An Invitation to Fast (Fasting 101)

An Invitation to Fast

I invite all who will to join in with the choirs of other Christians and spend the following days in some form of fasting in preparation to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

All those who are able please join us in this fast.

For those who are not able I invite you to simplify your lives.

Fasting is not about giving up things it is about simplifying. We try to eat as we did in Paradise.

What fasting does spiritually

Fasting helps turn down the volume of the noise of the world. It helps us focus on God. It gives us an opportunity to worship God in how we consume food. Fasting should not be done without an increase of prayer and alms giving. Fasting without prayer and alms is just a diet, and a bad one at that. If we do not pray then we are no better than the demons who also do not eat.

Fasting done with prayer and alms helps us defeat the passions in ourselves. It is much like being an athlete in training.

Who Should NOT fast.

1.  People who feel they “should” or “ought” to fast. Fasting is not a “gotta do” it is a “get to do”

2. People who think God might be impressed with our fasting. Our fasting is for our sakes, not for God’s.

3. People who are grieving should modify their fasting.

4. People who are recovering from a medical/surgical procedure should not fast.

5. People who have medical conditions that would make fasting dangerous should not fast. Such people must fast from fasting.

6. People who are working through Step 4 in a 12-step fellowship should not fast or should modify their fasting.

Tips on fasting.

Let us begin the Fast with Joy. Let us begin the Fast by asking each other’s forgiveness. For if we fast in rancour and unforgiveness we fast in vain. So let us be of light heart and before we begin, ask each other to forgive whatever offenses we may have committed.

Choose a fasting rule that works and do your best to stick to it, praying to God for help. Fasting does not mean total abstinence from food in this case. It means abstinence from certain food. Again, simplicity is the key. If you go through extreme effort to prepare and eat vegan food, you are better off eating a hotdog that you can zap in the microwave.

If it is your first time fasting find someONE to fast with –  just ONE person who can be a support in fasting. This is not someone to compare your efforts with, just someone who will remind you and be walking with you through it. Aside from this one person, tell NO ONE else you are fasting.

If you are experienced at fasting keep your fasting to yourself, telling no one how well or badly your are keeping the fast.

If someone presents you with food that is outside your fasting rule, eat it. For such is the fast that we should not display it to others, for that would be a defilement of the fast. As Jesus said “WHEN you fast ( not IF you fast ) do not be as the hypocrites who are gloomy, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to fast. Amen I tell you, they have their reward. But when Thou dost fast anoint the head and face of thee and wash so that thou appearest NOT to men to be fasting…”

Tips for ending the fast.

Be gentile about reintroducing the foods that you have been fasting from back into your diet. The original Pascha baskets were not about chocolate eggs and bunnies but rather it was a feast prepared from the very foods that we have been fasting from. And before we break the fast we ask God’s blessing on that food that we have been abstaining from. (I recommend some active culture yogurt be consumed first).

If you get off your rule before the fast is ended, do not beat yourself up for it. Just get back on your fasting rule. We are not bad or wrong if we don’t fast. We just miss the opportunity that is there in fasting.

Again I invite all to join in this time of Fasting, in whatever way we can, as an opportunity to draw closer to God.

Some Hymns and Prayers on Fasting, Prayer, and Alms

Knowing the commandments of the Lord, let this be our way of life: let us feed the hungry, let us give the thirsty drink, let us clothe the naked, let us welcome strangers, let us visit those in prison and the sick.  Then the Judge of all the earth will say even to us: Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you

O Word, supreme in love, Who with the Father and the Spirit hast created all things visible and invisible in Thy wisdom past speech, grant in Thy compassion that we may spend the season of the joyful Fast in profound peace. Destroy the beguilement of bitter sin, granting us contrition, tears of healing and forgiveness of our trespasses, that fasting with a fervent spirit and undoubting soul, we may join the angels to sing the praises of Thy power.

