Ash Wednesday, Lent and Fasting Challenges for the Lengthening of Days

Fasting is not a salvific issue, but it is both a spiritual practice and a healthy way to live

Today is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter (for the Western Church). Lent comes from a German word for “lengthening.” The spring is coming and the sunlight days are lengthening as life returns. This is a time for introspection and mediation on the Lord, in honor and communion with Christ. It is also an excellent opportunity to talk about Christian dieting and fasting. For the Great Church, Lent was the beginning of the Great Fast. This great feast is still observed in the Eastern Churches. Basically, that means that you follow a vegan diet. Orthodox Christians still observe vegan fasting or dieting on most Wednesdays and Fridays of the week. It’s more complicated than that, but over time the fasting tradition in Christianity slackened or disappeared entirely. Today, many Christians will observe Lent through some form of abstinence, AKA “Giving up something for Lent.” That is great, but here at PraXis, we emphasize that Christian Fasting is a spiritual practice that moves you towards God AND is healthy for you, if you do it right.

Now is the best time of the year for Christians to look at mindful eating and a plant-based diet as part of spiritual practice. In the coming weeks, we will post more about fasting. But for now, consider a Lent fasting challenge of your own. Considering following some of these guidelines for a fasting challenge of the length you chose:

  • A strict ancient fast (no dairy, meat, alcohol, seasonings, or oil)
  • Plant-based diet of whole foods, “angelic diet” or Genesis diet (Genesis 1:29, 3:18)
  • Try the Daniel Fast
  • Eliminate meat, dairy, processed and high carb/sugar foods a day or two each week

Whatever diet you chose, combining it with not eat to “satiety.” This is a great way to exercise portion control and become mindful of your eating and your body. You simply stop eating before you feel full. Remember, most first Christians were poor, and most poor people did not eat meat or eat until they could not get one more bite in. Official feasts were usually the time when they got to overeat and had the luxury of eating meat. Today we feast every day and rarely fast. But the two were meant to go together.

Published by Cornelius Swart

Masters Candidate, Vancouver School of Theology

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