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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Thursday, November 8 2001  

No fast/no feast - 3

It may seem ingenuous to say my purpose in discussing fasting is not to persuade you to come to a more eastern and Orthodox view. or even a religious view at all. Rather, because I found this topic fascinating and unexpected on encountering it myself, I hope to impart something mind-stretching in these thoughts. It might help to keep you reading to say that I do not practice the Orthodox fasting regime described here. And...does the rest of the world in its fasting practices have something of value that we in the west lack?

I grew up knowing nothing from experience, or even from well-informed teaching, about fasting for religious purposes, so I absorbed mostly misinformation about it. Even after seminary and years in the Presbyterian ministry, I had no inkling about why or how the early church fasted. Few Protestants that I knew ever fasted, and if they did so at all it was a solitary thing. The profoundest teaching the few who advocated it at all (like Pat Robertson on the 700 Club) expressed was that fasting ought to be undertaken when prayer alone seems not enough; prayer and fasting are usually juxtaposed that way in Scripture.

It seems that at the time Protestant churches were starting (the 1500s) fasting was considered a hollow and usually shallow "work toward earning salvation" that believers performed with little if any conviction. Ergo, it was based on pride, practiced in hypocrisy, and should better be given up. I was impacted negatively, too, by the fact that the most pious young Catholic I knew in school (he in high school while I was in grade school, one of the few who I never heard using profanity and seemed to be as religious on weekdays as Sundays) was quoted by my brother as saying his fast for Lent was "giving up" chewing gum. I think now I misjudged him, but at the time this was just what a Protestant boy wanting ammo "against fasting" wanted.

Even a much more recent book* explaining Orthodoxy from a Catholic perspective, published by a Catholic publisher with the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur of Catholic hierarchs, says: "In those days [the same "days" that I was just referring to—jk] if a Catholic really abandoned the faith, among the very first things to be abandoned were fast and abstinence. Although the fasts practiced by the East are longer and much more complex than in the older Catholic style and even though they are not enforced by any compulsion by the church, the very last things to go are the fasts if an Orthodox person begins to slip away from the faith."

*Cross, Lawrence, Eastern Christianity, the Byzantine Tradition, E. J. Dwyer, Philadelphia, 1988.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Life's lessons

I've learned....That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

—Attributed to Andy Rooney
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Thought for the day

It's best to give advice in only two circumstances; when it is requested and when it is a life threatening situation.

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