I wanted to fast today -- REALLY fast (as in liquids, only). But around 6:00 p.m. I caved. I tested my blood and found it was 91 (low for me). My stomach was growling and I had a headache, but those are ALL just excuses. I just caved.
Even though I've been praying on and off all day. Even though I watched the Papal mass on TV this afternoon (it was so moving). Even though there are many, many days when I barely eat a bite all day long. (sigh)
What's annoying is the idea that knowing I couldn't eat made me want to so much more. There are so many positives about fasting -- especially from a spiritual perspective. No, according to the Church I didn't really break my fast.
So I decided to do some research on historical fasting.
Fascinating stuff to follow!
Early Christian Fasting Practices
During the early years of Christian church there was a much stronger emphasis on fasting than there is today. Wednesdays and Fridays were considered days of fasting -– or days where food and water were abstained from until mid-afternoon. This practice was originally voluntary but gradually more obligatory rules of fasting were put in place by Church authorities. By the Middle Ages fasting had assumed major importance. The strictness of the fasting varied in different areas but the rules were often quite stern. On Church proclaimed fast days, the faithful, especially monks and nuns, observed a total fast for twenty-four hours.
Christians were also encouraged to undertake their own self initiated fasts. Their purpose was to benefit the soul at the expense of the body, which the Church called mortifying the flesh. The word mortify was derived from the Latin mortificar, meaning to kill. Thus the devout Christian expressed a sort of 'symbolic death' of all personal or selfish goals. (Fasting was one form of mortification...)
In the medieval Christian Church every Friday was considered a fast day (and Friday was a commemoration of the death of Jesus). Two periods, Advent (comprising the four weeks before Christmas) and Lent (the forty days that prepare the way for Easter) also included fasting periods. Since it was not possible to go without food for such an extended time, this fasting came to mean eating less food. In the early Church one meal a day was eaten. This was an evening meal that took place after Vespers. Meat, fish, eggs and butter were forbidden on fast days. Sundays were not part of the fasting day and anything could be eaten (this is still true today).
The whole range of fasting or abstinence preached by the medieval Church was intended to reduce or control selfish impulses. Fasting fulfilled a number of purposes that included practicing self-control, purify oneself and atoning for sin.
Post Reformation Fasting in the Catholic Church
Religious practices and observances began to change after the Reformation and the Counter Reformation. The Catholic Church in the late nineteenth century recognized two formal practices related to earlier fasting traditions: fasting now meant cutting down on the total amount of food eaten -- and abstinence meant not eating meat. Fasting days now included two small meals (typically defined as one quarter size of the normal meal) and one full meal.
Abstinence days simply meant not eating any meat or meat products. This was supposed to be followed every Friday. On days of fast and abstinence (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) there were three meals allowed -- as per the fasting requirements -- but no meat could be eaten at the full meal.
A Eucharistic pre-Communion fast was also in place. If a communicant wished to receive the Sacrament on Sunday, fasting was required from midnight the night before and through Sunday (until Mass ended). The Roman Catholic Church relaxed the rules for the Eucharistic fast in 1957. Abstaining from all food and alcohol three hours before Mass and drinking water at this time was permitted. In the 1960's more changes were implemented where most of the laws of fasting and abstinence were abolished. Meat was only forbidden during Lent. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday were the only days where it was deemed desirable, rather than obligatory, to fast.
So as those of you who read this can see, fasting is very different in a religious sense. I suppose in some ways it's really just to get us THINKING, and is mostly symbolic. I've certainly thought about it a lot today.
Anyway, I'm over it. I'll probably eat a meal (a reasonable one) now. It's certainly not like I've never fasted in my life before this -- far from it. I think some days it's easier to go without food than others. I did find I wasn't as mentally sharp today, which could be partly due to less sleep, but I really feel was more about not eating. I was coding and working on some complicated stuff and having to really push myself to CONCENTRATE. Sure, we all have days when that's true -- food or no food -- but I did notice it today while working.
Marilyn is currently at an annual event she's attended for years (a Rosarian event). This after a non-stop day filled with her usual work, the work she's carrying due to the loss of a Staff person and starting her day around 4:00 a.m. (!!!). Not to mention the fact that she worked hard yesterday morning and early afternoon, then drove all the way to Eugene in heavy traffic, was enthusiastic during the tennis event and finally drove all the way home from Eugene (in the dark and rain, with lots of trucks on the road). I know I say it often, but Marilyn simply AMAZES me! I aspire to be more like her -- I really do. She's got courage -- true guts. She's a workhorse, but plays it down all the time.
By the way, she's so generous. She paid for all four tickets for the event yesterday, then paid for tons of food and stuff, too. Wow. Just wow.
Speaking of sister, Sue came by to take me shopping today -- which was so kind of her! I needed kitty litter and other stuff, and even though she didn't need a thing she drove me (sitting and reading her book while I shopped). How sweet was that?
Well, I need to do the garbage and recycling -- and it's nasty out tonight. (ugh) Hey, Dad? It's a typical Wednesday night! (heh) My Dad and I always shared the same garbage night -- and the same joke about it always raining on Wednesdays. (smile) I'd say I miss sharing that with him, but I still do -- and can feel him grinning up in heaven when I do!
Honest, those photos from the tennis ARE still coming! I started to mess with some today, but just didn't find time to finish up yet...