Monday, April 4, 2016

Why do we fast?

Fasting is an important part of a Christian’s life and expression of faith. Although not established as a Church Canon, it is a tradition of the Ecclesia and its faithful, following the fasting of many prophets, saints and people from the Old and New Testaments and also the fasting Christ practiced. Orthodox Christians tend to fast on a weekly basis (Wednesday and Friday) and before major celebrations, such as 40 days before Christmas, nearly 50 days before Easter, 15 days in August for the Dormition of the Theotokos and many more. But why do we fast? Is it merely a remembrance of how previous people kept the fasts in the past? Or is there a deeper meaning to this act? Christos Yannaras, in his book The Freedom of Morality, gives an explanation:

‘The Christian does not fast in order to subjugate matter to the spirit, not because he accepts a division of foods into “clean” and “unclean.” He fasts because in this way he ceases to make the intake of food an autonomous act; he turns in into obedience to the common will and common practice of the Church, and subjugates his individual preferences to the Church rules of fasting which determine his choice of food. And obedience freely given always presupposes love: it is always an act of communion.’ (p. 110). 

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