Common Eating – Fasting and Feasting
By Donald McKenzie
August 31, 2011
The reason I decided to switch this class with the class on Ferial Eating, was that it seemed more logical to examine the idea of fasting and feasting coming out of how we eat on a daily basis instead of vice-versa. Although both of these topics will arise during the examination of common eating in the Old and New Testaments, they deserve space of their own in this discussion.
First to fasting. Fasting has long been regarded as one of the spiritual disciplines. Generally though, it is taught as a private, personal discipline. Some attention will be paid to that aspect of fasting here, along with a brief discussion of the health benefits that can accrue from fasting. In this class the plan is to try and be as practical as possible and so I don’t want to limit the discussion of fasting.
Beyond that, the class will focus on corporate fasting. How does the act of fasting relate to a community as they seek discernment, as they perform acts of corporate repentance, etc. Yet, fasting shouldn’t simply be a “spiritual” activity, but could also be used by the community as a teaching opportunity. For example, during one of my placements, the community I was involved in, chose to fast one day a week during Lent, and then take the money they would have spent on food for that day, and donate it to a ministry located in the center of the city to help them supply their food bank.
As a writer, I continue to learn about the topics I write about. Over the last couple of years, my understanding of fasting has changed. I grew up with an understanding of fasting that suggested it would entail strict abstinence, ie no food, only water, or juice if absolutely necessary.
As I continue to read, I’ve discovered that fasting more often than was more about a reduction of food that was consumed. as opposed to eating nothing. Now, traditions differ on this subject, but it would be something I want to think about more.
Feasting is a topic that I think is neglected by the church in general. In part, this is because, particularly in the Northern and Western context we have so much daily abundance at our meal tables that feasting becomes just a little bit more of the same thing we do every day. Yet feasting is important.
In the liturgical tradition, feasts pretty much litter the calendar. So much so, that in many cases, some of the older feasts, meant to mark long gone and in many cases pretty much forgotten people who shaped the church, have been replaced with feasts to commemorate the lives of people who have shaped the church in more recent times. In both cases they exist to honour and keep alive the memories of what the gave for and to the church.
Feasting means celebration, and times of celebration are generally times of community. Whether it is a family birthday party. The celebration of graduation, or a promotion at work, the occasions are times when we want to gather with others. So, one question for would be pastors is in what way is the community that I am leading celebrate the lives and milestones of its members?
Another question would be, how can a community celebrate some of the more important church dates with feasting. It’s a foregone conclusion that by and large, Christmas and Easter have been given over to celebrations with blood relatives. On the other hand, not much seems to happen on such dates as Christ the King, Trinity, Pentecost to name just three.
Meals before annual meetings is another area that is worthy of discussion. Along with church meals to celebrate baptisms(which in the Anglican tradition tend to be something the immediate family heads to after the service) or other major events in the life of the church communityAgain, I welcome any comments. You can comment in the comment section below or send me a tweet @diningwitdonald.