Posted by: smstrouse | August 12, 2011

Reclaiming the Fast: What Christians Can Learn from Ramadan

John Dunne, the contemporary American theologian and poet has written:
What seems to be occurring is a phenomenon we might call ‘passing over,’ passing from one culture to another, from one way of life to another, from one religion to another. Passing over is a shifting of standpoint, a going over to the standpoint of another culture, another way of life, another religion. It is followed by an equal and opposite process we might call ‘coming back,’ coming back with new insight to one’s own culture, one’s own way of life, one’s own religion. Passing over and coming back, it seems, is the spiritual adventure of our time.

I’ve been invited to several iftars again this year. The iftar is the meal served at the end of the day during Ramadan to break the fast – literally ‘break fast.’  As a Christian, it is a privilege and a delight to be included in these times of generous hospitality. It is also a ‘passing over’ experience that warrants reflection upon ‘coming back.’

Fasting is hardly foreign to Christians. Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert. In our season of Lent, we sing ‘O Lord, throughout these forty days, you prayed and kept the fast’ and we model our own Lenten discipline on this. For most of us, though, fasting isn’t our favorite practice. We will traditionally give up something for Lent, a favorite food, like chocolate or a bad habit, like smoking.  And many churches will have a midweek service preceded by a simple supper of soup and bread. But going without food every day! Too hard!

But it seems that for Muslims this practice is an important part of the faithful life. Maybe it’s time for Christians to take another look – especially as we join in with the breaking of the fast.

What could fasting mean for me next year during Lent?  What might I take away from this year’s iftars to perhaps create a new way of keeping the Lenten fast?  This passing over and coming is indeed a spiritual adventure.


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