According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.” (CCC. 2725)

As the community discerns its next steps, we may want to consider Fasting as a form of prayer and battle, purification, and preparation. While traditionally undertaken during the liturgical seasons of Lent and Advent, Ordinary Time is a refreshing time to undertake a fast, especially in this time of COVID-19 when faith communities are kept physically apart. A communal fast unites the community in solidarity on a spiritual plane that transcends the constraints of physical proximity and geographic boundary.

Fasting is a powerful spiritual weapon that can be found in the Christian’s arsenal. It is a practice, where the general good, in this case food, but also applicable to anything offering comfort, or entertainment, is the deliberate deprivation of the lower passions, in order to make a decision for the greater good.

Tracing History, Mosaic Law for example, established Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement as a day set aside for particular preparations, of which a fast and purification was foundational. (Leviticus 16:29-34; Numbers 29:7) However, this is not the only instance of a fast. Fasting is understood by the People of God as a means to cleanse the self, and prepare oneself to be used powerfully as an Instrument of God.

The reasons for undertaking a fast include a Spiritual Preparation for a battle or undertaking ahead.

For instance, the people under the charge of Joshua fasted with silence and deprived themselves from shouting, and from making any noise, until the command was given to them to do so, causing the walls of Jericho to fall at the sound of the Lord’s command (Joshua 6). While with the prophets Jonah and Joel, fasting from food and pleasure became a call to repentance (Joel 1:14; Jonah 3:5-9), and in other places, fasting took on the quality of supplication and intercession: “Then I proclaimed a fast, there by the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to petition from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions.” (Ezra 8:21), and mourning.

The very first fast that we encounter in scripture, may be traced back to Adam and Eve, when God spoke and ordered them not to eat from the Tree of Good and Evil. (Genesis 2:16-17).  The Divine Ban or Prohibition, was not so much because the fruit was bad, because the Lord God made everything, and saw that it was good, but because there was a right time and season to eat the fruit. In like manner, a fast from created things, allows us to fully enjoy the good in the right time and in the right way.

With Adam and Eve, fasting was a means to submit the self wholly to God. Fasting is submission to God. By fasting from the fruit of the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve would have become partakers of the Divine Nature through their obedience to God. However, they took things into their own hands, and ate, not at the Lord’s command, but at their own whim and fancy, as they desired to become gods for themselves.

In the New Testament, fasting then becomes  redemption, for like Adam and Eve, Jesus was tempted by the devil, but contrary to Adam and Eve, Jesus stuck to his fast for forty days and nights in the desert, reversing and redeeming what ever happened in the Garden of Eden. If Adam and Eve fell away from God, by breaking their fast, Jesus remained obedient to God and restored our humanity.

With the Apostles, it is emphasised that fasting is a way to prepare the self to be of the right disposition, so that the Lord God may work, and also takes on the quality of discernment and listening to the Will of God. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13: 2-3) Fasting then prepared the Apostles to choose and to appoint the right elders and leaders to lead the missions of the Church.

According to Canon Law, these are the norms that a Christian is obliged to adhere to:

Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can.  1251 Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on ,of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year of age. The law of fasting, however, binds all those who have attained their majority until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors of souls and parents are to take care that minors not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are also educated in a genuine sense of penance.

Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

Fasting thus is a necessary component of the life of a Christian. As a fruitful form of prayer, fasting is ultimately about the fasting from sin. It prepares us to encounter and to receive the Lord, especially in the sacraments of Confession and in the Eucharist and it reveals our dependence on God and not on the world. Fasting mortifies the soul and prepares us for the reception of Grace. It also strengthens the virtues of self-denial, chastity, prudence, and temperance.

As St. Basil taught, “The fast is the weapon of protection against demons.”

It is a strong battleground.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Canon Law,

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,

Catholic News Agency,