In our 3rd article in our Lenten series, we’ll discuss Fasting. Lately, the media and modern secular science are consistently promoting fasting as good for the body. Here’s just a few recent headlines:
“Fasting changes cells hormones and genes to help you live longer”
“Fasting eliminates belly fat”
“Fasting lowers risk of diabetes”
It’s easy to forget that fasting is an ancient practice in our Church especially at certain times of year…especially Lent. While I’m sure the medical community and scientists are right about the bodily benefits of fasting, the spiritual benefits are even more impressive.
According to St. Basil, bodily fasting is not meaningful unless joined with the spiritual life:
“Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fast is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood and perjury. Privation of these is true fasting.”
And Sam Guzman, in an article on his website The Catholic Gentleman says it this way:
“If you want to put to energize your spiritual life, if you want to slay a sin that has you in bondage, if you want to grow in union with God, take up the holy weapon of fasting. For as Jesus said, there are some demons that “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting…Keep in mind that the passions of our flesh are not necessarily wrong, but because of our fallen nature, they are out of control and they want to dominate us. Left unchecked, our passions will lead us to soul destroying behavior like gluttony, hatred, disordered sexual acts, or addictions of all kinds. Eventually, their dominion will lead us to hell. “The sinful passions…yield increase only to death,” explains St. Paul.”
So how do we participate in this ancient beneficial practice?
- Make your fast spiritual as well as physical.
- Abstain from meat every Friday during Lent at a minimum and fast especially on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by having only one meal (if your health and age allows).
- Consider a “fast” from something other than food and include that in your weekly routine, for example, smoking, television, Facebook, etc. Do this weekly regardless of the liturgical season.
- Drink only water.
- Pray for strength to complete “your fast” and for the spiritual battle and virtue as we strive to grow closer to God.