Why do we fast?
The simple answer to this question is because Jesus fasted. When Jesus was on earth He did many things that He did not need to do for Himself such as fasting, praying, doing charity, etc these thing Jesus did in order to pave a way for us to salvation. This path extends to Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension. Only when we are following Christ in this path do we join Him in His resurrection and ascension and sitting at the right hand of the Father!
What is the difference between our Christian fasting and fasting in other religions?
Many people think the reason we fast is to learn self control, control of the senses etc. This is not the reason we fast but only a byproduct of fasting. When we consider the reason given above for why we as Christian fast, which is basically a participation in the life of Christ to finally sit with him at the right hand of the Father, do we realize that fasting in Christianity is radically different from any other religion.
Will I not go to heaven if I don’t fast?
To ask this question is to assume that heaven is a place you go to when you die. The fact of the matter is that heaven is a life we live here on earth and continuosly living when we die. When we consider that heaven is living and being in Christ then by our participation in the life of Christ as we mentioned above we are living heaven here on earth. So by not fasting you are depriving yourself of the heavenly life before you die.
Do we have to fast from food or can we just fast from social media?
This is a very common question and sometimes makes sense to a lot of us because social media and going to certain places can be more distracting to our spiritual life than food yet when we read the desert father, who are much more experienced in spiritual practices, they unanimously agree that the stomach is the key to self control. If you control your stomach you control your whole body.
Also on a psychological level when every time you eat something you stop and ask yourself if this is fasting or not and reject it if it is not fasting; you unintentionally do the same with your actions when sin comes knocking then you stop and reject sin.
Another important point is that fasting is not only changing my diet from eating meats to vegetables but it also includes a period of abstinence, meaning I skip a meal in the morning and the cost of this meal I give to a poor person who does not have the means.
Why can’t I have communion if I am not fasting?
The church is the body of Christ and therefore to have communion is to be part of this body. How can a member of the body be doing one thing and another members doing another?
Furthermore, Christ says when two or three gather in my name I will be among them (Matt 18:20) So can you imagine Orthodox Christians in the whole world are praying, fasting and offering repentance so why wouldn’t I want to be part of this worldwide network.
I go to the gym and I need my proteins can I eat tuna during lent?
Going to the gym comes under a list of reasons/excuses for us not to fast such as, during travel, when there is no fasting food where I work, bad for my diet because too much carbs, etc. I think that while these reasons do make fasting so much harder yet not impossible. I’m sure there are people who are vegetarians who go on diets and workout at the gym, or you can organize your trip around fasting time not the other way around. You can take lunch with you to work. I think if we understand the reason we fast in question 1 then we realize what we are sacrificing by not fasting.
On a physical level many dietitians today agree that eating vegetarian food twice a week and not eating till your stomach is full which are two important aspects of fasting in general are healthy practices for anyone who wants to live a healthy life. Which means that when the church organized all these practices for us it was not to make our lives hell but it was so that we live a healthy lifestyle.