During Lent, which leads to Easter, many Long Islanders fast according to the tenets of their faith. Some give up a favorite food (sweets, for instance), others switch to a vegan diet. This week’s clergy discuss how fasting helps believers rededicate themselves to their relationship with God, as well as focus on the needs of other people.
The Rev. Thomas Cardone
Chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale
Did you ever hear someone say, “I live to eat?” Though it may bring a smile to some faces, this philosophy is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus who says while being tempted in the desert, “Man does not live on bread alone.” So why fast? Let me give a contrast. At Kellenberg Memorial High School we have a huge Mardi Gras celebration during lunch. The cafeteria is decorated with balloons on the tables, some students are in costume giving out free candy, and food is in abundance. This is a day where we enjoy the bounty of God. On Ash Wednesday, the contrast comes alive. There is a stark cross on each table, food is Lenten simple, and the tables where there were snacks and candies are empty. Why? Lenten fasting reminds us that all we need is God alone, and we live in true abundance when we are in the right relationship with God and others. There are more important things in life than food, and when we experience hunger we realize that we are dependent on God and others. Fasting reminds us that we do not “live to eat” but “we eat to live and serve our living God!” For those who may have forgotten, here are the responsibilities of fast and abstinence as taken from The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org): “Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.”
The Rev. Gary Schulz
Retired pastor, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bellerose
The Lenten fast has not been a required part of the Lutheran tradition, yet it has always been valued as a worthy act for Christians to engage. On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that fasting is centered in our relationship to God. Jesus tells us that when we fast, we are not to make it obvious to others but rather to understand that its meaning and purpose is to bind us closer to God and God’s will. Fasting allows us a time to reflect on God and all that God has done for us. It may start with the first hunger pang of the day when we go to the refrigerator and then are reminded that we have set our mind not on food but on the reality of all that we have been given. Food, drink, even life itself comes from God. It continues throughout the days and weeks of Lent as we change our diet and attitude. We are asked in the fast to place our thoughts not on the physical needs of the body but on the spiritual needs of the soul. The fast informs us that we are to place our thoughts, words and deeds, not in the self, but rather in God’s grace. It reminds us also of those who are less fortunate, who wake every day to hunger and heartache, and that God desires that we who will soon end the fast are called to do God’s will and end the fast for the poor also.
The Rev. Andrew Cadieux
St. John The Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, Blue Point
Fasting in the Orthodox tradition was taken from Judaic traditions in the Old Testament. Christ gave us the example of fasting, before he started his ministry. During his 40-day fast he was tempted by the devil and was able to show himself as a man, because he felt the effects of his fasting. He showed us that he was able to surpass and to overcome the temptations of the devil. When fasting began in the early days of the church, it began a few days before Easter. As the church developed, the fast for Great Lent was just for Holy Week. This year, our fast starts on Feb. 19, known as Clean Monday, and lasts 40 days plus Holy Week. That’s when we eat a vegan diet with no products from any type of animal. No butter, no milk, no eggs or cheese. The reason for fasting is to deny our bodies so we can uplift our souls. It’s concentrating on the eternal instead of the temporal. We accompany the fast with prayer and the sacrament of confession with the guidance of a spiritual father, and possibly attending the greater number of church services that are offered. By having our sins forgiven, we feel the entire renewal by the time we celebrate Easter, which this year is on April 8. Our typical main dish at Easter is lamb, signifying that Christ is the paschal lamb that is offered for the sins of mankind.