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Fasting Empties Us So That We May Be Filled More Abundantly

Posted by Michael Krom on Sat, Feb 23, 2013 @ 16:02 PM

During Lent the Church asks us to perform penitential practices for 40 days so that we can fully embrace the joys of Easter.  At the very least, we are asked to abstain from meat on Fridays and on Ash Wednesday, as well as to fast on two separate occasions (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday).

Why do we fast?  Why do we deny ourselves bodily goods? 

why do we fast?

The Church is not against the body and the delights of a good meal; on the contrary, the Church gives us fasting and abstinence as ways to help us appreciate the goodness of the body as our temples of the Holy Spirit.

To explain, we are made of body and soul and are called to bring them into a proper relationship in pursuit of true peace and joy.  The soul is to rule the body by saying no to excesses and yes to moderate enjoyment in which the body and soul can share.  As St. Augustine explains, when the body rules over the soul, disorder reigns and guilt results; when the soul rules over the body, they both get what they truly want and we experience joy.

Fasting and abstinence, then, are practices of giving up something that is good for the sake of a higher good.  We do not give up a full stomach or meat because they are bad for us, but because they are goods that can stand in the way of pursuing the highest good, God.  St. Augustine uses romantic language when speaking about the human-divine drama:

"Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee, O Lord."

Imagine a man at a Valentine's Day dinner so concerned about the taste of his food and how he will pay for the meal that he forgets to gaze into the eyes of the woman he loves!  It is not that the taste of the food is unimportant nor that he shouldn't make sure that he is responsible with his finances, it is that he is missing the true purpose of pursuing these lower goods; we do not live to dine, but dine in order to live and love.

So, what does the Church ask of us during Lent?

These minimal Lenten observances should serve as a starting point for helping us to grow in the Lord.  We are asked to search our souls and root out any attachment that holds us back from loving God with our whole hearts.  If there are any habits you have formed that make it difficult to give yourself fully to God and to your neighbor in God, stamp them out.  Give up these delights and be confident that God will replace them with higher, purer, and more satisfying ones.  When you find it hard to get through the day because you don't have that morning cup of coffee, that mid-morning snack, or that chocolate that helps you unwind at the end of the day, turn to prayer and you will find consolation and peace in Him, the Creator of all earthly goods.

Topics: faith and reason, Michael Krom, fasting, abstinence, lent

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Associate Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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