Last week’s article discussed the goal of fasting and other acts of self-denial. This article will describe some ways of fasting and self-denial and the benefits that come from this practice.
For fasting can involve not only lessening food and drink, but also limiting entertainment, keeping more silence, exercising more control over time, and reducing unnecessary spending. The most obvious form of fasting involves going further than what is required in practicing more control over eating and drinking. That practice can mean eating less (e.g., avoiding eating between meals), giving up a favorite food or drink, or eating more simply.
By exercising more control over food and drink, one gains extra control over desires generally and makes the soul stronger and more alert for prayer and good works. Fasting can also involve giving up or limiting entertainment, such as a favorite television show, radio, computer games, or looking up unnecessary things on the internet. It can also involve limiting things that take up precious time and can weigh down the mind, such as limits on reading magazines and newspapers, or reducing use of Facebook, twitter, and the like.
Limiting access to easier forms of happiness helps a person gain extra time and become more alert to focus more on deeper realities, such as those from the Bible, the saints, the goodness of other people, or one’s own callings from God. For images and the imagination are not simply for fiction, but even more importantly can help us perceive realities that we cannot now see. And in the silence and peace that comes from limiting entertainment, one can hear the voice of God all the better.
On the point of gaining time, another practice of self-control is offering sacrifices based upon time or entertainment. Such practices can involve getting to bed earlier, and getting up earlier than usual or resolving to spend definite time each on one’s duties and responsibilities (e.g., tasks around the household, returning letters or calls, or keeping up with training or education) before spending time on more obviously enjoyable things.There is also the practice of using resources more carefully and avoiding unnecessary spending, or waiting longer for extra purchases.
Such extra control over entertainment, time and resources liberates the soul for prayer and works of charity, the latter of which is the topic of next week’s article.