Lent: Fasting and Feasting

The age old tradition of the western church lays out a cycle of fasting and feasting throughout Lent which is based on the observance of Holy Week. As Christ was crucified on Friday, so do we intensify our sacrifice on Fridays. As Christ was risen on Sunday, so do we feast and celebrate with shouts of joy. It is good for the soul to have feast days dispursed throughout the period of fasting. It reminds us that life is both death and resurrection, both sacrifice and new life. So, while you fast during Lent, intensify your sacrifice on Fridays and rise above them on Sundays. On Sundays, make a feast and share it with your neighbours. Drink wine, eat fine meats, dessert, and all the delicious things. Proclaim to the world the bounty and joy of the resurrection. On Fridays, eat very little, perhaps only bread and water. Spend extra time in repentance and meditate on the cross. Try to come closer to the sacrifice Christ made for us all.

The rest of the days it is best to shy away from all frivilous pleasures. You know what you should give up, it is different for everyone. If you do not like sweets but you give up dessert it is a cop out. If you do not really drink and you give up beer it is no sacrifice at all. Give up coffee, cigarettes, sweets, meat, drugs, alcohol, television, potato chips, etc. Choose those things which will be difficult to give up, they do not need to be bad in and of themselves, simply frivilous. For Jesus went into the desert to be tempted, this is what the scriptures tell us. The reason for his going was specifically to be tempted by the devil. To fast is to beg temptation, to face it head on, to discover how much you are a creature of habit and not really in control of yourself.

Jesus was not only tempted by food, as the Devil encourage him to turn stones into bread, but he was also tempted by power and prestige. The Devil tried to corrupt him. During your fast pay special attention to how you conduct yourself. As the prophet Isaiah warns (Isaiah 58:4-12), if we fast from eating but still treat others poorly we are not honouring God at all. Surely, Jesus had this in mind when he gave these beautiful words about how we are to conduct ourselves while fasting:

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

So, go out of your way to hide your fast from others. Do not tell everyone you meet about this cool new thing you’re doing. It is better to break your fast in humility than to keep it in arrogance. If fasting does not make you more humble then you are doing it wrong. Only tell others about your fast if they ask and are interested in fasting themselves. Because, if your fast becomes a meanss by which you show off to others then their praise will be your only reward and the true reward of inner repentance will be far from you.