Fasting and the Spiritual Benefit


For Orthodox Christians around the world the period of Advent, or to be more specific the Nativity Fast has begun.  This is a period of the 40 days leading up to the Nativity in the Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  As I have written about, and spoken about, this is not to be confused with the Christmas season, which begins on December 24th.

Sometimes this period of the year is referred to as Christmas Lent because the Orthodox fast and abstain from certain foods, mainly animal products, but it need to much more than not eating a hamburger or drinking a glass of milk. Fasting and abstinence has a spiritual dimension to it that needs to be considered.

Now let me state from the start that I really don’t care what you eat or don’t eat, I am not the food police, but I am concerned with your spiritual life.  When we fast from certain foods we are able to gain control over our appetite and our passion for food.  If we follow the dietary rules of the Orthodox Church, along with other practices like prayer, frequent confession, and attendance at Liturgy, we will strengthen our resolve when it come to the attacks of the evil one.

You would not wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon regardless of the shape you are in.  Sure you can run the marathon but will you finish?  Our spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint, and we need to prepare and train ourselves and our bodies, for the struggle.

But we should not only fast and abstain from food.  I have often said, you can be the best faster in the world and follow the rules to a T, but if in the end you are the same miserable person you were at the start, it did not work.  There needs to be a change in our lives both internal and external, as a result of the spiritual discipline of fasting.

We should fast with our mouth, and not engage in talk that is not fitting a Christian.  We should fast with our ears, and not listen to things that do not edify the soul and build up the kingdom.  We should fast with our eyes and abstain from images of a sexual nature as well as violence, the list is endless.  The bottom line is we fast in all aspects of our lives.

As we continue this Holy period of the Church year, let us pause and think about the things that we do and the ways we are preparing for the Nativity of our Lord.  Fasting and Abstinence needs to be a big part of that preparation.

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