"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feasting and Fasting

A number of years ago, I published several articles on the practices of Eastern Christian fasting. In the research I did for those pieces I discovered that fasting had been neglected as a topic for scholarly writing, or theological-spiritual writing in general, during much of the twentieth century--part of a general decline, as the great historian Robert Taft had said, in ascetical practices and reflection on the same. 

A recent book has come out to examine anew this most ancient and biblical of practices:

David Grumett and Rachel Muers, Theology on the Menu: Asceticism, Meat and Christian Diet (Routledge, 2010), 224pp.

Today, whenever I discuss Eastern Christian fasting with my students, I can be sure that a significant number of them will greet the discussion with slack-jawed horror. What do you mean I have eat nothing from midnight prior to receiving the Eucharist? People go for forty days--and more--without meat or, worse, without any animal products and alcohol at all? What kind of craziness is this?! Won't they all collapse and die??

Grumett and Muers look at some fascinating questions here, and draw liberally on Eastern and Desert sources.

This will be reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies by Fr. Bill Mills.

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