In which Ruth is still pondering spiritual fasting

So. Fasting for religious purposes. Do we do it? Have we ever done it? Are we a fish on Friday kind of person? Or just a Good Friday faster? Or perhaps you think the whole thing is nonsense and just for others?

We talked about all those things at our Lent Group this week and I was surprised to hear that nobody else there had ever fasted for religious purposes. I suppose it all depends on which church you grew up in and what you were taught. I was under the impression that pretty much everyone fasted on Good Friday and my friend Sheena and I would go back to her place after the Three Hours in the afternoon, tummies rumbling, and sip water until we could go back in the evening for Creeping to the Cross. We would encourage one another, smoke fags, and hiccup madly. (Our Rector said it didn’t count that we poisoned our bodies with nicotine but we were prepared to argue that point.) And why were there always so many references to food that day everywhere we turned?

Some people in the group did remember fasting before Mass on Sunday. I used to do that too which was not easy, let me tell you, when mass was at 11.30am. Teenage altar servers were known to keel over in a faint regularly and take the contents of the Credence Table with them.

hot cross bunI’m afraid these days I usually only do it until after the Three Hours when I reward myself with a Hot Cross Bun (or two!). The best ones, by the way, are from Oliphants the Bakers in Linlithgow, only made in that week. Not like now when you get them in M&S all year round.

I was doing a bit of research into why people fast and found a table of all the faiths and their reasons. Want to hear what they are? By the time we’d gone through them and finished our Lent Group some went away saying they might actually try it some time.

Baha’i – Fast to focus on love of God and spiritual matters.

Buddhist – Fast as a method of purification. Some fast as a means of freeing the mind, some to aid yogic feats, like generating inner heat.

Roman Catholic – Fast as control of fleshly desires; penance for sins; and solidarity with the poor. In lent to practice austerity; and on Good Friday to commemorate the day Christ suffered.

Easter Orthodox – Fast to strengthen resistance to gluttony, and help open a person to God’s grace.

Hindu – Fast as a way to enhance concentration during meditation or worship, purification for the system, sometimes as a sacrifice.

Jewish – Fast as atonement for sins and/or special requests to God.

Mormon – Fast to be close to God; to concentrate on God and religion; to petition for a specific cause such as healing for one who is sick, or help with making difficult decisions.

Muslim – Some fast every Monday/Thursday because Prophet Muhammad was said to do so; some fast during the month of Sha’baan which precedes Ramadan, and especially during the three days before Ramadan.

Pagan – fast to purify a person energetically; as preparation for magical works; to cleanse from heavy winter food.

Protestant (Evangelical) – Fast for spiritual nourishment; solidarity with poor; as counterbalance to modern consumer culture; or to petition God for special needs.

Protestant – Fast for spiritual improvement or to advance a political or social-justice agenda.

So, do you fast? If so, when and why? Does it help you spiritually?

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