It would be very easy to become Pharisaical about fasting, either in Orthodoxy or Catholicism. Fasting is a means, not an end. To adhere to every jot and tittle of the rules for fasting from food can quickly makes us into pharisees. I have always been taught that we are to fast from *sin* and that the fasts involving food items were just an aid to help remind us of that and to bring us closer to that ideal. I can only imagine that that is why in the Catholic Church we are encouraged to partake of other penitential practices if we are unable, for whatever reason, to fast from food. The only exception to this that I can think of at the moment would be the pre-communion fast.
Please do not allude to the "holier than the Pope" Pharisaical bit. That is a cop out.
We are not to judge others, but instead, we should strive our best to put on Christ and keep our baptismal robes white.
The only way we can avoid sin is to pray and fast. The two go together.
I hate to bring this up, but many Catholics have suggested that the huge pedophilia scandal is due to the lack of fasting, and hence inability to say NO to sin.
Fasting is essential for the spiritual life. Christ did not say, IF, but WHEN you fast.
So, yes, while we are encouraged to fast from food, TV, entertainment, candy, and similar pleasures, we are also encouraged to give alms and do spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
We should ask ourselves: Are we doing all we can to live our lives as Christians?
What's the "cop-out"? "Holier than the Pope"? What on earth are you talking about?
I think you have grossly misunderstood me, and I'll take the blame for that for not being as clear as I possibly could have been.
Let me try again--in possibly over-analyzing who is to fast, and when, and from what, and so on, it seems to me that we can easily lose sight of the fact that we are to fast, as I said, from sin, and that the fasts offered to us by the Church are but a means to that end. I am most certainly not judging anyone about that. I did not and never have suggested that we not be obedient to our Church and our bishops with regards to fasting or that we should not fast to the extent we are able, in accordance with our Church's guidelines and bishop's instructions. If anyone thought that I was even hinting at that, they are very wrong, indeed.
Yes, Christ did say "when you fast"....no argument there. He also said, in another context but one which could possibly be applied to other situations, "11 not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" 13 He answered, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit." 15 But Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us." 16 And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander."
He did not give us, as I referred to earlier, jot and tittle on fasting so that we might get caught up in the details more than the reason and spirit of fasting. I have known many, myself included at times unfortunately, who have focused so much on the fast itself and the details of it that they have forgotten the spirit of it and have sinned in their judgment of others for not fasting or for not fasting in accordance with the rules of the Church--as far as they could see, that is, or for not reading every label and refraining from every molecule of the "forbidden" substances, etc.
So I would ask you, what is worse, to know all the ins and outs, rules and regs. of fasting and to fast "well" in accordance with all the rules, etc. and stand in judgment of those who do not do so, or at the other extreme, to not fast or to fast partially and otherwise keep our mouths shut and our minds on God? I am not, btw, forgetting that there is also a middle ground here, too.