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David Young
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« on: December 28, 2008, 09:34:28 AM »

Tell me about fasting. It is something we Evangelicals usually practise only at times of special urgency and crisis, and it is usually an individual thing rather than a corporate or church thing - though we sometimes fast and pray for our friends if they are in special need. I have the impression that it largely fell out of use among Evangelicals, but has been fed back into mainstream life via the example and practice of Pentecostals and more serious Charismatics. But when I read Catholic or Orthodox literature, I see it there as a normal part of a full Christian life. Tell me how you do it; and when; and why. What benefits do you hope to reap? what benefits do you actually or at least consciously reap even when you do not fully achieve your hopes? How is fasting different between Catholics and Orthodox? And anything else you think we Evangelicals should learn and know abbout fasting.
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2008, 01:08:49 PM »

Tell me about fasting. It is something we Evangelicals usually practise only at times of special urgency and crisis, and it is usually an individual thing rather than a corporate or church thing - though we sometimes fast and pray for our friends if they are in special need. I have the impression that it largely fell out of use among Evangelicals, but has been fed back into mainstream life via the example and practice of Pentecostals and more serious Charismatics. But when I read Catholic or Orthodox literature, I see it there as a normal part of a full Christian life. Tell me how you do it; and when; and why. What benefits do you hope to reap? what benefits do you actually or at least consciously reap even when you do not fully achieve your hopes? How is fasting different between Catholics and Orthodox? And anything else you think we Evangelicals should learn and know abbout fasting.


Search the tags.  What do I think Evangelicals should learn about fasting?  How straight-forward do you want me to be?  Do you want me to sugar coat it or tell you that only through practicing the fullness of the Faith through Christ's Church, the Orthodox Church will you be able to fully understand the meaning of fasting.  Christ's Church, the fullness of Christianity which is the embodiment of the Orthodox Church encompasses many traditions and liturgical practices that can be only fully understood by living your life as an Orthodox Christian.  One can not merely pick and choose facets of our faith and expect to be blessed or understand their true meaning.  Fasting in itself is not something to be picked up and added to the diverse and individualistically chosen beliefs that exist among peoples outside the church.  For without experiencing the true Deposit of Faith, the liturgical life, the holy traditions one can not fully experience what fasting has to offer.  It isn't something vogue.  It isn't something peculiar.  It isn't something to add to the tidal like motion of belief that exists outside of the Orthodox Church.  Fasting is a beautiful gift we give to the Lord but it adds and is a part of the wondrous facets that compose the Orthodox Church. 
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2008, 03:38:11 PM »

Quote
Tell me about fasting. It is something we Evangelicals usually practise only at times of special urgency and crisis, and it is usually an individual thing rather than a corporate or church thing - though we sometimes fast and pray for our friends if they are in special need.

I can understand this, especially after glancing at the passages which mention fasting in the New Testament, which insist on fasting in private (Matt. 6:17-18), and many times were done at special times, such as when demons were cast out (Matt. 17:21), when missionaries were sent (Acts 13:2-3), when elders were ordained (Acts 14:23), or in times of danger (Acts 27:33-34). There are only a couple times when fasting seems to be a normal part of the daily life in christ (Acts 13:2; 1 Cor. 7:5)... but I suppose those couple instances, along with our Lord's command to fast (Matt. 6:17-18), are enough to establish the biblical basis for the practice of fasting on a regular basis. Then of course there is the early document the Didache (Chapter 8 ), which said to fast on Wednesday and Friday, and the Epistle To the Philippians (Chapter 7) by Polycarp, which urges Christians to "[persevere]in fasting".

Quote
But when I read Catholic or Orthodox literature, I see it there as a normal part of a full Christian life. Tell me how you do it; and when...

Here are some thoughts about general practices, for what they're worth. Generally Orthodox fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, though monks also fast on Mondays (and monks refrain from meats generally). On the Wednesday/Friday fast we refrain from animal products (e.g. meats), dairy, oils, and wines. The two longer fasts are Great Lent and the Nativity fast, though there are other shorter fasts during the year. Generally during these fasts the same guidelines apply (ie. no animal products, dairy, etc.), though sometimes there is a relaxing of the fast and fish, wine and oils are allowed. This page goes into more detail than I am going into as to the when and how of it.

Quote
... and why. What benefits do you hope to reap? what benefits do you actually or at least consciously reap even when you do not fully achieve your hopes?

