What are the spiritual benefits of fasting?

What are the spiritual benefits of fasting?

Interview with Jean-Christophe Normand, permanent deacon of the diocese of Nantes, author of the book The day the world will fast (Ed. Salvator).

What do you think is the main spiritual meaning of fasting?

In Matthew 4, Christ reminds us that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Abstaining from food opens up space to welcome something else. Entering into fasting points toward a desire to form deeper relationships with the Word and the people around us. We break with our habits, we begin to work on ourselves. Through this asceticism, the work of the Holy Spirit is done. The Fathers of the Church sensed that this process of conversion involves a particular way of connecting us to the Creator.

Among many Christians, fasting remains associated with a culture of guilt and constraint…

Our Christian tradition has, in fact, long associated it with heavy and externalized forms of penance. But Christ invites us to an interior fast, discreet and joyful. It is not a question of living it in a logic of struggle against oneself but as a reunion with the Father, in order to enter into a more fruitful and confident relationship with him. This approach goes against a guilt-inducing attitude known by many generations of Catholics. It certainly represents an effort to deprive yourself of food. But if we choose it and give it meaning, it increases our inner freedom.

What advice do you have for someone who has never fasted and would like to start?

To proceed in stages. You can start with intermittent fasting, skipping a meal like breakfast and taking time for prayer instead. Then try again to fast for twenty-four hours straight. This allows you to know your body’s reactions. If you are used to taking a lot of stimulants (coffee, alcohol, tobacco), for example, you may end up with headaches. If you want to carry out an experiment over several days, it is essential to benefit from support, at least the first time. In particular to understand and respect the different stages of a somewhat prolonged fast: it must be preceded by a “feeding descent” and followed by a gradual resumption of the usual way of eating. It is also necessary to pay attention to water and vitamin intake, in the form of diluted fruit or vegetable juices. Finally, very important when starting a fast, you must decide on a date to stop. We don’t go head-on, testing our limits, at the risk of putting ourselves in danger. And you have to make sure that you are able to fast (read box below).

Health contraindications

Fasting for several days should be avoided for people whose body mass index (BMI) is less than 19. It is also incompatible with anorexia, decompensated hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, advanced cerebrovascular, hepatic-ourenal insufficiency. Beware of adverse effects due to taking certain medications together (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, antihypertensives, antidiabetics, antiepileptics, anticoagulants, psychotropic drugs).

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