Why Do Orthodox Christians Fast?
When the angel told Elijah to “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great,” he was referring to the forty day trek through the wilderness that would bring Elijah to Mount Sinai, where the prophet would experience fire, earthquake, and mighty wind before God finally spoke to him with a “still, small voice” in the midst of great silence. In preparation for the two greatest feasts of the Church, Orthodox Christians go on their own trek through a metaphorical wilderness. We do not literally leave civilization or retreat from people, but for forty days we engage in practices designed to help us shake free from our inordinate preoccupation with things that fill our time and our bellies without touching the emptiness in our hearts. We begin with that most basic of human urges – the desire for food. During the fast we abstain from meat and dairy, and on the strictest fast days also from wine and oil. At the same time we try to cut down on entertainment and busy-ness, to make space in our lives for quietness, prayer, and service to the poor. In this way we hope to create inside ourselves a measure of that “great silence” in which the “still, small voice” can speak to us, also, leading us to an ever deeper understanding of the great mysteries of God’s Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection.
Who Am I?
I have been writing stories since second grade, have been keeping the Orthodox fasts for nearly two decades, and have cooked around 3000 meals for my family since I married my husband eight years ago, but this is my first attempt at blogging.
Why This Blog?
Fasting is hard. That’s okay. It isn’t meant to be effortless. It’s good to be a little hungry, a little bored, to feel a little empty sometimes. It reminds us that our hunger is more than merely physical; it drives us to seek for the Bread of Life which satisfies our deepest needs. But when we are hungry all the time but can’t think of anything nutritious to eat, or feeling shaky and irritable because we’ve eaten too many Wheat Thins and Oreos (that’s right folks, there’s no cream in the “crème filling”) and not enough real food, the fast can start to feel like nothing but a burden. It’s even worse when you have to think of something for your whole family to eat, and all you can think is that you would rather go hungry than eat one more peanut butter sandwich or taco salad. I know. I’ve been there.
In the years that I have been home with my children, I have been trying out some of those things I always hoped I’d get around to “someday.” Things like baking my own bread. Planting a garden. Moving beyond bean burritos and stir fry to cook more authentic ethnic foods. And as we have eaten more seasonal, fresh, and authentic foods, fasting has become easier. It is now less about what we can’t have, and more about sharing meals that have meaning, that anchor us in time and place, that connect us to a larger world. I want to share some of those meals, along with the thinking that goes into them and traditions around them, with you.
What Will You Find Here?
- Easy Recipes: I will post at least some recipes that don’t have too many steps and won’t require hard-to-find ingredients or specialized kitchen gadgets. These recipes should be quick and easy enough for busy moms, single folks, grad students, and anyone else who’s hungry but doesn’t have much time.
- Adventurous Recipes: Each week I will post at least one original or adapted recipe for something a little bit exciting or out of the ordinary. If you like to cook or are bored with all of the vegan recipes you know, these are for you.
- Meal Plans: While I enjoy making up recipes of my own or “veganizing” classics, I am happy to let other people do the work when I can. I will share links to some of my favorite recipes from other bloggers.
- Quotes and Reflections: I will post a few quotes or thoughts of my own relating to food, faith, family, and the church year. Just a few of the things I think about while I’m washing the dishes and chopping the vegetables. During Lent I will also post a series of reflections on the many reasons why we fast.
I am neither a nutritionist nor a theologian. Take my writing for what it is – the musings of a fellow traveler – and consult a medical professional or a priest where more expert advice is needed. You can find a local parish of the Orthodox Church in America at www.oca.org/parishes.