Saint Patrick's Church Schola

Lenten 2006 Class -- Classical Spiritual Disciplines

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 4

The Discipline of Fasting

In chapter four Foster takes up the topic of fasting. A topic that emerges in the pages of the Bible but one that is not always surfaced in contemporary church life.

Foster argues that while fasting is not a biblical command in the strict sense of the word, it seems to be an assumption of scripture that God's people fast. It is also true that Christians throughout the history of the church have fasted.

"Abstaining from food for spiritual purposes" is Foster's definition of fasting. That is a simple and doable definition. After defining the practice Foster goes on to make a biblical and practical case for the practice. The chapter ends with tips on how to fast.

I thought the chapter was challenging and helpful. The truth is that I do not like to fast. I like to eat ( rib!!). I do not like to feel hungry. I don't feel spiritual when my stomach is growling. But as I read this chapter I was reminded that both Christians I admire from history and Christians I know and admire fasted. Maybe the case for fasting isn't so much an exegetical or theological case but is a practical case. The proof is in the pudding. Many holy people have pointed to fasting is essential to theri spiritual journey. I should listen to them.

Although the chapter was very helpful in terms of giving practical guidance to fasting, I wish Foster would have spoken to the diversity of fasting practices that have existed in the life of the church over the centuries. For Foster fasting primarily involves eating no food but drinking water. He mentions the partial fast but does not develop the idea. In the Christian tradition the partial fast is more the norm. For example, the Eastern Orthodox fast all during lent. That does not mean they only drink water for 40 days! They go veggie, no deserts, simple fare, small portions, no alcohol (except for communion wine of course). For many of us this kind of fasting is doable and might be something we can practice on a more regular basis.

All in all a good chapter I think.

This week I'll just throw open the floor for discussion rather than compose specific quesitons.

The floor is open. Discuss away!


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