Easter has come; Christ is risen! And hopefully the difference is tangible. Quite literally overnight, the Church and Her members have switched from fasting mode to feasting mode. In addition to a sense of relief, this quick pivot in our dispositions and actions may feel a little jarring. In the Church’s wisdom, followers of Jesus Christ are asked to fast and then to feast.
Fasting and Feasting in Scripture
Both fasting and feasting have always held an important purpose within salvation history and our lives as disciples of Christ. Though they are opposites, the intention of both activities is to orient our hearts towards God. Throughout Scripture we find numerous calls for the people of God to fast as well as to feast. In the well-known story of the prophet Jonah, the people of Nineveh proclaim a time of fasting in order to show their repentance for their sins (Jonah 3:5-9). Earlier in Scripture we find the words, “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10). The Israelites were instructed to feast in honor of God’s protection of them and to celebrate the good things He had done for them. In the proper context, fasting and feasting both serve to bring the people closer to God.
The Purpose of Fasting and Feasting
Within his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola speaks of God’s purpose in creating human beings as well as all other created things. He tells us that God made us in order to love and serve God and to be united with Him, and all other created things were made in order to help us love and serve God. He goes on to say, “From this it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end.” All of creation was made good and for the purpose of allowing us to share in God’s goodness and to bring us closer to Him. However, because of original sin, it now has the capacity to lead us away from God too.
The practice of fasting helps us to achieve detachment from the created things that have taken on the role of “gods” in our lives. By choosing to limit food or other pleasures we use to try and satisfy our spiritual hunger, we make space in our hearts for God to fulfill us once more. We experience our hunger and need for God through fasting, and we encounter Him as He comes to us in our poverty.
Feasting in connection with spiritual goods and God’s plan for salvation is a way in which we can honor God and experience His goodness and providence. It allows us to encounter God through the beauty, truth, and goodness present in His creation. Within the proper context, enjoying the good things the Lord has made can illuminate His love for us and serve as a foreshadowing of the eternal feast of Heaven.
From Fasting to Feasting
Feasting after fasting, such as the Church practices during Easter after Lent, is a particularly impactful time to feast. The freedom and detachment gained through fasting, allows our hearts to have the proper disposition to encounter God through feasting. After a time of fasting, we are more inclined to receive the goodness of creation as a gift and not as a right or a guarantee. The point of fasting is to learn to seek our Creator before we seek His creation, and through feasting we are given the opportunity to experience His love through the goodness of creation. Our God is a God of abundance, and He desires to fill us with good things. He wants to share His grace and His divine life with us in abundance. We are creatures with a body and a soul, and sometimes we best learn about God’s desire to fulfill and redeem us through the experience of a feast.
Bethany Dhingra is a millennial with a missionary heart. She loves using her Catholic Studies and Communications degrees from the University of St. Thomas to draw others into a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. She served as a campus missionary with FOCUS for 3 years. Most recently, Bethany is living in Missouri with her husband and learning how to follow Christ through the sacrament of marriage.