Wednesday, May 11, 2005

On Fasting

When I became Orthodox, it was difficult to fast. Doing without certain foods wasn't the problem so much as finding a replacement. I grew up in Texas, and I've always thought about meals in terms of the meat, the entree, as the main meal. Sure, you could have vegetables with it, and dessert was important, but the meal part was the meat. In our Roman Catholic household, there were meat substitutes like mac and cheese and fish sticks (and that was about it for me, the youngest and a picky eater).

Watching Virgil choose his meals in the dining hall, I was uncomfortable when he fasted. _I_ wasn't fasting. Here I was, eating all these yummy foods: chicken patties, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza made with day-old French bread, panini sandwiches rich with provalone cheese. His tray was full of pasta (with no sauce, or with the meatless sauce), salad, fruits ... all the things my mother told me I should be eating more of.

During college, for whatever reason or reasons, I developed difficulties with eating. I don't know whether this could have been considered an eating disorder, but it was distressing. I simply would forget to eat. I stopped having my stomach growl when I was hungry. I would go through the entire day, and only around 10 or 11 at night would I reel with dizziness, and realize that I couldn't remember when I had last eaten.

Fasting makes you take a hard look at what goes into your body. It makes you pay attention to one of the first gifts God has given you, and reminds you that your job is to take care of this gift, too. If you just fast all the time, you get used to it. When you celebrate feasts, you are taken out of a familiar routine, and made to pay attention: to what is going into your body, to what day it is, to the reason you're changing your habits at all.

This has been the first fasting day after Pascha this year. It was easy enough to fast from foods (I'm still working on improving my spiritual appetite and intake) during Great Lent, and, while startling to suddenly be able to glut myself on rich foods (I learned a little from last year and took it easy), it was easy to switch to the no-fast period of Bright Week.

For me, fasting isn't about giving things up. It's about paying attention to what I'm doing, what I'm taking in, and where that's leading me. I may be a sheep, but I have a say in Whom I follow.

1 Comments:

Blogger Jim N. said...

For me, fasting isn't about giving things up. It's about paying attention to what I'm doing, what I'm taking in, and where that's leading me. I may be a sheep, but I have a say in Whom I follow.

Well said. And an important distinction!

Wed May 11, 09:58:00 PM CDT  

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