Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beginning the Fast

Deacon Greg Kandra wrote an article yesterday in which he concludes that, as far as fasting goes, Roman Catholics are serious wimps.  He contrasts the current Roman Catholic rules with those of the Eastern Orthodox, and yes, wimpy is an apt description.

And guess what: the current practice is far more wimpy than the one it replaced 33 years ago, as is  made clear in this chart I borrowed from the Fasting and Abstinence page at Fisheaters:

That, of course, is nothing as robust and difficult as the traditional Orthodox fasting rules, but it's certainly more challenging that what the canonical minimums demand today.


That's the thing. If you approach Lent with an attitude that asks «What is the least I can get by with and still be okay?», your spiritual issue might be something a bit more serious than simple wimpiness.  Search your heart. You can do better. Make it a challenge. Extend yourself. Practise some actual self-mortification. Be hungry, and while you're physically hungry, get spiritually hungry. It's hard. Put yourself out a bit.

From a Melkite Catholic page on the Fast:
• The first day of Great Lent and the last three days of Holy Week are days of fasting.
• All Fridays of Great Lent are days of abstinence from meat.
• Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence. 
• Every day of Great Lent is a day of fast and abstinence.
• On Saturday and Sunday fish, wine and olive oil are permitted.
• Saturday and Sunday are not Fast days – food may be taken at any time.
• Certain feast days are treated like Saturday and Sunday 
• The First, Middle and Last weeks of Great Lent are kept strictly. The other weeks are relaxed.
• Abstinence from meat on all days of Lent.
• Abstinence from meat on all Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. 
The idea of “fasting and abstinence” is to gain self control, a simplification of life-style, a solidarity with the poor and hungry, and to return to Paradise. As such fasting and abstinence should always be focused towards making life simpler not more complicated...
Fasting is not extraordinary – for the Christian it is a regular aspect of the spiritual life. 
Fasting is depriving the body of food from midnight till noon. For the Christian the hunger that results is a real call to be mindful of our thirst for God. It is a call to identify with the poor, whom God loves especially. It is a way for us, as mature men and women to take charge of our body and of our needs, rather than to allow the body, its needs and passions to rule over our life. 
Fasting is also a beautiful opportunity to express our solidarity and communion with Christians all over the world. There are many deeply moving stories of our brothers and sisters who observed the periods of fasting during harsh famines and wars. Imagine the power and the grace that is filling the world during this time of darkness and cold, as men, women and children, rich and poor, virtuous and sinful alike, together offer up penance for the sins of the world and in anticipation of the Coming of Christ! 
Abstinence refers to the practice of foregoing all foods that come from animals (meats, poultry, dairy products, eggs). 
From the creation of our Parents in Paradise to the time after the great flood, people ate only fruits, grains and vegetables. This is the food of paradise! The practice of abstinence reminds us of our high calling to manage all creation in the Name of the Lord. Our hunger for meat and other rich food serves as a reminder of the enmity that exists in creation as a result of sin. Especially during this holy season when the liturgy reminds us of the role that the stars, the angels, the earth itself, the beasts of the field, the ox and the ass all played in receiving the Savior of the world, abstinence calls us to set aside our enmity even with the animals in order to restore peace on earth. 
Thus, we fast to experience hunger and, realizing our emptiness and dependence, to seek the One who alone satisfies our needs. We abstain in order to strive for peace, to cleanse ourselves body and soul to worthily receive Our Lord.
So I suppose one can say observing the minimum is wimpy. And it is. More than that, though, it reflects a fundamental lack of seriousness about the demands of a Lord who isn't very interested in how little you can do and still avoid the outer darkness.

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