How Christians Used to Fast, and Still Do in Some Places

The Stream | 2/14/2018 | Jay Richards
kimberly163 (Posted by) Level 3
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This is the third piece in a series on fasting. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This is the time, historically, when most Christians fasted in some way.

Days - Folks - Word - Fasting - Sorts

These days, folks use the word “fasting” to refer to all sorts of things. We talk about juice fasts and grapefruit fasts. People will even say they are “fasting from” Facebook, email or TV.

But there are good reasons to retain the strict form of the word “fast,” which refers to food.

Words - Things - Time - Word - Food

Sure, words come to mean different things all the time. But we already have a good word to refer to giving up one food or activity: abstinence.

We still need a word to refer to what Jesus did just before the start of His ministry. And what hundreds of millions of Christians have done for centuries.

Means - Food - Amount - Time - Muslims

Fasting means to freely abstain, that is, give up much or all food (and sometimes drink) for some amount of time. Muslims, for instance, fast from both water and food between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan.

That doesn’t mean fasting is a “Muslim thing” that Christians should avoid. Religions and people feast and fast for all sorts of reasons. Jesus fasted from all food for forty days in the wilderness before he launched his public ministry. At other times, He feasted. So early Christians followed His example.

Christians - Centuries - Culture - Language - Jesus

Christians in the first few centuries were much closer to the culture and language of Jesus than we are. So, it’s easy to see where we’ve grown lax by comparing what we do with what they did.

And when it comes to fasting, they put us to shame. All the major Church fathers — including Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria and Augustine — commended fasting.

Didache - AD

The Didache (written around AD 110), took...
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