quod pro nobis traditum est

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lutherans and Fasting

It is sad and funny at the same time that one cannot
talk about fasting among Lutherans. When there was
a discussion on the liturgy list a while back the
simple act of the discussion of the topic was
considered "legalistic." Obviously, some have
different views than others on the topic.

As somewhat of a newcomer to the topic I was
surprised at the vehement response by Lutherans
to the topic. Granted, the Catholic and Orthodox
Churches might require it on occasion. Still, the
discussion of a discipline such as fasting should
not be such a big deal among Lutherans who are
known usually to respond to about any church practice
with, "that's fine, just don't make me do it."

There are two reasons why Lutherans should not be
worried by this topic: 1) Lutherans who fast are
a vast silent minority 2) Fasting undermines
neither the State nor the Church.

The sad and funny thing about this whole topic is
that Lutherans stand on Scripture and the words
of the Lord. Still, Jesus' words, "When you fast
..." somehow do not seem to apply. If Scripture,
or the Lord Himself, cannot convince us then
there is something else at play.

It cannot be justification since
we all know that fasting does not merit salvation.
The practice is more of a spiritual discipline
that is related to devotional practice and focus
on God. Maybe it is our fear of good works or
the devotional life.

Maybe it is the ever present and vague amorphous
protestant spirit that comes as a breeze
gently letting us know it is always
there to keep us fresh. This breeze, however,
can turn into a strong wind and storm when
troubled by anything outside its power.

Whatever it is, fasting has Lutherans all
tied up in knots . . .


Anonymous said...

Fr. May,
A good post. You are right of course that fasting is a spiritual discipline. I've heard it compared to physical exercise in that regard. Just as exercise is good for the body, fasting is good for one's spiritual life.

One interesting thing I learned recently: the Didache actually makes reference to Christians fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. This is still the practice of the Orthodox Church, but I did not know this practice could be traced back so far.


Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...


This is well-stated. Fasting is indeed a "spiritual discipline" Thank you too for the reference to fasting in the Didache. I too was unaware of the early record of this practice.