Friday, February 5, 2010

a bit on fasting and gluttony

I think I mentioned on this blog that I'm looking forward to Lent this year because it's the first Lenten season in a long time that finds me neither pregnant nor nursing, so I can participate in the fasting.

I think I also mentioned that I couldn't figure out how to blog about fasting, given that we're not supposed to trumpet our fasting about. But then I thought: well, why am I excited? Honestly, just because I get to be part of this part of the life of the church again. So, I think that it makes sense for Christians to blog some about fasting. Not to toot their own horns, but just to remember, "hey, this is what we do", emphasis on the we. I wouldn't know anything about fasting if other people hadn't taught me what it is and means, or reminded me that there are times to do it and times not to. One of the biggest things I've learned (and this is so simple, but so important), is that we do it because Christ did it. (And we don't expect ourselves to do it as well as he did it.) In other words, writing about fasting isn't boasting if you write about it in the context of the life of the church. Because it's not "hey, look what I am doing", but it's "I'm reflecting on this thing that we are doing." So, I hope it's okay that I'm blogging about it. (And curious: what do you think? Is fasting a bloggable topic, or am I way off here?)

Anyway, I seemed to recall that it's traditional to fast more strictly on Wednesdays and Fridays. I could figure out the Fridays (in memory of the crucifixion), but couldn't figure out the Wednesdays. But, looking around a bit, I found this article by Frederica Mathewes-Green, and learned that it's because that was the day when Judas betrayed Jesus.

Then I got to reading the rest of the article. Wow, it's good. Good to think about not just going into Lent, but anytime.  And one of the things it talks about is how fasting is just something we're supposed to do pretty regularly, not as earning salvation, and not as earning special favor but just, basically, because it's good for us, like exercising or taking a bath is good for us. 

The other thing that article talks about is gluttony (the fasting part actually comes in as a discipline that can help to curb that vice). Here's a bit from the end:

The law of the jungle is "Eat or be eaten." Indulging in gluttony seems like a private vice, a "cute sin," a matter between only the tempted diner and the eclair. But undisciplined indulgence in the pleasure of food costs us more than we dream: coarsens and darkens our minds, ruins our powers of attention and self-control, of sobriety and vigilance. It hobbles and confuses us. It makes us prey for another Eater.

The one who bids us to His marriage supper will not devour us, in fact he promises to feed us. But there is more; he does not feed us only with the good things he has made, or even the goodness of supernatural food like manna. He feeds us his very self. It is this other bread we must learn to eat, not "bread alone" but the Word of God himself. At the Communion table this becomes, not just theory, but a true encounter—a feast that binds hungry sinners together, and links us to the One who alone can feed our souls.

Isn't that good? Mathewes-Green always is. (Read her!) Anyway, I'm a little intimidated, but over all, I'm looking forward to Lent.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell


Amy said...

Glad to see your post. I think your discussion is helpful not an attempt to bring glory to yourself.

I too am thinking of fasting on Fridays but starting small, either just lunch or just dinner, then perhaps building to Good Friday. I reread Foster's chapter on Fasting in Celebration of Discipline this morning. It is so helpful. We'll also do an "ascetic" fast of sweets or something like that as a family. I've been feeling the need to "give-up" coffee...still praying about that one!

Jessica said...

Oh, Amy, not coffee! :) You're a better woman than I! My husband was actually teasing me about it not really being fasting if I didn't give up coffee . . .

Amber said...

I think it is perfectly appropriate to blog about fasting in the way you are going about it. This is the first year I can fast too - I'm still nursing, but not like I would be if I still had an infant. It is a somewhat unfamiliar concept to me though, and I've been doing some thinking about it too. Thanks for writing about it, and I'll look forward to reading what Frederica Mathewes-Green has to say. (And was wondering about the Wed. thing too!)