Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 22: Christian Fasting

These past few weeks have been hectic.  I sort of fell off the radar because I was feeling blah, which probably is best explained by the sudden onset of illness from other members of the family.  In other words, I think I was fighting off what they had but didn't know it at the time.  Then HB got a rather nasty cold with a huge amount of coughing.  Last week on Thursday I went to pick him up from school only to be notified that his teacher and four other students (6 according to him) puked.  On Friday I picked him up complaining of stomach issues.  A few hours later he developed this plague.  Fortunately nobody else has gotten it.  Although Hubby has gone out of town and texted me saying he thought that he had a fever (which HB had a fever too).  So....I guess you see why I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks.

I mean, who wants to think of food when this is going on?

I have a barter/trade thing going on.  I give music lessons to a teenager in exchange for babysitting.  So in the midst of all that is sickness, I was giving lessons because said teenager has an upcoming exam.

It was also her sister's birthday and there was a cake, which was offered to me.  Now you all know that cake consists (ordinarily) of eggs and milk.  So I passed on it with the explanation that I was going vegan for Lent.

You'd think I just announced that I was joining a cult.  Her father's eyes got hugely wide, but then he simmered down.

What really struck me during the brief exchange was that he thought that some Christian fasting practices are over-the-top and "unBiblical."  I politely refrained from pulling out my ninja Bible skills.  He's a Presbyterian and not a very well versed one.  I don't expect him to be a theologian.  Nor do I know of many Protestants who do fast.  He's got a very busy job and has to raise three children.  So I bit my tongue and reminded myself that in all charity not everyone has the time or inclination to do their homework.

Since I do have the time and inclination, permit me to enlighten you.

Fasting practices are ancient.  There are many references to fasting found in the Old Testament and New Testament.  And dietary restrictions are also normal.  Sampson, from the Old Testament, was raised as a Nazirite.  He was not allowed to drink alcohol. The Essenes, a group of Jews during Jesus' time, were forbidden from sacrificing or eating meat. According to the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist, who there is some debate if he was influenced by the Essenes, is said to eat or have for meat only locusts and honey.

That right there should blow any notion of dietary restrictions and fasting being "unBiblical" right out of the water. It has always been a part of the Church as well.  Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, tells the disciples to fast and pray in order to heal.  Later in the Acts of the Apostles, there was prayer and fasting especially before missionary work.  Prayer and fasting go hand in hand.

In modern times, Coptic Orthodox Christians of Alexandria and Ethiopia have the most restrictive diet.  Outside of 7 weeks after Easter, they eat a vegan diet. According to Wikipedia, they are vegan 250 days a year.

Other Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholic Christians observe fasting practices during Advent and Lent.  These are often referred to as Little Fast and Great Fast respectively.  During Lent, there is a progression of abstaining.  First it is meat, then it is cheese (dairy and eggs too), and lastly oil (and fish).  The idea is that it was a time of rest for the animals.  Today, oil doesn't require the use of animals to produce so this is merely a tradition.  Usually on Sundays (and for some Saturdays) the fast isn't observed.  Wednesdays and Fridays are vegan.  This of course depends on the Bishop's directive and if you are in good health.  If you are interested in understanding this more, here's a great blog post on the topic from a Priest's wife.

Western Catholic Christians have historically had stricter fasting observances/dietary restrictions.  Black Fasts were part of the early church and are still observed by Orthodox and Eastern Catholics on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Over time the Church has eased many of it's restrictions.  Here is an article detailing fasting/dietary restrictions in the United States back in 1906. I imagine my Catholic great-grandparents had to observe this fast.

Monastic orders have traditionally held higher dietary restrictions and fasts than the laity.  To this day, some monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians practice vegetarianism on a regular basis.

Protestants also have fasting and dietary restricting traditions.  Seventh-day Adventists tend to be vegetarians and are expected to follow Old Testament dietary laws.  Some Mormons restrict their meat intake.  Also some Society of Friends extend their practice of peace to animals and are vegetarians or vegans.

So with all this in mind, I decided to hold a stricter fast than is required.  This is actually encouraged by the Bishops as a form of personal penance.  But one doesn't have to fast just for Lent or before Mass, it's Biblical to fast for a myriad of reasons in conjunction with prayer.

Here's what I ate today:
Breakfast: not pictured overnight oats

Snack: not pictured hashbrowns with nutritional yeast and ketchup

Lunch: not pictured, salad and spaghetti with mushballs

Snack: not pictured, rest of overnight oats

Dinner: not pictured, vegan chili and toast

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