One benefit that I hope to get from it is to learn self-control. It'd be nice and easy to eat chicken wings or ribs or whatever every day, but is constantly feeding whatever my stomach desires truly for the best? Probably not. Fasting then teaches me that I can't always get what I want, but sometimes I need to step back and observe what it is that I am doing with my body, which is the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19). I believe that there is also another aspect to this, as I think it is easier to focus on spiritual things during times of fasting, when you can focus more on God and less on your own wants.

Quote
How is fasting different between Catholics and Orthodox?

I'm not very familiar with what pious Catholics do as far as fasting goes. I have some vague ideas, like that they eat fish on Friday rather than meats, and "give something up" for Lent. But past that, even though half my family is Catholic, I'm not really that familiar with Catholic fasting practices.
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2008, 05:31:12 PM »


Search the tags. 

How straight-forward do you want me to be?  Do you want me to ... tell you that only through practicing the fullness of the Faith through ... the Orthodox Church will you be able to fully understand the meaning of fasting. 

Re the tags, teach me that too! I am a novice with computers. How do I do this? What does it lead me to?

Re how you tell me things, just tell me as you see it. I shall, basing my stance on the title of the forum, read it in the assumption that I am one of the "Other Christian" of the title. But I want to learn about you: if my assumption is a delusion, you are not responsible for that.

However, if you think that the title is not an oxymoron, then write to me as an other Christian who comes to the forum to discuss and to learn.

In friendship,
David Young
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« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2008, 06:13:04 PM »

Up on the toolbar you see the word "TAGS."  Click on it and type in fasting. 
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« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2008, 06:20:02 PM »

I wasn't meaning to come across as crass. Rather that the fullness of fasting is best experienced with prayer and celebration in the liturgical life of the church.  Take Great Lent for instance.  This is a time of fasting and often most parishes have more Liturgical services throughout Great Lent that we may come together and pray as a community.  It ties the fasting and the meaning together.  In Orthodoxy all the senses are used to pray.  Just like the body works together fasting needs the whole church experience from private prayer to communal prayer to confession and spiritual guidance.  These all guide us along and everything comes together and makes sense.  Orthodoxy is learned and practiced by participating in the life of the church as much as it is learned through study and private prayer.  That's how fasting is.  One can explain it, and I hope we can do that for you, but you can only explain it so far.  At that point the best thing to do is experience it.  And like so much in Orthodoxy it may look amazing on paper but it is awe-inspiring in practice.
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2008, 04:18:13 AM »

I wasn't meaning to come across as crass. Rather that the fullness of fasting is best experienced with prayer and celebration in the liturgical life of the church.  Take Great Lent for instance.  This is a time of fasting and often most parishes have more Liturgical services throughout Great Lent that we may come together and pray as a community.  It ties the fasting and the meaning together.  In Orthodoxy all the senses are used to pray.  Just like the body works together fasting needs the whole church experience from private prayer to communal prayer to confession and spiritual guidance.  These all guide us along and everything comes together and makes sense.  Orthodoxy is learned and practiced by participating in the life of the church as much as it is learned through study and private prayer.  That's how fasting is.  One can explain it, and I hope we can do that for you, but you can only explain it so far.  At that point the best thing to do is experience it.  And like so much in Orthodoxy it may look amazing on paper but it is awe-inspiring in practice.

Like a flower taken from the dirt if it is not kept in its true garden then it will eventually whither and die and bear no good seeds. Also this is almost everything that is wrong with the emerging church movement, one week its icons, next week its incense.
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2008, 05:54:28 AM »

Up on the toolbar you see the word "TAGS."  Click on it and type in fasting. 
I learn something new every day! Thank you.
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2008, 06:07:40 AM »

That's how fasting is.  One can explain it, and I hope we can do that for you,

Yes. I think people are assuming I know more than I do; quite complimentary really! When I have fasted, in an Evangelical setting, it has meant (for me) abstaining from all food for a predetermined period, drinking only water, and giving extra time to prayer. It might be hours, or days. I assume that is what others do as well, but as our Lord tells us to keep our fasting secret, it is seldom something one talks about - except maybe to encourage someone who is in a time of unusual crisis by telling him, "I'll give myself to prayer and fasting for you at this time."

I have never experienced a church fast, but I get vibes anecdotally that it doesn't work, because some people keep the fast and others don't, or only do so partially, so it fails to be the corporate act it is intended to be.

But reading the initial replies to my question (before understanding about the tags), I get the impression that your fasts involve abstention from only certain food and drink. Is that sometimes, or always? One can, of course, have one's palate and belly delightfully satisfied without meat, wine or whatever. So I am asking, at this stage, quite simply what do you actually do when you fast? as well as the deeper questions about the rationale, purpose and sought benefits.

