On fasting and feasting and naught in between
I just love Easter. I love the dark, candlelit beginning of the vigil, the bells and whistles (well, trumpets), the glistening foreheads of my new brothers and sisters in the Church, the spontaneous outpouring of unfettered joy that Jesus seems to give me that blessed night each year. I love that we get to celebrate this joy for an octave, and really, for a whole 50 days until Pentecost. This Easter season is good.
And, as you may know, I loved (and love) Lent. I love the challenge, the simple and prayerful intimacy, the whispered hopefulness in the face of extended suffering. I embrace (and fail at) the self-denial, the meaningful preparation, the solemnness. I love remembering that my failures, my limitations, my sins are no match for the power, the mercy, and the love of Christ. That season of Lent is good.
Fasting and feasting, those two seasons bring. The fast makes room for the feast, in the way that hunger makes room for satiety. And I love that being Catholic calls me to a life of passion. I lean into those hunger pangs in the silence of Good Friday, and I melt with fullness and glee at the Easter feast, surrounded by the happy noise of joy-filled friends. Fasting and feasting are good.
But, I’m sad to say, life is not a binary of the two. I find comfort in the two opposites, but more often than not, God wants me to rest in the middle. He asks me to work at virtue, that elusive mean between two extremes. When I want all or nothing, He calls me to self-control. It is not enough to indulge and pull back, to justify a cycle of deprivation and gratification. For freedom Christ set us free, writes St. Paul. And ultimately, I know, I want that freedom He offers.
I notice this in small ways, really. I feel that tug to feast in the face of an abundance of delicious food, a long-neglected Instagram feed (thanks, Lent!), warm sheets on a morning of chilly rain. And I feel that tug to fast when I’ve toed the line, when I’ve said yes to more pleasure and not yet to that inkling that nudges me to stop.
But there’s hope, great hope. There always is. That tug to feast? It’s a reflection of my innate longing for eternity. It’s the beckoning of that void in my heart that only its Maker can fill. It’s a signpost on the road to my eventual home. And my desire for that sweet home grows with every feast and fast. Every yes to God and, when proper, even to the delights of this world. Every no to self when He tells me that something more awaits.
And my greatest consolation of late has been this: I can always feast on intimacy with my God. Rejoice always, St. Paul says. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. What a feast, indeed! It’s not to say that I’ll start praying for hours on end, no, but I can begin to live my life as a prayer. I can remember to bring Jesus into the smallest corners of my heart, the most mundane moments of my day. I can feast on thoughts of Him, desire for Him, love for Him. He must increase, said John the Baptist, and I must decrease.
So, I know I’ll keep feasting this Easter season. And I’ll indulge on the Sabbath, the day of rest and of triumph. I know I’ll continue to fast for many Lents to come. And I’ll make small sacrifices as I remember Christ’s death each Friday. As for the ordinary time (and Ordinary Time) in between, I’ll find my way, with grace, to the middle. But I hope and I pray that I’ll never forget to feast on His love.