Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Fasting - Food For the Soul

Okay, I'm gonna fess up. I haven't committed to a Lenten discipline this year. I considered a few options like 'giving up' some food or vice, fasting once a week, shutting off my @#$%&?!! computer for six weeks....but I haven't really devoted myself to anything. So now we're over halfway through and still nothing. I had resigned myself to accepting failure until I picked up the March 8 issue of Christian Century, which features an article on fasting. The author talks about fasting as a spiritual exercise rather than just not eating, paying attention to one's hunger rather than trying one's best to ignore it, and so on. But I was most struck by this tidbit:

'Monks have restricted meat and dairy products in part because bread and vegetables have always been the food of the poor--the simplest and least expensive food available. When we voluntarily agree to share this food, we become more tangibly connected to the poverty of millions who struggle to put food on their plates for today. Though I have known for some time that many people in the world are hungry and that my experience of plenitude is a privilege, the experience of fasting made this knowledge a more physical reality to me. I understood more fully Robert Farrar Capon's comment that we should not allow our abundance to deprive us of an understanding of hunger. Capon writes 'As long as the passion of the world goes on, we are called to share it as we can--especially if by the mere luck of the draw, we have escaped the worst pains of it.' I felt that I had found a very small way of enacting this knowledge, of letting it live in me more completely.'

After I read this, a new aspect of the fasting experience was shown to me: connection in admittedly a small way to the hungry in our world, those to whom Jesus tells us to pay attention. Fasting is a connection to those among God's people who are ailing, an experience of their predicament and, one hopes, a response to it.

So this is what I've decided. For the remainder of Lent I'm going to restrict my diet to bread and vegetables--the 'food of the poor'--twice a week. On these days I'll make it a point to study a Biblical text that calls the Israelites or the early church to respond to the hungry, and seek out ways in which I can contribute locally.

This sounds like a good invitation to make churchwide, too. Hmmmm....