Fasting and "Oil" days

Many Orthodox Christians are unfortunately totally misinformed about the position of the Russian Church regarding Fasting and Oil.

In the Russian Church (in the homeland or abroad) there is no distinction between olive oil and any other type of vegetable oil -- and there never was.

It is in fact many Greeks (both Old and New Calendar) who turn themselves inside out trying vainly to find some justification for their breaking the fasting rules of the Typikon and permitting the use of vegetable oils other than olive oil on non-oil days when the Typikon says plainly: no oil, period ).

True, most Russians have no clue that the Church forbids the use of vegetable oil on certain days. We, as priests, try to educate them. In our parish, for example, I publish a monthly calendar which, in addition to the Schedule of Services, indicates the level of fasting indicated by the Typikon for each day (no oil or wine, wine and oil, or fish). Many people in our parish are beginning to try to follow these rules.

The bottom line is clear from the Typikon itself: days on which oil is not permitted are called "dry eating" days which means basically no fried foods, and no oil in the soups or salads. The Church Fathers knew perfectly well that fried foods tasted better than boiled ones ; that soups with oil added tasted better than soups made without oil; and that salads with oil dressings tasted better than those without.

This is exactly why olives themselves are permitted on non-oil days, while olive oil isn't; and peanuts themselves are permitted on non-oil days while peanut oil is forbidden: you can't fry anything in olives or peanuts. It is not the essence of the vegetable/fruit itself -- it is what you can do with it to make other foods taste better.

Protopresbyter Alexander Lebedeff Posted to an Orthodox mailing list Tue, 21 Dec 1999, slightly edited.

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas