Question: What does total abstinence mean? Is it when you are not allowed to drink even water, or is it something deeper than that?
Answer: I believe it is deeper than that. First of all, abstinence means vigilance of one’s mind and heart, and then, of course, abstinence from certain kinds of food. For instance, total abstinence is recommended during the First Week of the Lent, when an individual is strongly advised not to eat anything till Wednesday or Friday. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (Matthew 19: 12). Anyway, abstinence consists not only of food. It entails control over our thoughts, eyes, ears, and tongues.
May our fast consist not only of abstaining from meat and dairy but also from sinful feelings, the vanity and negligence, which assail us not only through food but also through what we see and hear.
Everyone is given according to their strength. God does not demand that we starve and be exhausted by fasting. God demands us to limit our consumption.
We’ve got to consider what we can give up for God’s sake. We can’t do much but we can bring to the Lord the small donation of the poor widow.