Lenten fasting it seems, has fallen out of fashion with modern Christians. Roman Catholics, from the last of the seventh century on, were to eat no meat, no dairy products, and no eggs in Lent. Lutherans have always been less austere in their observance of Lent, but today the number of fast days even in the Roman church has dwindled to just a few.
Lutherans have always been quick to point out the curious brand of legalism that often accompanied fast days. And there is a good deal of old Lenten humor connected with certain dishes. For example, there are jokes about chickens and rabbits being dipped in water and “re-baptized” as fish. But, although people grumbled, especially toward the end of Lent, and dreamed of eggs and meat; there was a sense of solidarity in the Christian community because everyone else was fasting too.
Lenten fasting has its origins in the rhythms of nature. Foodstuffs in early spring are at their lowest. Animals are calving or laying eggs. For forty days we remind ourselves that the earth is like Noah’s Ark, all creatures gravely dependent on each other. The notion of the global village, and the concept that we are all interdependent has a surprising modern ring to it.
We need to be reminded that we consume far more than our share of the worlds goods. North Americans consume more than twice as much as our European neighbors and more than five times as much as the two billion people living in poor countries. Imagine the good that could come in other parts of the world if we would spend on the war on poverty like we do on other wars.
Only by fasting together can we preserve each other’s lives, as well as the lives of generations yet to be born.