Fasting: Good for the Soul and Body – A Short Commentary

As an Orthodox Christian wife and mother, my mind tends to focus on the fasting days on our religious calendar.  It has only been in recent years that we have really started to pay mind as it was about 2005-2006 when my husband entered a Greek Orthodox church with me in Northern Virginia in the DC Area where we lived at the time.  He was born and raised a Protestant from South Carolina. I’m what they refer to as “cradle Orthodox” as I was baptized in the Church and then went on a life path of Catholic school upbringing and church-hopping as a teenager and college student. 

So when my husband and I finally rested in the Greek Orthodox church as couple and later small family, we encountered the complex world of fasting not only effective during the 40 day Lenten season, but also weekly and during other special festive occasions.

For instance, unless there is a special time ongoing like Lent or Advent season, every Wednesday and Friday in the Orthodox church we are called to fast.  The fast on those days is supposed to be a ‘strict’ one meaning omitting meat and dairy products.  We are also supposed to abstain from eating the morning prior to receiving communion on Sunday morning.

It was a bit daunting when we came across these calls to fasting.  At first we were pretty sure this stuff was reserved for the monks and nuns up in some remote monastery in the Greek mountains and foothills.

But slowly we both decided that we’d like to make an effort to honor these days of fasting and found that it made us look at our days differently.  Certainly our home dinner menu was adjusted fairly easily.  It was the work day lunches that were a little more complicated but we navigated that by packing our own lunches especially on those days and if we had a business function, we tried to make mindful choices based on the fast.

Overall we have found that habitual fasting throughout the year, whether it be the Lenten season or the regular Wednesdays and Fridays, helps us get our souls in tune with our Lord’s Holy Spirit.  But I’ve also noticed that it’s cleaned up our bodies as well.

If we think about it, Americans really do consume a lot of meat.  Definitely more than many of our ancestries did a few hundred years ago on a daily basis. Most of that is because of supply being greater and more easily accessible, however, that doesn’t mean it’s all the more good for us.

By fasting I’ve found out just how much of meat and dairy we seem to rely on habitually but do fine without when we take the effort to do so.  While spiritual tuning we are also cleansing our bodies ritually speaking and it does both soul and body good.

If you’re not a Jew, Christian, Buddhist or affiliated with any other organized religion, you may not be familiar with fasting at all.  Yet, your doctor may have asked you to ‘fast’ the night before a health test or procedure.  It lends a hiccup to your routine, but not usually a harmful one.  Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to abstain from certain foods at times to help our souls and bodies recalibrate.

In my own family’s case, it isn’t easy to do so especially during the throes of busy and inconsistent schedules.  Still, we continue to try to seek our Lord through not focusing so much on carnal desires and at the same time find our bodies reaping the benefits as well.


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