There’s a Catholic blog titled Diary of a Wimpy Catholic and I’ve often wished I’d thought of that title because I was a really wimpy Catholic. Oh, I managed pretty much to stick with eating fish on Fridays during Lent and tried to do that on most of the rest of the Fridays of the year, with less success. But, truth be told, I usually took full advantage of the excusal from the fasting rules in Catholic tradition provided for those who are over a certain age, which I certainly am. I still suffer from having grown up being a Presbyterian, part of a church that actively frowns on such things as fasting and abstinence, or anything else that smacks of trying to earn your salvation through a works mentality. Yet, here I am thinking about becoming Orthodox, of joining a Church that encourages fasting for nearly 6 months out of the year. What am I thinking?
When I first read what the Orthodox idea of fasting is, my first reaction was, “C’mon man!! You gotta be kidding!” Nobody does that kind of thing anymore, do they? I mean, Carthusians might, but everybody knows they’re a little off. How could any Church expect people to go with what amounts to being even more vegan than the vegans? Do people really do that? This could be a deal breaker.
But, apparently, they do. One way I know this is that, after doing a web search on fasting, I found a number of cookbooks full of recipes suitable for use during the fasts. That would indicate somebody’s doing it. Also, there are several sites offering guidance for when, why and how to fast, another indication that there’s an audience for such things. I was getting worried, could I really do this?
Then, I began to think about it and about where I am in my spiritual journey. One thing these strict fasting rules show is that to be Orthodox is to take your faith seriously. In order for people to deny themselves like this, they either have to be nuts, or see something in their Church that I haven’t seen before. They see that this faith of theirs is worth some self-discipline and self-sacrifice. That’s something I’ve been searching for, and for a long time, but haven’t found; finding that kind of thing, something worth dying for, was what inspired us to look into the Catholic Church in the first place. But the Roman Church makes it quite easy to avoid such things, especially to those, like me, who tend to a certain lack of self discipline. It struck me how truly unique this kind of faith is today. There must be something to any faith that can inspire their followers like that.
It’s easy to read the typical rationale behind fasting and why it’s a good thing to do. You know the usual explanations; it leads one to true spiritual growth and union with God. It’s necessary to live the Christian life, is done in commemoration of Jesus’ betrayal on Wednesdays and his Crucifixion on Fridays, and helps us to learn to control things in our lives that we don’t often try to control. Those are all true and helpful to remember. But for me, the thing that makes me want to at least try to follow these rules is the example of living out their faith, the willingness to sacrifice their own pleasures and comfort, that is most impressive. For them, it’s real and I want a part of that. That’s all I need to know.
So, I may be a wimp and may fail in my attempts to fast like a real Orthodox, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Oh, one more thing, this blog will not be named, Diary of a Wimpy Orthodox, not if I can help it.