Feasting and Fasting

This Sunday’s readings have a lot to say about food: the great wedding banquet of the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 22:1-14) and the “banquet of rich food” on the mountain (Is 25:6-10). St Paul, writing to the Philippians (4:12-14.19-20), says he is ready for both full stomach and empty stomach.

A Christian attitude to food is not one of a constant and boring medium of the adequately nourished but never extravagant. Perhaps this reflects the reality of a time when our stomachs were more in tune with the seasons: food having to be eaten while it was available, lest it spoil, while at other times of the year food had to be limited lest it run out.

Both a superabundance of food (“feasting”) and strictly limited food (“fasting” if the limit is across the board, or “abstinence” if limited just to a particular type of food, such as meat) have a theological significance. Fasting and abstinence remind us of our dependence on God, without whom we are nothing; feasting reminds us that our God showers his blessings upon us. Both are necessary for the fullness of Christian life: so we fast or abstain at certain times (e.g. during Lent or on Fridays) and feast at other times (e.g. on Sundays or the great feasts).

Through the discipline both of fasting and of feasting, may we, like St Paul (4:13) be ready for anything anywhere as we follow Christ.

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