Fasting is mentioned often in the OT It was undertaken voluntarily or by pub. prescription. Pharisees considered fasting meritorious (Lk 18:12); their twice in the week: Mondays and Thursdays. Jesus speaks of fasting as a common practice which, in itself, He does not condemn (Mt 6:1618); but His disciples did not fast (Mt 9:14), and He did not command it. The apostles fasted at times (Acts 13:2; 14:23). In conformity with Jewish custom many in the early ch. fasted twice a week: Wednesdays and Fridays. Under influence of monastic ideas the practice gradually lost its voluntary character and was imposed on all Christians as obligatory and God-pleasing.
To fast meant, at first, to abstain from all food till evening. The E Orthodox Ch. keeps its fasts with considerable strictness; the RC Ch., as early as the Middle Ages, permitted fasting to become a very tolerable experience. RC rules regarding abstinence and fasting have been changed several times in the 20th c. (e.g., 1957, 1966).
Luth. Confessions teach that right fasting is a fruit of repentance commanded by God in the same way as right praying and right alms-giving; that fasting is useful for keeping the flesh in check; and that it is a fine external training in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. (Ap XII 139, 143; XV 47; SC VI 10)
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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