Jesus chose to work the first of his signs and reveal his glory at the wedding feast at Cana, and he was the chief guest at many meals held to celebrate the new life he was bringing through the gospel. His joy will abound in us when we celebrate by feasting on the holy days that commemorate the great acts of creation and redemption, and the glories of the saints. He will continue to reveal his glory among us on the joyful occasions when we have festal meals to mark professions, clothings, anniversaries, holidays and special turning points in our life.
These feasts are another expression of our eucharistic life, and anticipate the heavenly banquet which the risen Lord is preparing for those who love him. The careful preparations that make our festivities so pleasing are sacred tasks. Our ministry of hospitality finds one of its richest expressions as we welcome guests to join us in these festal liturgies and meals of celebration.
Just as we feast to celebrate the abundance of the risen life, so we also fast because the end is not yet and the bridegroom is still to come. Our feasts will be holy and joyful if we are equally prepared to enter from time to time into Jesus’ desert fast. When we fast we should be following him, moved by the Spirit, to offer to God the experience of emptiness and want. This offering is made in faith simply to God’s glory, yet from time to time it will open us to the Holy Spirit’s work of revelation. In our fasting the Spirit may disclose our need to grieve for sin, ours and the world’s. There may be some temptation we will experience more sharply when fasting, and the Spirit can encourage us to struggle with it more directly. Or Christ may want us to sense our connectedness with his countless brothers and sisters who suffer hunger, and embrace their cause in prayer. Above all, the hunger of our fast can open our hearts so that we discover again our hunger and thirst for the living God and have our desire rekindled by the Spirit.
During Lent there will be a common discipline of abstinence with simpler meals and no meat. We will fast by abstaining from food until evening on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the four quarterly days of corporate retreat. We will join our brothers in a fast of preparation on the day before they make their vows. On fast days the Superior will give dispensation to those who require some food for reasons of infirmity, medical condition or unavoidable duties. Those dispensed can participate in other ways through prayer, silence and recollection. We may also fast on our personal retreat days.
Both our feasts and fasts have a part to play in achieving a wise balance in our daily eating and drinking. In our feasting we learn to savor and appreciate what we eat and drink, in thankfulness to the Creator who gives them. Fasting can help us to become more attentive to what our bodies really need so that we can moderate our appetites and be liberated from greed.