This should be the manner of our fasting; not in hatred and contention, not in envy and strife, not in self-glory and with hidden deceit, but like Christ in humble-mindedness. —  St. Joseph the Studite

Stretching out Thy divine hands upon the Cross, Thou hast joined together that which before was divided, and by Thy mediation Thou hast offered as a gift to the Father the nature of mortal man, that was under condemnation. Therefore we sing the praises of Thy sinless Crucifixion. —  St. Joseph the Studite

If thou dost fast from food, O my soul, yet dost not cleanse thyself from passions, thou dost rejoice in vain over thy abstinence. For if thy purpose is not turned towards amendment of life, as a liar thou art hateful in God’s sight, and thou doest resemble the evil demons who never eat at all. Do not by sinning make the fast worthless, but firmly resist all wicked impulses. Picture to thyself that thou art standing beside the crucified Saviour, or rather, that thou art thyself crucified with Him Who was crucified for thee; and cry out to Him: “Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.”

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the sprit of laziness, despair, lust of power and idle talk. † but give rather the spirit of sobriety, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. † Yeah O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother: for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen † — Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

Advertisements

We admitted that we were powerless over God, and that our lives had become unmanageble

We admitted that we were powerless over God and that our lives had become unmanageable 

In our western culture of faith we really don’t trust God. It is not because that is how we want it to be; it is how the heritage has developed. We want to be assured; we want to have the right facts; we want to be certain — all the things that are incompatible with Faith in God Who IS mystery.

In our desire to have the right facts we shift our being with God from relationship, to aspects about God. We make lengthy and impassioned forays into categories and aspects  and characteristics of God, and think we do Him justice.

In the story of the Garden of Eden, what changed for man in sinning was intimacy with God. We now had to contend with the noisy mind that could no longer simply relate to God. We exchanged intimacy with experiencing good and evil. And this tendency to take our experiencing as an exchange for encountering God has influenced how we do theology.

We treat God as if He were a formula that we must fulfill (like an incantation), or as a being that can be legally obligated to do what we want. We treat the Eternal God like our errand boy, like an object to be used — a holy vending machine.

We treat the Eternal Almighty God as if He were our local Ba-al on steroids. We assume He is on our side but make no effort to make sure we are on His side. This even shows up in how we try to string our way of doing theology into how we do politics. We want God to bless us and stick it to our enemies. Today we have people who think that if they can change the politics to fit their theories about god that we can force God’s hand, so that God will HAVE to come and establish His Kingdom. This is both a misunderstanding the nature of the Kingdom, and a repeating the sin of Judas, betraying our faith in order to see an outcome that we have come to mistake for faith.

How we relate to God shows up in how we pray. Prayer is more than saying whatever thoughts that we have that we want God to magically bless. Prayer is more than saying the right number and kind of prayers at the right time. Prayer is intimacy with God. How we pray shows the state of our relationship. How we pray often reveals how we treat God. Sometimes in prayer we often degenerate into telling God how to be God. We expect God to be available to us even if we have spent the last several hours running away from Him. We don’t spend time re-entering the relationship with Him. We want God to “be a good god and answer my prayer the way I want it and I’ll see you on Sunday if the weather isn’t too good” We treat God worse than our pets.

We need to stop trying to control God and worship Him instead. God greatly desires to save us. But as long as we are committed to doing it OUR WAY, we don’t give Him much of a chance. As CS Lewis pointed out, we must come to the point where we can say, truly with our heart: “Thy will be done!”, lest we hear God sadly tell us: “thy will be done.”

We need to recover the priesthood of the believer, NOT as an excuse to do it MY WAY, but as an offering of our lives to God as our spiritual sacrifice. This is prayer: to bring ourselves into His presence and offer our world to Him.

I keep using WE, in this essay because “I” cannot do it by myself. I need the grace of God, and the prayerful support and direction of the Church. I cannot do it in isolation; I need my fellow Christians. WE do it together.

We must admit that we are powerless over God, and meet God as He has chosen to be met, through His incarnation in the flesh, through communion, and through prayer.