So please write as if I know nothing at all about this.

I should add that it is a subject which we as good as never hear teaching about from our pulpits, and I am fairly sure some people would deem it most odd if a sermon or perhaps even a Bible study were devoted to it; which is probably because it is perceived (I guess) as a popish practice and thus to be shunned - even though it indubitably has a place in the Bible.
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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2008, 06:24:21 AM »

So I am asking, at this stage, quite simply what do you actually do when you fast?
You will find some information on this here: http://www.abbamoses.com/fasting.html

I should add that it is a subject which we as good as never hear teaching about from our pulpits, and I am fairly sure some people would deem it most odd if a sermon or perhaps even a Bible study were devoted to it; which is probably because it is perceived (I guess) as a popish practice and thus to be shunned - even though it indubitably has a place in the Bible.
I don't understand this since Our Lord Jesus Christ gave instruction as to how to fast (Matthew 6:16-18), and He doesn't say "if you fast" but "when you fast"- He clearly assumes His followers will fast. Moreover, He explicitly says that they will fast when He leaves (Matthew 9:15).
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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2008, 07:37:56 AM »


I should add that it is a subject which we as good as never hear teaching about from our pulpits

I don't understand this

I fear the explanation is all too simple: fasting is not a pleasant undertaking; if we can find an excuse not to do it - such as the fact that Catholics do do it - we are all too ready to follow the excuse.

I suppose it is not only an excuse but also that it is an over-reaction to the Catholics. Over-reaction is (I think) all too frequently observed in religion. Various groups seem to me to exhibit it in different ways: Pentecostals over-emphasise the gifts of the Spirit, so we won't have them at all; Catholics pray from a book, so we will only have extemporary prayer; Charismatics are too exuberant and happy-clappy, so we'll never raise our hands and arms in worship or have too much exuberance in music and singing; Calvinists are too taken up with dogmatic precision, so we won't bother with doctrine at all; paid ministers / priests have the risk of doing their work only for the pay, so we won't have a paid ministry at all; Fundamentalists are too insistent on everything being historically literal, so we won't take the Bible's commands too seriously... and so on. "We" might be a different group each time, but they seem to me to share the risk of over-reacting to someone else. And we get to Catholics fast, so we shan't.

But you are right: our Lord assumes his followers will fast, and we ought to incorporate it in our devotional lives.
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2008, 07:49:27 AM »


I should add that it is a subject which we as good as never hear teaching about from our pulpits

I don't understand this

I fear the explanation is all too simple: fasting is not a pleasant undertaking; if we can find an excuse not to do it - such as the fact that Catholics do do it - we are all too ready to follow the excuse.

I suppose it is not only an excuse but also that it is an over-reaction to the Catholics. Over-reaction is (I think) all too frequently observed in religion. Various groups seem to me to exhibit it in different ways: Pentecostals over-emphasise the gifts of the Spirit, so we won't have them at all; Catholics pray from a book, so we will only have extemporary prayer; Charismatics are too exuberant and happy-clappy, so we'll never raise our hands and arms in worship or have too much exuberance in music and singing; Calvinists are too taken up with dogmatic precision, so we won't bother with doctrine at all; paid ministers / priests have the risk of doing their work only for the pay, so we won't have a paid ministry at all; Fundamentalists are too insistent on everything being historically literal, so we won't take the Bible's commands too seriously... and so on. "We" might be a different group each time, but they seem to me to share the risk of over-reacting to someone else. And we get to Catholics fast, so we shan't.

But you are right: our Lord assumes his followers will fast, and we ought to incorporate it in our devotional lives.
Why do you worship Christ? I mean the Catholics do that. Brother and this is the exact reason that Orthodoxy is Ultimate Medium between extremes. Either something is over-emphasized or under-emphasized the Church has always found a middle position both doctrinally and practically.
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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2008, 08:36:45 AM »

Over-reaction is (I think) all too frequently observed in religion.

What you call over-reaction is called heresy in Orthodoxy.  Not "heresy" in the condescending, superiority complex sort-of-way one often hears today.  Heresy in Orthodox thinking, as I understand it, is anything that deviates from the balanced and centered truth of the Church.

