Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Feasting and Fasting Need Each Other
(and why you and I need them both)

A friend tweeted me her excitement last Friday in learning that that Friday was the Feast of St Bartholomew. As it was Friday, my friend had planned to fast. As it was the feast day of a saint, my friend was changing her plans. And this a great and underrated gift of the liturgical calendar, I think -  for those traditions within the Christian Church who observe it - that these commemorations restore the lives of others as celebrations for us.

Left to our own devices, it is not a given that we will celebrate the lives of others. More often we are practices in resenting, disparaging, destroying, exploiting, and/or evading the lives of others. So it is not surprising that Paul exhorts the Church at Rome to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15) alongside the admonishment to bless those who persecute them (i.e., "love your enemies"). Both are instructions at odds with the present order such that they require the inauguration of the Kingdom belonging to the crucified and risen Jesus. Celebrating the lives of others opens us up to receive one another as gifts in God's Kingdom and redirects us from the false word that would tell us we can only find life in the death of the others.

In a strange twist, there is a strain in the tradition that teaches that Bartholomew also lives into this new order now, by his fasting (i.e., "mourn with those who mourn). This tradition holds that the saints seated at the banquet table of the heavenly Feast of God are waiting, not eating, until my friend and the rest of us arrive. Just as we learn to celebrate one another, the Kingdom reaches out to us and meets us in the hunger of our present time, even as Christ emptied himself for us. In this way we learn the holy space where meet the longing and joy of God.

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