Spiritual Life vs.Religious Ritual
People of faith often place strict boundaries around their spiritual life. They relegate religion to rituals and social amenities relevant to only a limited portion of their total existence.
But then care must be taken, lest out of this freedom [from fasting and abstinence] there grows a lazy indifference about killing the wantonness of the flesh; for the roguish [son of] Adam is exceedingly tricky in looking for permission for himself, and in pleading the ruin of the body or of the mind; so some men jump right in and say it is neither necessary nor commanded to fast or to mortify the flesh, and are ready to eat this and that without fear, just as if they had for a long time had much experience of fasting, although they have never tried it. [Martin Luther – A Treatise on Good Works XXI ].
Food of Error
In today’s secular environment, we frequently find faith ensconced beneath entertainment, employment and transient trivialities. Rarely do we encounter individuals truly dedicated to its cultivation. They are normally traveling along a different path.
As then we must with the whole heart obey the Divine commands and sound doctrine, so we must use all foresight in abstaining from wicked imaginations. For the mind then only keeps holy and spiritual fast when it rejects the food of error and the poison of falsehood, which our crafty and wily foe plies us with more treacherously now, when by the very return of the venerable Festival, the whole church generally is admonished to understand the mysteries of its salvation. [St. Leo the Great, Sermon 46].
Even among those who loudly proclaim their faith, and work to call others to it, the lure of our technologically innovative culture demotes worship to fleeting moments of scurried activity. Actual connection to God accounts for an insignificant fraction of their day.
Fasting sharpens our focus, intensifies our spiritual awareness and promotes faith to a place of prominence. While fasting, we concentrate on the spiritual, even while engaging in the secular. Fasting is an extended devotion that adorns our daily affairs, a continuing piety we carrying into our most mundane tasks.
One of the meanings of penitential fasting is to help us recover an interior life. The effort of moderation in food also extends to other things that are not necessary, and this is a great help to the spiritual life. Moderation, recollection and prayer go hand in hand. . . . This principle can be appropriately applied to the mass media. Their usefulness is indisputable, but they must not become the “masters” of our life. In how many families does television seem to replace personal conversation rather than to facilitate it! A certain “fasting” also in this area can be healthy, both for devoting more time to reflection and prayer, and for fostering human relations. [Pope John Paul II, Sunday Angelus – March 10, 1996]