St. Francis and Fasting

saint-francis-of-assisi-cimabueOf the three traditional Lenten practices: prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, it is the last one that is perhaps the one that is hardest to extract from the historical record. This is for two reasons. First, fasting was part and parcel of medieval Christianity. Second, Francis mentions fasting, but does not expound upon its meaning directly.

The meaning and context of medieval fasting. In the OT there were two kinds of fasts, public and private. The most notable, and only one required by the law of Moses was on the great Day of Atonement, thus fasting was a penitential practice associated with reconciliation from sin. In addition, there are biblical records of public fasts being proclaimed in times of distress, lamentation, and at the prophetic insistence for various situations. The public fasts were generally connected to communal sins and lasted a day. Private fasts were generally acts of penance. Continue reading

Liturgical fasting

As the parish gets ready for the Lenten season, one of the things that always catches me by surprise – it shouldn’t, but it does – are the two very distinct liturgical omissions. It is as though the liturgy is also fasting right along with us. During Lent the Church does not sing (recite) the Gloria or speak the word “Alleluia” (right before the Gospel). It is as though they gave them up for Lent! Ever wonder why we observe these Lenten traditions? Continue reading