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Friday, 18 July 2008

The Eucharistic Fast

There is some thought that fasting for the receipt of Communion should be extended, if not as by fiat, than by way of a devotional practice and penance taken upon oneself personally by those committed to what Fr Kimel called the "re-enchantment" of the Liturgy.
But that is fasting for the Eucharist.
Is there any tradition (small "t") in west or east of fasting from the Eucharist? As a discipline, as a way of increasing ones desire for the Bridegroom, sharpening ones hunger for the Celestial Banquet?
I remember when I read War and Peace, Natasha had done something in reparation for which she felt she need to undergo some spiritual practice and she decided to "make a Communion," I think was the phrase in the translation I read.
And she went to Mass, (can the novel have said that? the Orthodox would have said Divine Liturgy, no? but perhaps the francophile Russian aristocracy had adopted such terminology,) for a week to prepare to receive.
I thought that was some exotic Eastern practice, not knowing that in some centuries communion was rarely received by the faithful.
Anyway, I know there are regressives, progressives, byzantolators, and trendists who urge refraining from partaking on Good Friday, but I wonder if there is any thought about fasting from the Body of Christ at any other time, for any other purpose.
I never take the Blood of Christ in the summertime, except on the odd weekday.
Yes, I am considering a more strenuous fast, if I can find more justification for it than my own quirk or impulse.

It is wonderful that God rained manna on our fathers and they were fed with daily food from heaven. And so it is written: Man ate the bread of angels. Yet those who ate that bread all died in the desert. But the food that you receive, that living bread which came down from heaven, supplies the very substance of eternal life, and whoever will eat it will never die, for it is the body of Christ.Consider now which is the more excellent: the bread of angels or the flesh of Christ, which is indeed the body that gives life. The first was manna from heaven, the second is above the heavens. One was of heaven, the other is of the Lord of the heavens; one subject to corruption if it was kept till the morrow, the other free from all corruption...
If what you marvel at is a shadow, how great is the reality whose very shadow you marvel at. Listen to this, which shows that what happened in the time of our fathers was but a shadow....
You know now what is more excellent: light is preferable to its shadow, reality to its symbol, the body of the Giver to the manna he gave from heaven.
-- From the treatise On the Mysteries, by Saint Ambrose

1 comment:

Mary Jane said...

Communion in the Eastern Churches was a rare event. Most people went once a year during the Great Lent. People ate a "fast level" diet for a week before and it was a VERY BIG DEAL. Older priests weren't even used to much of anyone coming forward for Communion until the 1960s. They would come out and make what one friend of mine used to call "a Dior turn with the chalice." Remember that it wasn't that different for Catholics before St. Pius X.
Now the practice is different. I was at a Greek Orthodox liturgy last Sunday and most of the congregation received Communion. That left me and a couple of incorrigibles out of the line.