Publish date 28-01-2021
Is there anyone who still observes fasting before the Eucharist? Maybe someone did, in an hour or two. Perhaps for many it is just a juridical "precept", given that it is prescribed by canon 919 of the Code of Canon Law. Perhaps we no longer know the deep connection between an empty stomach and God's hunger. The way of understanding fasting has always been a hot topic, already in Jesus' earthly life. It was one of the reasons why the Pharisees they kept an eye on him. After the call of Levi, Jesus immediately goes to eat at his house and the Pharisees rush to inquire him with trap questions about fasting.
And Jesus, with infinite patience, points out that if fasting is done to bend God to our desires, the exact opposite happens: that fasting rejects God. Behind such a fast there is the idea of a God whose better not trust, better keep it good with sacrifices indeed, let's face it, with a real blackmail: look at me! see how good I am, I don't eat and you will hear me. But the idea that our action obliges God to yield to our will is the opposite of Christ's message which is gratuitous love, communion with the Son, who through his death in love transfers us to the heart of God.
True fasting is done only for love, says Jesus: if I stick the old fast-atonement on the new fabric of love and God's desire, a hole is created, and the fabric tears. If the bridegroom dies, the bride does not want to eat, her sadness prevents him. We all experience it when someone we love dies. The pre-Eucharistic fast is nothing but the somatization of our hunger for the Bridegroom. It is our desire to enter into communion of love with God, to make the Eucharist with the bread-Body of Christ that leads us to God, a desire that becomes physical hunger. Our hunger from an empty stomach is the image of our hunger for God. We are hungry for love and food is the figure of our desire.
In traditions other than ours, the Copts fast 9 hours before the Eucharist, the Ethiopians 15 hours. On the evening of the eve of a feast, the Russian faithful confess and observe a total fast, not only of food and drink, but fasting of eyes and useless chatter: not to estrange themselves from the world, but to celebrate the gift received in baptism, entry into the life of Christ: that is, to be dead and resurrected with him. In one word: save yourself. Sunday, tomorrow, the Eucharist will celebrate the next step: the divinization of all of us, made one church, one body, eating at the table of the Kingdom, sitting around the table of the heavenly Jerusalem with Christ, with his holy Virgin Mother, with everyone the saints and with those who preceded us in faith. Fasting before such a meal is not a sad fast: it is the emptiness of a wait that waits to be filled with endless gratitude and joy.
NP november 2020