The Lenten Fast

The Lenten Fast

Fasting is the most well-known of the Lenten disciplines because it is the one that we most often discuss, and the one we most often seem to approach rather trivially. Yet, it is one of the most beneficial of the spiritual disciplines because it teaches us the virtue of self-control as we learn to subjugate our bodies in order to focus on higher things, namely Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. This is the reason that fasting has been from the earliest days of the Church one of the most commonly practiced of the spiritual disciplines.  Fasting by definition is the giving up of something in which we find pleasure. Normally, this involves the giving up of some type of food which we enjoy regularly, but it can also involve giving up some other type of material enjoyment such as watching television. You see, there are five key purposes for giving up something in which we find pleasure during Lent. We give these things up as a discipline for learning self-control, as an act by which we free our minds from the chase of material things, to identify with Christ’s suffering, to remember that true pleasures belong to followers of Christ, and as an act of sorrow over our wrongdoings. Therefore, fasting should involve the giving up of something which controls us or takes our attention off of that which is truly important. Since fasting is one of the oldest of the Lenten disciplines, the Church has given us the following traditional guidelines for observing the Lenten fast: (1) the fast lasts from Monday to Saturday with Sunday being excluded from the fast since Sundays are not a part of Lent, but rather a Feast Day; (2) the fast includes all meat except fish; (3) only one meal a day should be eaten during the fast although a light snack is allowed for the purpose of strengthening a person to accomplish vocational tasks; (4) the fast begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday (for a total of 40 days and 40 nights) which is when the Season of Lent officially comes to an end. These guidelines were given not as some oppressive list of rules, but as helps for us to gain the most spiritual benefit out of the Lenten discipline of fasting. If you have never participated in the Lenten fast, let me strongly encourage you to do so. The benefits for your soul and spiritual pilgrimage can be enormous.

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: