Saturday, November 21, 2009

History of Fasting

History of Fasting
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, California
Link to full article below

Fasting is the voluntary abstinence from solid food over any period of time out of the ordinary. The practice of fasting has its origins in religion dating to the beginning of recorded history. The purpose of the religious fast is purification of the soul and preparation to receive atonement of sins. Fasting is practiced to this day amongst Roman Catholics, Orthodox Catholics, Jews and several Protestant sects, notably Episcopalians and Lutherans, as well as Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and American Indians. Fasting even has a political history, highlighted by the use of the fast unto death's door by Mohandas Gandhi to pressure and/or inspire his followers to observe his principles of nonviolence during India's struggle for freedom from their English overlords.

The early Christian church saw fasting as associated with penitence and purification, a voluntary method to prepare to receive Holy Communion and baptism. Indeed, Christ is said to have fasted voluntarily alone in the desert east of Jerusalem for a full forty days and forty nights, at the end of which he encountered the temptations of Satan.

Fasting traditionally has been associated with a period of quiescence during which most physical activities are suspended, perhaps denoting a symbolic association with the state awaiting birth. In very ancient times, fasts were traditional at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and were believed to increase fertility of both the land (through God's grace) and of the human body for reproduction. Fasts were used by American Indians to avert disasters (earthquake, flood, drought, war, etc.) and as penance for sin.

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