Fasting

Liturgy We Live by Dr. Gil Haas

During Lent, we are reminded by Ash Wednesdayʼs gospel that we are in a time of prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Surprising to some, page 17 of our BCP designates Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as “Fasts”, while the weekdays of Lent and Holy Week, (except the Annunciation on March 25) are considered “Days of Special Devotion” requiring “special acts of discipline and self-denial”. No specific rules are provided. The original fast preceding Easter lasted two days. Later in the Western church, the thirty-six days of Lent were punctuated by Sunday feasting - continuing the resurrection celebration even during Lent. Forty days of Lenten fasting was begun in the 7th century when the four days from Ash Wednesday to the first Sunday in Lent were added. Initially, fasting was strict with only one meal a day towards evening. Meat, eggs, and fish were forbidden. Beginning in the 4th century, the hour for breaking the fast was moved to 3 PM and later back to noon. The exact manner of a personʼs fast is an individual one. The important point is to set aside this Lenten time in a special and personal way.