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Fasting -- Who and why of fasting

The when, how and why of fasting for different faiths and traditions apart from voluntary, individual fasting:

Baha'i: During month of Ala from March 2-20; food and drink sunrise to sunset; to focus on love of God and spiritual matters.

Buddhism: Usually on full-moon days and other holidays; usually abstaining from solid food with some liquids permitted; a method of purification.

Catholic: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; two small meals and one regular meal, with meat forbidden; teaches self-control, penance and solidarity with the poor.

Eastern Orthodox: Lent, Apostles Fast, Dormition Fast and Nativity Fast and several one-day fasts, as well as most Wednesdays and Fridays; no meat, dairy products or eggs, sometimes fish; strengthens self-control, opens a person to God's grace.

Hindu: Usually on new moon and annual festivals; practices vary - sometimes 24 hours of complete abstinence from any food or drink but more often an elimination of solid foods with occasional drink of milk or water; enhancement of concentration during meditation or worship, purification or a sacrifice.

Judaism: Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Tisha B'Av (commemoration of destruction of the Jewish Temple) and several other annual days; eating and drinking forbidden on Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av for 25-hour period from sunset to sunset, other days eating and drinking forbidden from sunrise to sunset; atonement for sins and special requests to God.

Mormon: First Sunday of each month; no food or drink for two consecutive meals and donating food or money to needy; closeness to and concentration on God, with individual or family fasts held to petition for a specific cause, such as healing or decision-making.

Muslim: Ramadan, the month when the Quran was first revealed to Muhammad, as well as other days and periods; no food or drink break of dawn to sunset each day of the month, no smoking or sexual intercourse the entire month; Quran commands it.

Pagans: Some fast in preparation for Ostara (spring equinox); at discretion of individuals - some total abstinence, others reductions in food; purification, sometimes used in preparation for magical work.

Evangelical Protestants: At discretion of individuals, churches, organizations or communities; foods abstained from vary; spiritual nourishment, solidarity with the poor; counterbalance to modern consumer culture, or petition to God for special needs.

Mainline Protestants: At discretion of individuals, churches, organizations or communities; foods abstained from vary; for spiritual improvement or to advance a political of social justice agendas.

©Copyright 2001, Journal Star - Peoria

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