By way of a sort of follow-up to Wednesday’s note, it may be prudent to ask if there is indeed any Anglican tradition of fasting. The 1662 Prayer Book lists “Fasts and Days of Abstinence” observed on “The Evens or Vigils before” 16 Major Feast Days throughout the year, in addition to:
- The forty days of Lent.
- The Ember Days at the Four Seasons…
- The three Rogation Days…
- All the Fridays in the Year, except CHRISTMAS DAY.
The current draft of our Calendar rubrics list these as “Days of Discipline, Denial, and Special Prayer”, noting that these days are “encouraged as days of fasting.” So the order to observe Fridays with some form of “discipline” remains upon the modern Prayer Book user, but the stipulation that this includes fasting has been leniently relegated to a recommendation rather than a requirement.
We therefore do ourselves a disservice to assume that fasting is the sole provenance of Anglo-Catholics; the Prayer Book history is that it is a properly Anglican spiritual discipline regardless of churchmanship and party. Rather than take advantage of the leniency of modern Prayer Book tradition and scarcely ever entertain the discipline of fasting (much less commit to it), we should consider this leniency a gift: for those of us, and many others in the pews, with minimal experience in fasting, we have the freedom to practice simpler disciplines of self-denial as a build-up toward fasting. We have the freedom to practice new and different types of Friday fasts such as eschewing social media or reducing “screen time” or curtailing leisure for the sake of increased prayer.
Whatever the specific discipline, it is well past time for us Anglicans to reclaim Friday as a day of discipline!