By Rev. Dr. Curian Kaniyamparambil
In 1 Tim 4:3 it says, They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving, by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanks giving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer. Since St. Paul said this, why fast?
When we analyze a sentence from the Bible, we should explore its context too. This means who said it, where it was said, and in what context. If you don't keep these factors in mind when one quotes, one makes erroneous conclusions. By quoting 1 Cori. 7:12-13, one can easily prove a point that a Christian can have a non-Christian spouse. But we all know that St. Paul made this arrangement not as a rule forever, but only for early Christian conversions.
The church says that one should fast like how our Lord and apostles did, and should remain faithful to the ways they taught us to fast and pray. St. Paul says, to mortify the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13) and Now those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires (Gala 5:24) and again Put to death, then, parts of you that are earthly; (Col 3:5). What does he mean and how does one follow this? Fasting and Lent helps us to fulfill this. We have seen people like, Moses, Elijah, David, Nehamiah, Esther, Daniel, the disciples of John, Hanna, and the early Christians, Cornelius, apostles, St.. Paul, the Israelites and above all our Lord fasting. Our Lord showed us the need for fasting and taught us how to fast. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. (Mat 6: 16-18).
Fasting should be in the name of God and for God. "There up on this word of Lord of hosts came to me. Say to all the people of the land and to the priests; when you fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month these seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted." (Zach 7:5)
It should be for humbling of the soul (Psalm 35:13, 69:10). God ordered Adam to take Lent. The apostles fasted when they anointed the ministers (Acts 13:3, 14:23). From the above we can easily understand that it is God's order and every one loved by God fasted. Therefore the Syrian Orthodox Church also follows it. This is not something that was created in the later centuries but was practiced from the time of Adam till this day. Again in AD 180, Irenaeus recorded that this practice existed a long time before his period.
If you belong to a Christian community, who still find it difficult to obey what our Lord taught and practiced, and from the teachings of the apostle and prophets, I can bring in more evidence from their own church leaders. Anglicans, one of the early Protestant churches, says that fasting existed in the early church in their own book of common prayers.
In the book of common prayers of the Anglican Church it is recorded that the Big Lent of preparation is observed before Easter. This was being observed from the apostolic period, as is testified by St. Irenaeus (AD 180). Protestant Bishop Beveridge says that St. Eusebius, Athanasius, Basil, Augustin, Cyril etc.. testify that fasting and Lent were instituted by apostles and was practiced. Thertullian talks about fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays.
[Note: The Syrian orthodox church observes lent on all Wednesdays and Fridays except those between Easter and Pentecost and also on five other occasions, the larger of those during the fifty days before Easter. Others are ten days before Christmas, three days of Nineveh, five days before the death anniversary of St. Mary, and three days in honor of the apostles]
Prayer is to be said seven times daily. At dawn (when God created light), at 9 am (when Jesus was judged by Pilate), at noon (when He was crucified), and at 3 pm (when He died and the whole nature trembled), at the dusk and at bedtime (for a peaceful night). Those for whom it is in-convenient to pray seven times, it is split into two groups, one group of prayers in the dawn and the other at dusk.
Regarding fasting and Lent, some people criticize it by quoting 'anything that goes into the mouth does not defile man,' which is what our Lord said. But such critics may well remember that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit through their mouth, which defiled not only themselves but also the whole human race.
More on Lent
Lent is not mere fasting alone, but contains
3) Self Restraint
4) Charity and other good deeds
What is fasting? How can we accomplish this? When should we observe fasting?
Let us look into the Bible
From the New Testament
Do not look sad like the hypocrites, when you fast. When you fast wash your face and anoint your head. (Matt 6:16-17)
Jesus said to them (to Pharisees), Can the sons of the wedding feast fast as long as the bridegroom is with them? No. (Mark 2:19-20; Luk 5:35: Matt)
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them; then they will fast in those days. (Luk.5:35, Mark 2:20, Matt 9:15)
But I (a Pharisee) fast twice in a week. (Luk 18:12). This was the practice in the Old Testament times.
The disciples of John also fasted and prayed (Mark 2:18, Matt 9:14, Luk 5;33)
Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days. (Matt 4:2, Luk 4:2)
He (Jesus) said to them (to the disciples), This kind cannot be cast out by anything except by fasting and prayer (Mark 9:29, Matt 17:21)
And when they (Paul and Barnabas) had ordained them elders in every church and had prayed with them with fasting, they commended them to our Lord, on whom they believed. (Act 14:23)
As they fasted and prayed to God, the Holy Spirit said to them, Appoint for me Saul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them. (Acts 13:12). So after they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they send them away (Acts 13:13)
Therefore do not deprive one another except when both of you consent to do so, especially at the time you devote yourselves to fasting and prayer; and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of you physical passion. (1 Cori. 7:5)
From the Old Testament
Therefore now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, and with fasting and with weeping and with mourning (Joel 2:12). Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly (Joel 2:15)
Speak to all the people of the land and to the priests, saying, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months, for these seventy years, did you at all fast to me? (Zechariah 7:5).
Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness and cheerful feasts; (Zechariah 8:19)
Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict yourselves, and you take no note of it? Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. (Isaiah 58:3)
Do you go on the fast day and read publicly in the LORD'S house in the LORD'S words from the scroll you wrote at my dictation; read them also to all the men of Judah who come up from their cities. (Jeremiah 36:3)
I turned to the Lord God, pleading in the earnest prayers, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes (Daniel 9:3)
When the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. (Jonah 3:5)
Yet I, when were ill, put on sackcloth, afflicted myself with fasting, sobbed my prayers up on my bosom (Psalms 35:13)
My totter from fasting; my flesh has washed away ( Psalms 109:24)
So Moses stayed there with LORD for forty days and forty nights, with out eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9)
He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. (1 Kings 19:8)
Therefore, Lent is necessary. Our Lord commanded it. It was there during the Old Testament time and was continued by the apostles and continues in the Lord's Church for ones spiritual growth.
TOC Section 1 (Q 1-26) | Sec 2 (Q 27-56) | Sec 3 (Q 57-81) | Sec 4 (Q 82-115) | Sec 5 (Q 116-135) | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
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