Over-emphasis is heresy.  For example, saying that Jesus Christ was more God then he was man is heresy.  So I think that what you are referring to is heresy from our point of view.
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« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2008, 12:33:35 PM »

Tell me about fasting. It is something we Evangelicals usually practise only at times of special urgency and crisis, and it is usually an individual thing rather than a corporate or church thing - though we sometimes fast and pray for our friends if they are in special need. I have the impression that it largely fell out of use among Evangelicals, but has been fed back into mainstream life via the example and practice of Pentecostals and more serious Charismatics. But when I read Catholic or Orthodox literature, I see it there as a normal part of a full Christian life. Tell me how you do it; and when; and why. What benefits do you hope to reap? what benefits do you actually or at least consciously reap even when you do not fully achieve your hopes? How is fasting different between Catholics and Orthodox? And anything else you think we Evangelicals should learn and know abbout fasting.
One difference is that the Orthodox emphasize that the money saved by fasting belongs to the poor.  The Vatican practice emphasizes ascetic exercises outside the context of almsgiving. Btw, the origin of the Great Lent fast (and indirectly the Nativity Fast modeled on it) was the fast mentioned in the Didache that the sponsers do with the catechumen in preparation for baptism (which would normally be Pascha).  So in origin the fast was a fast for someone else.  And so it should remain.  The reason it got expanded is the corporated (i.e. Body) nature of the Church.

I think Fr. Schmemann was the one who pointed out that Adam fell because he would not fast.
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« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2008, 02:10:13 PM »


I should add that it is a subject which we as good as never hear teaching about from our pulpits

I don't understand this

I fear the explanation is all too simple: fasting is not a pleasant undertaking; if we can find an excuse not to do it - such as the fact that Catholics do do it - we are all too ready to follow the excuse.

I suppose it is not only an excuse but also that it is an over-reaction to the Catholics. Over-reaction is (I think) all too frequently observed in religion. Various groups seem to me to exhibit it in different ways: Pentecostals over-emphasise the gifts of the Spirit, so we won't have them at all; Catholics pray from a book, so we will only have extemporary prayer; Charismatics are too exuberant and happy-clappy, so we'll never raise our hands and arms in worship or have too much exuberance in music and singing; Calvinists are too taken up with dogmatic precision, so we won't bother with doctrine at all; paid ministers / priests have the risk of doing their work only for the pay, so we won't have a paid ministry at all; Fundamentalists are too insistent on everything being historically literal, so we won't take the Bible's commands too seriously... and so on. "We" might be a different group each time, but they seem to me to share the risk of over-reacting to someone else. And we get to Catholics fast, so we shan't.

But you are right: our Lord assumes his followers will fast, and we ought to incorporate it in our devotional lives.

I believe there's an expression for this... throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  And indeed, it is exactly what Orthodoxy avoids.  We do not pick and choose what parts of the Bible to follow, nor do we decide what to believe and do because someone else is (or isn't) doing it.  The Church is not reactionary in faith and practice.  It has always reacted to heresy by proclaiming what was ALREADY believed and practiced, NOT by changing what is believed and practiced.  The steady hand of Orthodoxy is our guide, not what others are doing.



I have never experienced a church fast, but I get vibes anecdotally that it doesn't work, because some people keep the fast and others don't, or only do so partially, so it fails to be the corporate act it is intended to be.

May I ask where you have heard these anecdotes?  Because I believe the same as what username said... if not done within the context of the liturgical life and guidance of the Church, fasting, indeed, will have no effect whatsoever.

Also, as is characteristic of Orthodoxy, the "effect" of our fasting is not dependent on others fasting.  The fast is prescribed by the Church, who acts as our spiritual doctor, so to speak.  But it is also highly individualized and should be done under the guidance of a spiritual father.  The example my husband always gives when people ask is medicine.  A doctor prescribes medicine according to the needs of their individual patient and their medical history, allergies, complications, etc.  A spiritual father does the same-- physically and spiritually.  For instance, I am hypoglycemic.  Fasting from all animal products but maintaining the protein level that I need to remain healthy is almost impossible.  Thus, my spiritual father prescribes a different fast for me, which is less focused on fasting from food.  I do fast from certain foods as I can (such as red meat, poultry, and pork and "unnecessary" dairies like ice cream), but eat what I need to maintain my blood sugar.

Since I cannot follow the full fast, though, I fast from other things (such as television or some other habits-- whatever my spiritual father tells me).  Most Orthodox who fast also fast from habits.  Again, though, it is to be done under the guidance of a spiritual father, and not apart from prayer and church attendance. 

Again, we don't look for results as a consequence of everyone fasting in the way I think you mean.  Everyone fasts to their own abilities according to what their spiritual father tells them, and it is not done to achieve results as a community.  If I am understanding you correctly (please correct me if I'm not), you are saying that a community will all undertake a fast for a certain cause (such as a sick parishioner), and it is unsuccessful because not everyone does it properly, etc.  We don't do that.  We fast individually to accompany our prayers for people (or for decisions or whatever the need may be).  But we don't do it as a community such that the success depends on everyone's participation and success.  Does this make sense?  Maybe someone more eloquent than I will also weigh in on this and clarify it a little better than me. 


