Before we even start talking about fasting or abstinence, let’s say something obvious: none of this makes sense outside the logic of faith. There are certainly psychological benefits and ways of explaining the cultural or social reasons for fasting and such, but that’s all secondary, to say the least.
To put it simply, we fast because Christ invites us to do so:
“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”(Mather 6: 16-18)
Fasting is a powerful and beautiful way of living out penance and self-denial, both important realities in our Christian life. Still, we should always remember that at the heart of it all is charity. Or, as John Chrysostom puts it: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
All this isn’t to downplay the role of sacrifice and self-denial; Pope Francis reminds us both that these activities must truly enrich others as well as saying: “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
Without further delay, here is a simple illustrated guide on fasting and abstinence to give you a clear and simple idea of how to live out this practice for Lent. As with all of our resources, feel free to uses these images as you wish (just don’t delete our logo ;-)).
Why Do We Practice Fasting And Abstinence? | An Illustrated Guide