Anyhoo, we approach this Ash Wednesday with a fast the way we did things downtown in Protestant land. In the waning days of my Protestant life, such quaint Catholic pastimes as Advent, Fasting, and Meditation were becoming all the rage, especially in the Evangelical setting in which I ministered. It was that tension between recognizing the rich and vibrant traditions embedded in historical Christianity while not being or looking too Catholic.
Fasting was one of the last disciplines to become faddish before I left. Now fasting in the Catholic Church has been a puzzle for me. According to the literature we receive, fasting consists of:
Limit of one full meal on these days for all between the ages of 18 and 59 inclusive.
Not to boast or say I'm a million times as humble as though art. It's just to say we've tried the Catholic approach a few times over the years and, when all was said and done, felt like we hadn't fasted at all. When we have actually fasted in the hip new Protestant way, however, we definitely knew it. At times it felt cleansing, at times agonizing. But it was a fast, and one I can't help reflected more the understanding of fast when Jesus tells us what to do when - not if - we fast. After all, we fast on a day when we are reminded meménto, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris. Still:
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; that thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall recompense thee.A reminder.