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« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2008, 03:21:41 PM »

Perhaps as Orthodox we see fasting alongside alms giving and prayer as interdependent in living the Christian life according to Christ's commands to love God and neighbor as ourself, the golden rule etc. in faith and action? (later add here) Always interactive & interdependent.
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« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2008, 03:32:07 PM »

Dear David,

My parish priest is Fr. Chris, who also is an administrator of this Web forum. I like the way he explains fasting in his sermons. He always says, "the reason we fast is that we want to learn how to love."

Love is always, inevitably, about restraint and self-denial. We are dealing with people who are very diverse and who have needs often contradicting to our own needs. If I am dealing with a person who says, "you know, I need this and this and that," and I say, "but *I* have a different need, so I don't care what *you* need!" - that's not love. I am really loving someone if, and when, I deliberately forget about my own needs (or restrain them, put them on a back burner), and concentrate on that other person's needs.

Fasting is a discipline, a training in self-restraint and self-denial. An Orthodox Christian who really fasts learns to develop in him/herself this "nothing urgent" attitude, like, "OK, this steak looks and smells great, but it's not THAT important - I might eat it some other time." It's a small thing, of course, but Christ does give us the idea that all these "small things" are important teaching tools. If I cannot restrain myself from eating steak today, shall I be really able to restrain myself from judging others, gossiping, boasting, causing pain?

I am sure that there is a lot about fasting in the archives of this forum, and you can find a lot better explanations there, but I just thought I should share.

Best wishes to you,

George
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« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2008, 03:33:50 PM »

Again, we don't look for results as a consequence of everyone fasting in the way I think you mean.  Everyone fasts to their own abilities according to what their spiritual father tells them, and it is not done to achieve results as a community.  If I am understanding you correctly (please correct me if I'm not), you are saying that a community will all undertake a fast for a certain cause (such as a sick parishioner), and it is unsuccessful because not everyone does it properly, etc.  We don't do that.  We fast individually to accompany our prayers for people (or for decisions or whatever the need may be).  But we don't do it as a community such that the success depends on everyone's participation and success.  Does this make sense?  Maybe someone more eloquent than I will also weigh in on this and clarify it a little better than me.

Presbytera I think you hit the nail on the head.  Grin

We aren't fasting to produce some outward tangible result, but rather we fast for the internal change our soul experiences. Our periods of fasting are intended to draw us closer to God, and to help us be more like Him. This process called "theosis" (I say not for Presbytera's benefit, but for David's benefit b/c I know she's more than familiar with this term  Smiley ) is why we fast.

In fasting, we learn how to deny ourselves of passions and to focus on Christ. The more we rely on Christ, the less we rely on things of this world. That is the point of the fast.

I believe (this is just my opinion) that fasting also prepares us for hardships. For in the Church calendar we have times of fast, and times of feast. So too do we have these times in life. In my own life I can think of times when all was well and grand, and other times when I struggled. But the lessons learned during the fasts have helped me endure the times in life when I struggle.

What I love about the Orthodox Church is that it doesn't just tell you to go out and live a Christian life, but it actually gives you the tools to do so. Fasting is one of those tools.

Well, enough of my editorializing for now.  Smiley

I hope this helps...

In XC,

Maureen
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« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2008, 06:31:34 PM »

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I have never experienced a church fast, but I get vibes anecdotally that it doesn't work, because some people keep the fast and others don't, or only do so partially, so it fails to be the corporate act it is intended to be.

I would say that it works when individuals fast, and it doesn't really matter if some don't fast as they were planning to, or fail to fast totally. Each person is part of the body of Christ, and what they do effects the body as a whole. So if one person fasts, whether it is part of a corporate fast or not, he is already having some effect on the body as a whole. So if you have a hundred people in a congregation, it doesn't matter whether 3 or 30 people don't fast. Those who do fast will be having an effect on the body of christ as a whole, through their connection with the body. Thus I would use a very literal and full interpretation when understanding a passage such as 1 Cor. 12:26-27.
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« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2008, 07:24:08 PM »

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I have never experienced a church fast, but I get vibes anecdotally that it doesn't work, because some people keep the fast and others don't, or only do so partially, so it fails to be the corporate act it is intended to be.

