Page 5, 10th April 1992

10th April 1992
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Page 5, 10th April 1992 — Going without: why we still need to fast
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Going without: why we still need to fast

I, •\' 1 Po and ahootence 'there onco ,10.111,, understood. vt,eren't they .' But so many changes in

e leii 111;1111

(MCC it Aht+111 IA 11,11 1,..1; .11•L'

required to do

Fasting from midnight v.ent three hours .ind later to line hum. berme Ihe leception ol holy communion Abstmenee ineant refraining from meat on Frolavs and Ash Wednesday.

Anything more IA ils. we thought. fin menthe's ot orders, especially contemplative`, Riii Olen came the talk of doing some act of charity in place ot abstinence on Friday, and encouragement to find a sense of personal responsibility.

The result has heen a good degree of eonfusion. Sono: consider that to last helore cominunion is of utmost importance. and failure to keep the hour a matter of sin. Others would regard the hour as something to he observed. but not necessarily with ineasured precision.

Others would consider thia the main objective is to reeek e communion in an atmosphere of recollection. Much the same variety of attitudes would estst iii the matter tit abstinence. And there the those who simply do not know what the position is and what they are expected to do. and it worries them.

But the requirements of lasting and abstinence are still contained in the new Code of Canon Lo11. published in 198.3, which was the last document of the Vatican Council and reflects its spirit.

The law states that all members of the church are hound in their own way to do penance te 1249). This is considered to he a requirement of divine law. revealed in the scriptures. because prayer. fasting and alms-giving are at the root of Christianity.. All Fridays of the year. and the Season of Lent in its entirety are designated as penitential days ic 1250).

There should be abstinence from meat on all Fridays, and on Ash Wednesday te 1251) and all members of the church from their fourteenth birthday are bound by the law of abstinence and all adults are hound to fast up to their fifty-ninth birthday (e 1251). For children under the age of 14 there should be an education about the meaning of fasting and abstinence.

The final canon of that section of the law introduces the possibility of choice. Canon I 253 says that each conference ()I' bishops may define lasting and abstinence more precisely and substitute them for other forms of penance. which might especially include works of charity and exercises of piety.

It is one of the canons intended to allow the church in different countries and cultures to respond to fasting in an appropriate and realistic way. Many writers of pastoral theology had already questioned the

Apparent ahsin"Iii ii permitting the eating ill lish in countries where fish is a greater lu\iiry than meat. in it-stilt-tine meal among segelariaits!

the Catholic bishops ol England and Wales respintled to this by encomaging people to CO11611111! I i I a sI hot also suggesting that Hie) should consider undertaking aliernatise tasks that might shim kindness to

others. in a prattital way But the law, 01 no value

unless Ii helps us in our Christian is es.‘Ve ,A41(1111 resent an obligation to Loa 11 there is no good reason 1or doing so: it ioutdd be tn ntrusion inio our lies Laws which we just observe

inspire no respect and mean nothing

Fasting .ind ahstinenLe have had an important place in church history and belore that in the history of the Jews. Jesus

followed the Jewish customs and fasted as i means of preparation for ministry, as an aid to his

prayer and As a sign Of his solidarity with the poor.

We should view fasting in a positive way. and find solid reasons for it. Spiritually. fasting is a small way in which we can unite ourselves with the suffering and death ot Christ. reminding ourselves of that incredible and total sacrifice that Christ made for Us.

It is an appropriate discipline to observe on Fridays, the day on which Christ died. His death gave new life to the world and opened up for us a way to the Father.

Such a gilt can so easily he overlooked. forgotten or underestimated. The habit of fasting actually establishes in our lives a physical reminder of those events and of the necessity or us to feel gratitude.

Fasting is particularly appropriate for those of us vv ho live in a sophisticated and wealthy society where the essentials of life are taken for

It should rotund us ot scandal that in this millious lace

scientific there is run need II in

Famine vet

starvation iind depr 1 V .1111,111. Our listing troy help them it il allows us to make charitable donations. hot ii also puts us in touch. however remotely-, with the lack that others experience_ Thew is also the benefit to ourselves that fasting and abstinence helps us it I It certainly seems to he true that the mitre ssc 111 a 11 „AV c simplily. our lives, the more likeh, we are no he able to advance III tauawareness of t il mid in tilt prayer.

Jesus begun his ministry o.ith

period of lasting III 4(1 days during vehich time he w :Ps ■_tiOn1.1 til treate the Cf srrect surroundings i in 5% Inch he could speak vi ith his Litho in player.

on a lesser scale. our fasting and abstinence may help us to

intone ourselves to the spiritual dimension of our lives ;IN writers on prayerand Chr(i.isriciaants the spiritual life agree that a discipline of fasting is a means to holiness and we must he careful to Os crlook such ;I wealth of experience.

rastine. for its own sake, hus I ittle + allIC ; indeed it is quite negatke and can easily he harmful. But as a means to an end. it is a vehicle by which we May make substantial progress.

The law may appear to be rather dry and unappealing but it is part of a great subject directly concerned with improving the quality of our commitment as Ch ri sl i The tons concerning tasting and abstinence are found in that part ol canon law which is called 'The Sanctifying Office of the Church". which concerns the sacraments. liturgies. devotions and religious buildings.

They are included here because they are rightly understood to he a very positivt part of the correct practice of our faith. a means h) tx hid] We may better participate in the sacraments.

If fasting and abstinence are seen as negative burdens, they can quickly become irrelevant and are discarded. They need to be understood as means by which we

come to know and love God and

serve him better.

Through sensible fasting and abstinence we may put ourselves in touch with a sense of prayer and discover a better perception of priorities. Fasting gets us away from the excess of the inaterialism that distracts us from listening to God.

It is unfortunate that no more attention has been given to an important subject: that it is perhaps rather too easy to suggest to ourselves that we will do more for others. in a specific act of

and to lose the practice of




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