Our fasting is meant to recall the sin of Adam and Eve, who were unable to fast in the Garden, harming their relationship with God.
Did you know that one of God’s first instructions to humans involved fasting? If we open up the book of Genesis, we see God explaining to Adam and Eve all the food they can eat, expect for a single tree they must avoid.
“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Isn’t it interesting how the first “test” from God involved abstaining from the fruit of a single tree?
Early Christian writer Tertullian had some harsh words for Adam and his inability to fast!
Adam had received from God the law of not tasting of the tree of recognition of good and evil … [instead Adam] yielded more readily to his belly than to God, heeded the meat rather than the mandate, and sold salvation for his gullet!
Adam and Eve created an unnatural separation between humanity and God that Jesus later restored. Nevertheless, fasting recalls that first instruction of God and is a visible pledge of our desire to reunite with God.
Pope Benedict XVI reflected on this theme in his Lenten message in 2009.
Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that “fasting was ordained in Paradise,” and “the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.” He thus concludes: “ ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence.” Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God…If, therefore, Adam disobeyed the Lord’s command “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,” the believer, through fasting, intends to submit himself humbly to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy.
Viewed in this light, fasting becomes less of a burden and more of an invitation to draw closer to God and pledge our trust in him. In a certain sense we are transported back to the Garden of Eden and God gives us the same command to “not eat” only one thing (take meat on Fridays as an example).
Can we embrace the fast and see it as a way in our lives to correct the fault of Adam and Eve?
Fasting is as old as the book of Genesis and God invites us to see it as a way to trust him, instead of a burden we do out of obligation.