Monday, February 24, 2003

'Tis the Season

for fasting. In the Eastern Church we start our Lenten fasting today. Yesterday was Meatfare Sunday, which means no more meat until Easter, and next week is Cheesefare Sunday, which means no more cheese or dairy until Easter. You perhaps may wish to join us. The requirements for fasting in the Roman Church are just that, the legal minimum of what you have to do. As such, they are very minimal: fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence from meat on all Fridays. This is what you do if you just want to comply with the merest letter of the law.

But, do you think complying with the mere letter corresponds to the proper discipline of soul and body required to be a follower of Christ? You may think "Why should I fast?" You may say, following Emily Dickinson, that your church is the cathedral of the trees, and that therefore your fast is the buffet line at Shakey's. Fasting seems so, well, medieval. But as long as human beings are creatures of both body and soul, fasting will be a preferred way of disciplining the soul. Whatever affects the soul affects the body, and whatever affects the body affects the soul. Fasting is an ancient and time-tested way of disciplining the soul. If you can give up food, surely you can give up sin! By fasting we follow Jesus, who fasted for forty days in the desert prior to starting his work. If it was good enough for the son of God, surely it is good enough for us.

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