Fasting - Printable Version
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Fasting - Mark Fletcher - 24-01-2007
I tried fasting for the first time today, and found the suggestions and guidelines in 'Our Daily Life' hugely helpful. Although I was anticipating it being an ordeal, in a curious way I found it rather refreshing. Bearing in mind the vast numbers of people on our planet who starve to death every year, the practice of fasting is perhaps a wake-up call to the nature of both spiritual and physical reality that urgently needs responding to especially in the over-fed West. As a flabby habitual over-eater, it was a humbling experience. I wonder how many people go to bed hungry every night in this sinful world of over-production, waste and general craziness? Not that I'm suggesting people join the Socialist Workers' Party mind you.
I note with some surprise that the Fasting Calendar and rules of fasting in the Orthodox Church are extensive and rigorous. I imagine that most people would find the prospect of engaging with such a spiritual fitness regime utterly daunting. I certainly do. Timothy Kallistos Ware outlines the Fasting Calendar briefly in his book 'The Orthodox Church'. This made me feel like reaching for the crisps when I read it!
My reason for this posting was to enquire if anyone had any tips on how to fast well based on their own experience, or any comments to make supplementary to the excellent advice in the Fellowship handbook. Or just comments to make on fasting in general. Like prayer, I suppose there's no substitute for actually just getting on and doing it, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Although it's hardly an appropriate phrase to use, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating", not in the endless swapping of recipes or discussion of the best kind of kitchen equipment to use.
As an after-thought, the feats of sheer physical control, asceticism and self-forgetfulness in spiritual struggle which I have read about in the Orthodox tradition are truly astonishing and remind me of the spiritual and physical callisthenics adopted by practitioners of the various types of Yoga. People like me who are out of both physical and spiritual condition have got some gentle, plodding work to do over the years by the looks of it. "Slow and steady" is the order of the day in my case. Whether it will "win the race" is another matter entirely.
Fasting - John Charmley - 24-01-2007
Yes, it is daunting, and like anything of that sort has to be approached gradually; treat it like training for a race or something - a long build up; otherwise one goes off with a bang, so to say, can't keep it up, and gets discouraged.
I will leave it to those better qualified than I to comment in detail on what you say, but I would just want to say that you need to remember why we take on this discipline, and to remember that there are other ways of self-discipline and sacrifice. It is part of remembering too that we are God's children, and not slaves to any temptation or passion. So what I have tried to do is to give up, on fast days, some of those things which I particualrly like, even if I cannot keep the full fasting rules; I have to remember my family, and cannot impose my regime on them.
I have also tried, on non-fast days, just to eat less.
It really is slow and steady', and take advice from a priest. We must not succumb to the pride of thinking that we can do it ourselves, or that we know best; equally, we ought not to try to excel in asceticism; that gift is not given to all, and we should not presume that we have it, but rather we should test the waters, so to say.
A little every day, as it were, done in prayer and the right spirit, is better than obeying all the rules and feeling self-satisfied. Remember always what Our Lord says in Mark 2, 2:27
Quote:27 And He said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 25-01-2007
Very sensible and helpful words as usual. Thanks.