Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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Non Copts often ask why is it that during some fasts, the church allows eating fish. Also, why has the church started this practice which did not exist before?

Fasting is an integral part of spirituality. It includes a period of abstinence and a modified vegetarian diet.†Fasts of the first degree, which include the Holy Great Fast, the Paramoun, and Jonah's Fast, strictly exclude fish. Although Wednesdays and†Fridays†are fasts†of the second degree, yet, just like Jonah's fast, they are directly related to the Holy Great Fast and salvation. Therefore, these four abstaining categories or periods of fasting are observed†without eating fish. The remaining fasts are†of†the second degree, and do include fish,†as a supplemental protein source,†just as fish was our Lord's†preference. Our church is consistent, but not rigid. While in the early church,†first and second degree fasts were observed more ascetically, excluding fish; overtime, the church uses wisdom and prayer in making ritual adjustments as long as they do not impede the sound faith, dogma, doctrine, or teachings of the church Fathers. Fish was introduced first to help  children, elders, pregnant and nursing women, and the sick in order to help them fast. Gradually, fish was allowed to all the Christians during the second degree fasts.

Lecture VIII: On Fasting Adapted from "Comparative Theology" by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
http://www.suscopts.org/messages/lectures/misclecture8.pdf.

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