The Fast and the (Not So) Furious
Here at Theologee, I am thoroughly fascinated with those people of faith who practice fasting in their religions. I am one of those people who can’t miss a meal without becoming hangry (hungry + angry), so I am impressed with the conviction it takes to fast in order to come closer to God. As the Islamic holy month of Ramadan is upon us, I have decided to explore the many fasting rituals and holidays of different religions- but just after I finish this pizza.
Islam: In Islam, Ramadan celebrates the time when Muhammad began receiving the holy text of the Quran. Muslims abstain from food and water starting at sunrise and ending at sunset, in order to be more reflective and therefore better prepared for worship. For the most part, the oft-troubled Sunnis and Shias (the two biggest sects of Muslims) tend to worship this month together, which is awesome. Muslims see this period of fasting as a time to show obedience to God and exhibit moral fortitude. Who doesn’t have to take part in the fasting? The elderly, young children, and pregnant women, because no man wants to incur the wrath of a pregnant woman whose cravings can’t be fulfilled until the sun goes down.
Judaism: Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement, a day when Jews fast from watching Kiera Knightly movies. No, actually, it’s food and water that are not consumed. The fast lasts for 25 hours, with five prayer services throughout the day. Yom Kippur ends the high holy days of Judaism, which start with Rosh Hashanah and last for ten days until Yom Kippur. In those ten days, a person is expected to repent and right any wrongs they may have committed during the past year. Meanwhile, God writes their name in a book that details their fate for the coming year. On Yom Kippur, God closes that book and their fate is sealed. As someone working on her first novel, I am really impressed that God can complete a book with so many characters in just 10 days.
Bahá’í Faith: For those of you unfamiliar with the Bahá’í Faith, it is the religion Dwight (Rainn Wilson) from The Office practices. Fact: it is a monotheistic religion based on the belief that there is unity of God (only one), unity of religion (all religions at their core are the same), and unity of humanity (all people are created equal). Fact: fasting is seen as a symbolic; a rejection of self and carnal desires. Fact: followers fast during a 19-day period of the year, with no food, drink, or smokes between sun-up and sundown. It is an obligation in the religion for all those between the ages of 15 and 70; after 70 you should be allowed to do whatever you damn well please.
Hinduism: There is no way I can mention all the Hindu fasting days, so check them out here. Also, use that calendar to figure out when your favorite Indian restaurant may be less busy for procuring samosas or Tikka masala (I am looking at you Curry Up Now). Hindu days of fasting usually coincide with yogic (not those involving Lululemon) practices in which the yoga poses help aid digestion, and certain foods are avoided because they cause lethargy, malaise, and- ahem- digestive issues.
Mormons: The First Sunday of every month is a day of fasting for many Mormons, who skip the first two meals of the day and give the money saved on those meals to the church or the needy. Some people skip the last meal on Saturday and the first meal on Sunday, which I bet makes coffee hour after service an interesting time. “No thank you. We just had lunch….yesterday.” (On a side note, some Mormons refer to their coffee hour as “Linger Longer” which is totally not awkward when your stomach is growling.)
One particular Episcopalian: I once skipped my afternoon snack. I was in a deep meditative state known as “napping.”
Fasting as a practice crosses many religions and is employed to get closer to God. You can read more about other fasting practices here. I am very impressed with the devotion it takes to completely deny biological functions during the day so that one’s mind can be open to welcome God’s love. I have often found God in a good meal; maybe I could feel Him without one as well.