The thing is that you could do the strictest fast ever and still not learn anything (or even worse, sin more)
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« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2008, 07:27:08 PM »

Tell me about fasting. It is something we Evangelicals usually practise only at times of special urgency and crisis, and it is usually an individual thing rather than a corporate or church thing - though we sometimes fast and pray for our friends if they are in special need. I have the impression that it largely fell out of use among Evangelicals, but has been fed back into mainstream life via the example and practice of Pentecostals and more serious Charismatics. But when I read Catholic or Orthodox literature, I see it there as a normal part of a full Christian life. Tell me how you do it; and when; and why. What benefits do you hope to reap? what benefits do you actually or at least consciously reap even when you do not fully achieve your hopes? How is fasting different between Catholics and Orthodox? And anything else you think we Evangelicals should learn and know abbout fasting.


I still struggle with fasting. It's one of the most difficult things for me. Maybe 10 years from now I could be more helpful in regards to this issue. But as of right now, I'm just doing what I can.......a little at a time.




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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2008, 11:23:50 PM »

I fear the explanation is all too simple: fasting is not a pleasant undertaking; if we can find an excuse not to do it - such as the fact that Catholics do do it - we are all too ready to follow the excuse.

I suppose it is not only an excuse but also that it is an over-reaction to the Catholics. Over-reaction is (I think) all too frequently observed in religion...And we get to Catholics fast, so we shan't.
I think you're exactly right here. Protestantism is a reaction to Catholicism. Doing the opposite of what the Pope says does not make one free from the Pope's instructions. For us, what the Pope says is irrelevant; we fast because it's good for us, regardless of what anyone else does or does not do. Until Protestants can learn to make the Pope's words irrelevant, they will continue to be merely bad Catholics.
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« Reply #22 on: December 30, 2008, 12:21:42 AM »

I fear the explanation is all too simple: fasting is not a pleasant undertaking; if we can find an excuse not to do it (snip) we are all too ready to follow the excuse.

We've got the same issue; the only difference is we know we must fast and still try to avoid it; many of those who are not Orthodox don't think they should fast and avoid it because they don't see it as a necessity.  Thankfully, each group has the opportunity to turn around: the Orthodox, to repentance and change; the non-Orthodox, to acceptance of fasting (and the other things they may be missing...).
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« Reply #23 on: December 30, 2008, 12:45:45 AM »

I fear the explanation is all too simple: fasting is not a pleasant undertaking; if we can find an excuse not to do it - such as the fact that Catholics do do it - we are all too ready to follow the excuse.

I suppose it is not only an excuse but also that it is an over-reaction to the Catholics. Over-reaction is (I think) all too frequently observed in religion...And we get to Catholics fast, so we shan't.
I think you're exactly right here. Protestantism is a reaction to Catholicism. Doing the opposite of what the Pope says does not make one free from the Pope's instructions. For us, what the Pope says is irrelevant; we fast because it's good for us, regardless of what anyone else does or does not do. Until Protestants can learn to make the Pope's words irrelevant, they will continue to be merely bad Catholics.

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« Reply #24 on: December 30, 2008, 06:15:42 AM »


May I ask where you have heard these anecdotes?  ... the "effect" of our fasting is not dependent on others fasting.  ... it should be done under the guidance of a spiritual father.  ...

If I am understanding you correctly (please correct me if I'm not), you are saying that a community will all undertake a fast for a certain cause (such as a sick parishioner), and it is unsuccessful because not everyone does it

1) Where? Hard to say really; off and on over the years, I think, when I'm in contact with Charismatic Christians (either in the 'new churches' or in older denominations in churches that have adopted Charismatic ways).

2) a spiritual mentor Having such a person is rare among us, except that quite a few Anglicans do it - a practice adopted recently, I believe. Interestingly, they often seem to opt for a Catholic monk or nun. Having a guide who is more mature in the Lord than oneself is, I think, a good practice, and of course many of us informally select one or more people whose counsel we seek at various times.

3) it is unsuccessful because not everyone does it I am not sure they are saying it is unsuccessful, so much as there is no point in a body of people saying they will do something together, if in fact, in the event, only some of them do it.
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« Reply #25 on: December 30, 2008, 06:18:05 AM »

My parish priest ... explains fasting in his sermons.

I like what you went on to say of his thoughts. Are any of his talks on this theme available to read on-line? (I might even plagiarise one if they are  Wink)
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« Reply #26 on: December 30, 2008, 06:21:54 AM »


I still struggle with fasting. It's one of the most difficult things for me. Maybe 10 years from now I could be more helpful

Not at all! Those who find something a struggle and yet persist and progress are often in a better position to be helpful than those to whom something comes easily. Keep it up!
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« Reply #27 on: December 30, 2008, 06:28:54 AM »

3) it is unsuccessful because not everyone does it I am not sure they are saying it is unsuccessful, so much as there is no point in a body of people saying they will do something together, if in fact, in the event, only some of them do it.

