Fr. Moses Sharing His Thoughts On Fasting

Fr. Moses from Holy Resurrection Monastery has asked us to share an article he has written on keeping the Fast. He has given some excellent advice that everyone can benefit from. Enjoy!
Fr. Moses in the kitchenOn the Western calendar it is the first week of the fast and people are already going nuts about their Lenten fast. Therefore, I thought I would write some things for people to think about regarding why and how we fast.

WHY WE FAST

Fasting is a discipline that helps us grow closer to God and at the same time is a way we show our love towards God. It is not a bunch of rules to follow in Pharisaical type manner. If that were the case, all of the vegans who “fast” year round would be super holy! We fast to simplify our lives, to make more time for God, and to deny ourselves in order to feel hungry and unsatisfied in our flesh. This should lead us to hunger for God who alone can fulfill our deepest desires.

Because fasting is a discipline one has to be able to safely, and knowingly, take on the discipline. Infants and small children cannot properly enter into the fasting discipline. Neither can people with health issues (pregnant and nursing mothers included). This doesn’t mean that young children (absolutely not infants) and people with health issues cannot in some way observe the fast. In my own experience as a diabetic and a monk, I personally have had to modify my own fasting. Eating meat during Lent while cooking vegan meals for my brothers has humbled me. Reminding me of my own dependence on God and the need to be obedient to my Abbot who has forbidden me from keeping the traditional fast. Not that I eat filet mignon or anything like that; I eat what I must for my health and keep things simple.

HOW WE FAST

Over the last 2000 years the Church has developed traditions for fasting. The fast is modified by most everyone from the strict rules that were originally written. Especially for us Westerners who are new to the whole idea of fasting, sometimes it’s best to begin fasting gradually. Maybe for the first year giving up meat would be a reasonable goal. In my opinion, it is best to start out slow and not be discouraged then for Lent to become another source of stress in our already stressful lives. As a good friend of mine says, “Fasting is an art that needs to be learned.” Unfortunately we in the West have lost that art. Everyone’s situation is different and everyone needs to apply the fasting traditions to their own circumstances always in consultation with their spiritual father or mother. A few points to remember:

*Expense: Fasting should be cheap. Historically the foods which were allowed on the fast were poor man’s food. This isn’t the case anymore with things like shrimp for example. But today we should do our best to keep the fast inexpensively. We shouldn’t replace one luxury item with another just because it happens to be permitted. For example, I was at Costco today and coconut oil was three times the price of olive oil. Coconut oil is not forbidden in the fast, but should we use it? The money that we save by observing the fast should allow us to increase our almsgiving.

*Time: Our meals should be simple, freeing us up from a lot of time spent in the kitchen. Spending time planning and cooking elaborate vegan meals defeats the purpose of fasting. Spending the extra time and effort to make substitutes for things we are fasting from misses the point (for example: whipped coconut cream, coconut sour cream). Time saved should be devoted to more prayer, both personal and liturgical, and to charitable deeds.

*Being Overzealous: Fasting is one area where people (especially newcomers to the practice) tend to get overzealous. There is a real danger in this. Not only in harming people’s health but also their souls. A spiritual director should be consulted but if they say something that seems unreasonable and you know would not be healthy for a child, you need to seek other counsel. Small children and infants are not required to abstain or fast. If someone says otherwise they are wrong. A married couple should also discuss the fast with each other and come to an agreement on what is best for the entire family(same thing regarding abstaining from marital relations during the fasting periods). One last thing regarding fasting with children. It is not an uncommon practice in the East for children from a very young age (five for example)to go to confession. Often they see older siblings or parents and ask to go. This can be permitted not because a young child needs confession, but in order to develop the habit and make the child comfortable with going to confession. We should look at fasting with young children in the same way. They are not aware enough to enter willingly into the discipline but it is a good practice for them, however if adjustments need to be made do not be afraid to make them.

WE DON’T FAST ALONE

The Church calls us all to fast and as one family. Great Lent is a time of fasting for everyone. But as I said earlier, individuals and personal circumstances must be taken into consideration. Homes with small children, health issues, even non-Catholic/Orthodox members must adjust accordingly. The fast should not seperate us, but support our efforts to grow in love for God and one another. We must bear one another’s burdens with love. This might mean being pregnant and keeping some kind of fast to enable other house members to do so as well; it might mean having a diabetic household member and cooking meals that they can eat too and still maintain their health; it might mean relaxing the rules for children. Everyone needs to keep in mind the traditions of the Church regarding fasting, as well as the expense, the time spent cooking and preparing foods, and then plan their Lenten meals accordingly. Always keeping in mind that fasting is not an end in itself but a means to grow in holiness, not only for each individual but for the entire family and the Church as a whole.

7 Comments

  1. clare veronica says:

    Love it

  2. Thank you Fr Moses – this will be great to share with my Sunday School class this week.

  3. Thank you Fr Moses. How I would love to travel north and meet the Archeliettas and visit your monastery. Gods blessings to you and your wonderful community.

  4. Glad you all enjoyed the article! Have a joyful Lent!

  5. God Bless you and thank you for your wisdom !

  6. Amazming

  7. Thank you Fr. Moses!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: