Resources for Lent – Why do we fast?

In the early Church and, to a lesser extent still today, there were two fasts. There was the “total fast” that preceded all major feasts or sacramental events.  The ancient name for this fast was “statio” from the verb “sto, stare” to stand watch, on guard or in vigil.  The second fast was a fast of abstinence from certain foods, e.g., meats or fats.  This was more an act of self-discipline and self-control.  The statio fast was total and a means of watching and waiting…i.e. for something.  The fast of abstinence was more general and personal, to help oneself be more disciplined or self-controlled.  The total fast is still kept today prior to reception of Holy Communion.  Following Holy Communion, the total fast ceases because Jesus had explicitly stated that we don’t fast when the bridegroom is here, in other words, what we’re keeping vigil for has arrived, the wait is over.  On the other hand, the fast of abstinence was allowed on Sundays because the continuity of abstinence can be important for it to be effective.

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