Jimmy Akin (poster SDG) looks at fasting from an evangelical perspective.
Having been Chrismated into the Orthodox church for almost 6 months now (and having been Catechumen for some time before that) it behooves me to inspect fasting from a variety of perspectives, as in the past it was a much more occaisonal and far more voluntary practice. Find the dread bullet point list below the fold.
- What is the rule of fasting for the Orthodox? Put briefly, it can be found here, with a Q&A here. A fuller list of links on fasting here. It’s worthwhile to note that there are two types of fasting, reducing volume of food and reducing food choice. Both are practiced. Total fast (abstention from all food) is also practiced at different times (specifically in the hours before services including Eucharist).
- Now the fasting rules listed above, we are told are practiced within the community with a varying degree of strictness. Our family started fairly strictly but have recently reduced our level to more in line with that recommended by our priest (reducing serving sizes and no partaking meat on Wednesday and Friday during fasting days). We intend to hold to strict fast (what is recommended by canon, no meat, fish, dairy or oil) during Great Lent. We haven’t decided what to do for the Nativity fast. We likely shall seek advice, to counter the excesses inherent in the Christmas season a stricter fast might certainly help us step off that treadmill.
- We have been strict about the total fast prior to communion. That is, prior to partaking in Eucharist our family abstains from food from midnight prior to the service (or for evening Eucharist during feast days, the fast is from lunchtime).
- My youngest daughter remarks that fasting certainly makes more aware of her religion and that “nobody else fasts at all … except one girl.”
- Morning liturgy is changed somewhat with the awareness of hunger. During Lent, a priest of a neighboring parish was visiting for mid-week service (a pre-sanctified liturgy), and gave an interesting homily. He spoke about time and liturgy. How during liturgy we participate in the eschaton. The Liturgy is designed specifically to strive and help us reach that feeling of timelessness. Fasting helps that I think.
- Also, during morning liturgy, it certainly helps one endure the fasting if one concentrates one’s mind on other than self. To sink into the song, smell, rhythm and Word and reach for God in those spaces. During one week, I tried a late night (prior to midnight) protein rich snack prior to bedtime. That lessened the sense of fast … which seemed counter-productive. On the other hand, a long late-night bike ride burning 800+ calories left me a little light-headed and sugar starved on Sunday … which also seemed counter-productive. A middle way seems best.
- Fasting also has helped bring practice of religion into our house a little more. On those Wednesdays and Fridays, what to eat, how to eat, how to find where to eat comes up. The whys and reasons we do this is there sometimes unspoken but there nevertheless.
- On the lighter side, I ate a “veggie” burrito the other week. Zucchini and summer squash filling in for chicken or beef. Blech!
- We are told, as a discipline, fasting teaches self-control and flexes those mental and spiritual muscles necessary for apatheia and prayer. As for that part, it is too soon to say, but I have no reason to doubt it. Doing a thing that increases self-discipline in this age can’t be anything but good.
- Is fasting a good “crutch for crippled Christians”? That is, can it and does it help those of us who aren’t heroes of the faith? To that question, so far I’d answer in the affirmative.
A question, if you are Christian and don’t fast … why? All Christians fasted from the start until quite recently. Not fasting is the practice that needs apology and reason.