But if you use this arguement, then nothing would be worth doing as a body in Church. I don't care what denomination you subscribe to, or even what group you belong to, if it's a voluntary activity, you'll never get 100% participation. Let's take something as simple as singing in Church. Whether it's the old fashioned Protestant hymns, contemporary praise & worship songs, or Orthodox hymns, you'll never see every single person in the congregation singing. Someone will say they don't like to sing, they don't feel comfortable singing, they don't know the words, they don't like the song being sung... you get the idea. However despite these "non-singers", the congregation still benefits from the songs of praise being sung.

It's the same with fasting.

Irregardless of those who don't participate, or don't participate as fully as others, the community still benefits, and the individuals who did participate benefit even more.

There's no "down side" to fasting. Christ commanded us to do it because He knew we would benefit from it. (Which is sort of how most of his commandments tend to work.  Smiley )
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« Reply #28 on: December 30, 2008, 10:03:29 AM »

My parish priest ... explains fasting in his sermons.

I like what you went on to say of his thoughts. Are any of his talks on this theme available to read on-line? (I might even plagiarise one if they are  Wink)

Perhaps Fr. Chris has something in writing, or links... Could you write him a private message? We have this option when we open forum profiles.
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« Reply #29 on: December 30, 2008, 03:08:30 PM »

I attended a day-long retreat held by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, which focused on fasting (I've attended a couple of his retreats - if you ever get a chance, attend one by him. He is incredibly interesting, clear, and inspiring). He spoke of a number of reasons for fasting. An additional one, which I had never heard or read previously, takes the concept of preparing for hardship further; it is also about preparing for the times as spoken of in the Book of Revelation. Christians will be denied many things, including access to food, by the anti-Christ. If we fast now, we will be better prepared to get through this period, should it happen to arrive in our lifetime.

Of course I still struggle to fast, and fail miserably much of the time. I was better at pre-kids - now, between work and child-raising and all the other things I am expected to do, I find I am in survival mode of a different kind and sadly proper fasting tends to get dumped. I suppose my average of 5 hours sleep per night is a sort of fasting? maybe...? Yeah, yeah, I'm grasping at straws.

When I did properly fast, it was a great, if challenging (but the challenge is part of why it is good), experience.



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« Reply #30 on: January 07, 2009, 08:41:48 AM »

I can't quite grasp the idea behind abstaining from certain kinds of food whilst eating other things. I think when we Evangelicals fast, it is a total fast, no food at all and only water to drink (maybe some would take pure fruit juice?).

At my home we often enjoy vegetarian food by choice, though we also enjoy good meat as much as any healthy carnivore. But my wife's vegetarian meals are superb - memorable. Abstaining from meat is not a hardship.

I'd like to understand your thinking, the rationale behind your ways of fasting, better, please.

Many thanks,
David
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« Reply #31 on: January 07, 2009, 08:47:10 AM »

Well since we fast for 40 days at some times abstaining from all foods isn't really feasible. We are trying to tie down the passions. Plus its harder to think certain thoughts when you are starving Cheesy.
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« Reply #32 on: January 07, 2009, 09:16:10 AM »

Have you considered reading the Apostolic Constitutions?

There's a section in there on the Feasts and Fasts of The Church.
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« Reply #33 on: January 07, 2009, 09:16:17 AM »

Well since we fast for 40 days at some times abstaining from all foods isn't really feasible. We are trying to tie down the passions. Plus its harder to think certain thoughts when you are starving Cheesy.

That's what I learned, too. Your fast should not weaken you, hamper your prayers. Instead, it should rid you of bodily concerns and passions. Rich foods like meat, butter, alcohol are known to "inflame" carnal desires. It's not that these foods are "unclean" in the Old Testament sense, but, rather, they are empirically known to be bad for you if, and when, you decide to increase your prayer and spiritual reading. They may be a big distraction.
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« Reply #34 on: January 07, 2009, 09:36:03 AM »

Have also noticed that eating beef makes me tired which makes praying more difficult.
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« Reply #35 on: January 07, 2009, 11:47:36 AM »

Interesting. Thank you both. Maybe we are saying there at at least two kinds of fasting:

1) abstaining from all food and at the same time giving additional time to prayer so as to make one's prayers more intense, acute, or whatever the word is: as it were, to draw God's attention to one's special earnestness

2) abstaining from some foods regularly, so as to maintain self-control and discipline. In this type, perhaps it would vary from person to person: I could eat mountains of vegetarian couscous dinners or peppers stuffed with rice and herbs accompanied with lahanosalata and feel I was having a really indulgent feast; others would find any vegetarian meal a demanding trial. The discipline needed will be different for different persons. For myself (if it is not wrong to share what I do) I have a practice of at least two 'dry' days a week (no alcohol), except when away on holiday (another religious motive is even involved here: so as to avoid sliding into legalism).

