According to the Gregorian (called Western) and Julian (called Eastern) calendars, Christians worldwide mark the 40-day of fasting by imitating Lord Jesus Christ Whom the Holy Bible tells us that He fasted throughout the day and night for this period in the wilderness of Jericho.
The methods of fasting differ from one Church to another, whereby some of them still stick to fasting for specific hours, abstaining from eating meat and dairy products, as well as cheese and milk. Some of them ease the requirements of fasting to the minimum limits, such as abstaining from eating meat on Fridays only. While others eat fish and still others abstain from doing so. In some cases members of a single family follow different patterns of fasting.
I have the pleasure to review two remarks before the issuance of a well wishes message by the Holy See marking the start of the month of Ramadan.
The first remark: Alleviating the rules governing fasting and its requirements in Christianity give room for individual creativity by not being satisfied with the minimum limits of abstinence with relevance to food and drink, but rather to transcends fasting to matters relevant to one's daily life. Today, the Church focuses on the term “electronic fasting” in the sense of minimizing the use of digital means of communication, which have become one of the “worships” of this era, and one cannot evade to the point of “addiction”. Minimizing this trend during the 40-day of fasting does not mean rejection, but rather it means paying attention to human encounter with the members of the same household, so that conversations between parents and children take place in a humane way and not only through electronic means.
One of the most dramatic acts is when seeing groups of grandchildren visiting their grandmother on a day off to check on her health bow their heads while holding their phones so as to communicate with their private world while not saying a word. And sometime grandmothers also get distracted by their mobiles. The “electronic or digital fasting” is a new term which we must develop in the future because it is educational, humane, and spiritual par excellence.
As for the second remark, it is relevant to the slogan adopted by a number of Churches which states, "During fasting, the food that you abstain from eating belongs to the poor brethren." Consequently, several initiatives emerge organized by committees of love and charitable work to collect donations from people for their poor brethren in this holy time as well as difficult period for many families. Fasting was concomitant this year with initiatives to collect donations destined for the relief of the brethren adversely affected by the earthquakes that have stuck Turkey and Syria. The Latin Patriarchate, for example, collected quarter a million dollars, which were sent through charitable channels of love and churches, to the most needy. Church committees distribute aid to the needy families especially to their children so as to feel the joy of the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter).
Best wishes for a blessed fasting for the Christians in the middle of the Lenten Season, and a blessed month for our Muslim brethren who will mark the advent of the month of Ramadan soon.