Today the Scriptures ask us to look at fasting as a response to the Lenten journey.
Alexander Schmermann writes of the original reasoning for fasting: “Today people fast for all kinds of reasons, including sometimes political reasons. It is important, therefore, to discern the uniquely Christian content of fasting. It is first of all revealed to us in the interdependence between two events which we find in the Bible: one at the beginning of the Old Testament and the other at the beginning of the New Testament. The first event is the "breaking of the fast" by Adam in Paradise. He ate of the forbidden fruit. This is how our original sin is revealed to us. Christ, the New Adam - and this is the second event - begins by fasting. Adam was tempted and he succumbed to temptation; Christ was tempted and he overcame that temptation. The results of Adam's failure are expulsion from Paradise and death. The fruits of Christ's victory are the destruction of death and our return to Paradise.”
In the three-fold response to Lent, fasting is sometimes looked at as a negative response while prayer and almsgiving or charity are considered the positive response. Yet one of the antiphons found in Evening Prayer in the Byzantine or Eastern Church puts a positive spin on fasting: “Let us receive the announcement of Lent with joy! For if our forefather Adam had kept the fast, we would not have been deprived of paradise. O Lord, who took flesh from the Virgin in the fullness of time, call me back and restore me to Eden.
The Church has considerably relaxed the fasting regulations for Lent imposing only two days of fasting and only seven days of abstinence instead of the forty days of fasting and partial abstinence that were expected before Pope St. Paul VI published Paenitemini, his Apostolic Constitution on Fasting and Abstinence. At the same time Pope St. Paul VI ended his apostolic constitution by writing: “It is strongly recommended to all the faithful that they keep deeply rooted in their hearts a genuine Christian spirit of penitence to spur them to accomplish works of charity and penitence.”
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator