Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bringing Church Home: Fasting and Feasting

(notes taken from the 2009 women's retreat at my parish)
Why do we fast? NOT to afflict selves with pain – learn to sacrifice

Correct approach to fasting
1) Gain mastery over ourselves – deny control to the demons of our passions thus depriving Satan of points of entry into ourselves - we must also replace those foods with worthy activities
2) To express our unity with the church – for me – this is huge – during Lent, feel like an outsider to this world, feel as if I don’t belong – need the frequent contact with the church and those who are journeying with me
3) Allow us to focus on the services of the church (cannot do this if we are planning elaborate fasting meals, or worrying at the last minute about what to cook)

Fasting is a two edged sword. It allows us to be more alert – not lulled into the satisfaction of a full belly, but at the same time it must not become our focus– obsession – if all we think about is proper fasting, then we have simply traded one passion for another.

Importance of fasting –Often it is easy to consider it a minor thing to break the fast, certainly God overlooks this, not like I commited a serious offense, yet breaking the fast mimics the original sin of Adam and Eve – eating that which was forbidden.

Things to consider when fastingFasting is not a natural thing, not easy – we must plan for it, prepare
Quickest way to fail – to be unprepared
Must take care to not fall into legalism

Practical Aspects of Fasting:
One key to making fasting more doable is menu planning. Taking a few hours to plan out a menu for the fast will save many hours later, and enable us to focus on the services of the church not on what we will be fixing for dinner.

First - determine the frequency of your menu. You can prepare one weekly menu and repeat it throughout the fast, or you can alternate two menus, or plan different meals for each week. Once you decide how often you will repeat meals, select the appropriate number of recipes using the following criteria:
What does my family like? What will my kids realistically eat?
Are the meals simple to prepare? Elaborate or fancy dishes not only make it harder to attend services, but also contradict what the church fathers say about fasting.
Do the dishes I select follow the spirit of the fast? If one of our goals is to tame the passions, and we simply switch from Ore*s to Hydr*x cookies during the fast, we are technically fasting, but not taming our passion for food.

Once you have selected your recipes, gather them all in one place. You may want a binder to store them in, or a recipe box or on your computer. Just make sure they are together and easy to access. I have mine in a 3 ring binder organized by day of the week. I use page protectors with a tab and insert for each day of the week, then I file each recipe for that day behind the divider.

Now, using those recipes, create a master weekly grocery list. You can also create a list of all non-perishables that can be purchased ahead if you like to bulk shop.

A few tips for grab and go foods: Amy's non-dairy burritos are a favorite around here, we always keep a supply in the freezer. Spaghetti in a jar, or homemade and frozen in meal sized portions is a quick meal. Zat*arain's beans and rice makes a great no fuss lunch or dinner.
Helpful Links
"When we fast, we search the earth and sea up and down: the earth in order to collect seeds, produce, fruit, spices, and every other kind of growing edible; the sea to find shellfish, mollusks, snails, sea-urchins, and anything edible therein. We prepare dry foods, salted foods, pickled foods, and sweet foods, and from these ingredients we concoct many and motley dishes, seasoned with oil, wine, sweeteners, and spices. Then we fill the table even more than when we are eating meat. Moreover, since these foods stimulate the appetite, we eat and drink beyond moderation. And after that we imagine that we are fasting....
"And whoever taught those who fast in this way that such a variety and such quantities of food constitute a fast? Where did they read or hear that anyone who simply avoids meats or fish is fasting, even if he eats a great amount and different kinds of food? Fasting is one thing, great variety in food another; fasting is one thing, eating great amounts of food another."
Nicephorus Theotokis [Fasting and Science, 18-19]


Anonymous said...

SO glad you've put this up. Thank you so much for doing the hard work to make ours easier. Very grateful.

Michelle M. said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing all of those links.

Presbytera Georgia said...

Thanks for your fantastic post.