Lent 2017

DAY 24: Friday, March 24th (Fasting and Full Abstinence)

1917 Fast Observance Today*: Fasting, maximum food intake is one meal, along with two snacks (that together don’t equate to a meal).  No snacking in between that and no alcohol consumption today.

*Applicable to healthy adults between ages of 21-60 (some exemptions exist – see 1917 Fast: The Specifics)

1917 Abstinence Observance Today**: Full abstinence, meaning that no meat or meat products may be eaten.

**Applicable to all age 7 and over.

Potential Prayer(s): Liturgy of the Hours and the Sorrowful Mysteries Rosary

Potential Fast Intention: For all those struggling with addiction of any kind, that they may find the peace, only given by the Holy Trinity.

Potential Give: Consider supporting the mission of the Guest House: http://guesthouse.org/donate/

Fasting Inspiration of the Day: St. Robert Bellarmine, (b. 1542 – d. 1621) Doctor of the Church, patron saint of canonists, catechumens and catechists.  Pope Clement VIII said of him, “the Church of God had not his equal in learning.” 


The five fruits of fasting, according to St. Robert Bellarmine:

1) Fasting Disposes the Soul for Prayer: In order to pray effectively, one must set the mind on things heavenly and pull our attentions and affections away from things merely earthly, which drag our minds and hearts down and serve as a barrier to contemplating divine things. Fasting aids us in detaching our attention from things temporal and disposes us to more effectually commune with God. Hence, Moses fasted for forty days in preparation for his communication with God on Mount Sinai [5]; Elijah similarly fasted for forty days and Daniel fasted for three weeks before receiving the series of visions that comprise the second half of the Book of Daniel. [6] Likewise our Lord fasted for forty days as He prepared Himself for his mission, and St. Francis of Assisi spent a month in prayer prior to receiving the holy stigmata. In the Church’s liturgy, great feasts are traditionally preceded by periods of fasting, for it is evident from the examples of the Scriptures and the lives of the saints that we are better disposes to pray effectually when in a state of fasting.

Fasting Tames the Flesh: St. Paul admonishes us to “crucify the flesh, with its vices and concupiscences” [7] and offers himself as an example, saying, “I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection”. [8] While the body is certainly not evil as the Manicheans taught, it nevertheless can become a distraction in the service of God because of the many bodily urges and passions that attempt to bend our will towards gratifying them. There are many bodily desires, but perhaps the most primal and fundamental bodily desire is the desire to eat. Hunger is experienced by all persons of both sexes, of all ages and all states in life. It is the fundamental bodily urge and is most indicative of our creaturely state and our contingent existence – it is the king of all bodily desires. Therefore, when we by fasting dethrone this king and force the urges of hunger to submit to the will, we progress greatly in taming the flesh and subjecting it to our reason. There is no means of subjecting the flesh that is more effectual than fasting.

Fasting Honors God: Besides this, fasting also gives honor and glory to God. This is because we ourselves, trained by asceticism, become living sacrifices that are pleasing to God. [9] This is why the Council of Nicaea, in Canon 5 calls the Lenten fast “a clean and solemn gift, offered by the Church to God.” Pope St. Leo the Great also calls fasting a sacrifice: “For the sure reception of all its fruits, the sacrifice of abstinence is most worthily offered to God, the giver of them all.” [10]  Therefore fasting is a sacrifice that gives honor and glory to God.

Fasting is Penitential: Fasting is also a means of atoning for the punishment due to sin. This is related to what was said above regarding hunger as the king of the bodily desires. Because we are in the flesh, we all need food for nourishment, and thus the practice of fasting becomes inherently unpleasant; to effectively fast is to truly crucify the flesh, and though we can accustom ourselves to the practices, fasting itself is something that is difficult, unpleasant and requires virtue to do consistently. Thus, it becomes an act of penance, which we can offer to God in satisfaction for the penalty due to sins. The Scriptures and the Fathers give us many examples of this. The anger of God was averted by the fasting of the people of Nineveh, and the Jews in the days of Esther appeased God by prayer and fasting. Many citations from the Fathers could also be offered in support of this teaching, but let us offer only two: St. Cyprian of Carthage admonishes his people, “Let us appease the anger of an offended God by fasting and weeping, as He admonishes us.” [11] St. Augustine also says, “No one fasts for human praise, but for the pardon of his sins” [12].

Fasting is Meritorious with God: Finally, fasting is meritorious with God, both in the sense that it is effective in obtaining favors from God, and in that fasting itself merits a divine reward. Hannah fasted and her prayers were heard by God because of her fasting, and she thus conceived the prophet Samuel; similarly, Sarah was delivered from a demon after fasting for three days. Our Lord warns us that certain demons can only be overcome with fasting. [13] If we return to the passage from the Gospel of Matthew cited above, we note that our Lord promises a reward for those who fast:

Comments of the Day: Keep close to the five fruits of fasting today as we wrap up our fasting and abstaining for the week.  Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, followed by Sunday as the Lord’s Day and both are not days of fasting nor abstinence.  Have a blessed Friday!

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