Any comments?

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« Reply #36 on: January 07, 2009, 12:11:48 PM »

Interesting. Thank you both. Maybe we are saying there at at least two kinds of fasting:

1) abstaining from all food and at the same time giving additional time to prayer so as to make one's prayers more intense, acute, or whatever the word is: as it were, to draw God's attention to one's special earnestness

2) abstaining from some foods regularly, so as to maintain self-control and discipline. In this type, perhaps it would vary from person to person: I could eat mountains of vegetarian couscous dinners or peppers stuffed with rice and herbs accompanied with lahanosalata and feel I was having a really indulgent feast; others would find any vegetarian meal a demanding trial. The discipline needed will be different for different persons. For myself (if it is not wrong to share what I do) I have a practice of at least two 'dry' days a week (no alcohol), except when away on holiday (another religious motive is even involved here: so as to avoid sliding into legalism).

Any comments?



I like what you said here.  It is true that fasting the way we do is not difficult for some (because they may be vegetarians, etc).  In those cases, additional disciplines are often undertaken, or additional fasting in other ways and from other things.  I know a vegetarian who eats only raw foods during Lent, so as to guard herself against overindulgence and to give up what she sees as her luxury- cooking.  Also remember that, as someone mentioned, other than our normal Wednesday and Friday fast, the periods of fasting are long.  So while one may enjoy vegetarian food, you might be surprised at how difficult it is to maintain that for forty days.
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« Reply #37 on: January 07, 2009, 01:01:56 PM »

My wife and I have, of course, no religious reason for eating vegetarian food. We simply enjoy it, and it's probably healthy. We reckon to buy better (= more expensive) meat for other meals and enjoy a really good steak, or some rare-breed pork. But my two dry days a week are partly religious in motivation.

Fancy fasting for forty days! Wow! I fear we Baptists probably don't even know when Lent starts. (No wonder Orthodox in Albania see us as irreligious.) There are no fixed times or seasons for us: those who do it, regularly or occasionally, do it purely personally, or by agreement together.
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« Reply #38 on: January 07, 2009, 01:04:42 PM »

There are no fixed times or seasons for us: those who do it, regularly or occasionally, do it purely personally, or by agreement together.
It's been my experience that this way is actually more difficult than fasting at a set time. Strength in numbers, I suppose, and a chance to commiserate.
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« Reply #39 on: January 10, 2009, 12:32:33 PM »

I have a purely personal theory - or notion - for what it's worth. Maybe it's completely mistaken: or maybe it will help someone.

I think that when we fast we often feel no enhanced access to nearness to God, no special moving of his Spirit in our soul, no increased warmth of soul, no marked change in our circumstances. It is as if the trouble of fasting is not worthwhile: nothing changes. But in fact God notices and receives the obedience or earnestness we show in our fast, and answers our prayers or blesses us in some other way because of it - but in a way that does not appear linked to the fast.

This keeps the fasting as an act of pure faith and obedience, with no semblance of 'manipulating' God by extra devotion or piety. The answer may be quite unconnected with the matters about which we prayed, or may come later, or in some other way may be designed not to be plainly connected with the fast. In this way, we have only our trust in God that fasting is part of his way for us, and no sense of religious achievement that makes us better than our brothers and sisters or somehow more impressive to God.

Do you think there is some sense in this?
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« Reply #40 on: January 10, 2009, 12:53:08 PM »

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« Reply #41 on: January 10, 2009, 01:26:07 PM »

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The size of the soul is inversly proportional to the absolute value of the difference between girth measurement and the girth measurement for normal BMI

Which one of the Church fathers did you read to come up with that one?
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« Reply #42 on: January 10, 2009, 01:33:48 PM »

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Which one of the Church fathers did you read to come up with that one?

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« Reply #43 on: January 10, 2009, 02:13:24 PM »

I guess, then, that there were no fat saints.
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« Reply #44 on: January 10, 2009, 02:49:24 PM »

Have you seen an icon of one?
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