In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit One God Amen
The Need for Fasting
In the Fetha Negest (Law of the Kings) fasting is defined as follows: "Fasting is abstinence from food, and is observed by man at certain times determined by law, to attain forgiveness of sins and much reward, obeying thus the one who fixed the law. Fasting (also) serves to weaken the force of concupiscence so that (the body) may obey the rational soul". During this fasting period, Christians abstain from meat and all animal products: meat, milk, butter and eggs. No food or drink is taken before noon; the seriously sick are exempted from fasting after they talked with their priest.
Have you ever wondered why you have to fast? Where did originate from? How long? It may be true from our surrounding that many people fast for different reason; some to gain favor from God, to be a part of the large group, because of one was ordered to do so. Nevertheless, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church has some biblical purposes for fasting.
Our benevolent and loving God who created all the trees in the Garden of Eden for the sake of man, His beloved, ordered him not to eat from just specific tree; the tree of life. Why would God order this first kind of fast to Adam? It was not simply for Adam needing to learn abstinence from food, drink or delicate things; Instead, the main reason for the first commandment of God- fasting was (is):
- Fasting from the tree was the only way that Adam could have showed his love to God. Our lord and savior Christ told the disciples, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). God, out of unconditional love, has endowed every possible thing to Adam and Eve, it was their turn to show Him love by being obedient to his commandment. Are we obedient to His commandment? When God ordered Adam not to eat, it wasn't to deprive man or to impose His authority but rather to make man worthy of His love through fasting and obeying His commandment; "Man doesn't live by bread only, by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the lord" [Gen 2, Deut 8:3, Mtt 4:4). When we fast it is an expression of our love to God who has given His only Begotten Son to die for us. So the main reason for our fast is Our deep love to God.
- Obeying to fast from the tree also shows God’s rightful mastery over Adam and Eve. Eating from the tree represents taking mastery over one’s life – mastery rightfully belongs to God. When we fast, we should know that first and foremost we are acknowledging God’s right over us. When you are attracted to every interesting/attractive things and peruse it passionately like Eve did, you are taking mastery of your life. You are saying you are not so sure that God has the best interest for you. This brings the Third reason why Adam and Eve should have fast from the tree.
- Let say before they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve didn’t fully understood why it was forbidden. In that case, God’s command gives the first human the opportunity to trust Him. Like many of us who fall continuously into sin, Adam and Eve choose instead to suspect that He doesn’t have their best interests at heart. This lack of trust in God, with the claim to be master of one’s life apart from God, is the root of sin. Uprooting it will require a perfect act of trust in God, a total abandonment of self to God: Jesus’ death on the cross.
So as we have seen in the beginning fasting (was) is not all about what we should abstain from. Rather it was (is) first and foremost about love, obeying and having trust on God. So why fast from meat or diary product? I will give you simple answer - we are not eating meat or diary because the BIBLE says so. I will give you the verses, you go and read it yourselves in your bible [Ps 109: 24, Dan 10:3 and all Holy tradition that has been passed down through Holy saints].
Misconceptions about fasting
We are seeing many people who fast go through it without getting any spiritual gift from it. We see them abstain just from meat or diary without associating it with a serious attempt to repent their sins or renew their effort to conquer sin. We see them go into fasting and come out of it spiritually the same. We see them wait anxiously for the end of the fast to return to the food that they craved during the fast. This is all to say fasting should have a purpose. So if somebody says that she/he fasts because the church leadership said so or perhaps because they would be embarrassed if they did not, then there is no reason or purpose for fasting. When one fasts, aside from obeying his commandment and trusting him, we aim to get closer to him and with his will and guidance we better able to withstand the temptation of the world.
One thing I must clear to you brothers and sisters is that fasting is a means; it is not an end. It is a thing that we do to attain spiritual gift and as such Fasting by itself does not take us anywhere or make us righteous. It must be done with prayer, love, patience and persistence. What Jesus said, and the lives of the saints provide us with strong testimony, is that when man fasts to get closer to God, and humbles himself before God, repent of his/her sins, asks Him to have mercy on him, or to grant him a favor, God listens, and in most cases, s/he gets what s/he asked for [Matthew 17:21]. So Fasting is not just abstaining from meat, it is a way of showing God Our love, obedience and trust to Him. So it is a choice, unless you are unable to do so through medical or other issues.
May the Prayers and Intercession of the Virgin Mary Mother of God, Angels and Saints be with all of us.
Dn. Medhanie Kifle
-Fetha Negest (Law of the Kings)