Frequently
The fasts are also a good time to start, renew, or revamp your family prayer routine. If you currently do not pray together as a family, perhaps you could start praying at mealtimes. If you pray before dinner, could you try to pray the Evening Prayers together afterward? If your Evening Prayer routine is solid, what about trying to begin a habit of Morning Prayers?
If you would like more ideas and encouragement to help your family start a habit of prayer, be sure to sign up for my free 5-day e-mail course Becoming a Family of Prayer: Orthodox Style.
5. Make Plans to Attend the Liturgy for the Feast of the Dormition
Finally, the fast is not an end unto itself. Fasting is designed to help us enter more fully into a feast of the church–in this case the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Therefore it’s important to complete the fast by attending Divine Liturgy for the feast. Take a look at your family schedule and begin to clear out a couple of hours for this important feast.
May God bless your fasting and your feasting!
P.S. If you are looking for more practical, simple tips to help your family celebrate the feasts and fasts of the Church, be sure to pick up my e-book Seasons of the Faith!