Blog #96: Advent - a Time to Fast

November 24, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
Advent is beginning this coming Sunday: Four Sundays and the days between are ahead for us, ready-made to help us prepare for Christmas. Last year, the Living Light Blog took the opportunity of Advent to bring you ideas and tips for environmentally friendly approaches to enjoying the most joyous season of all. This year, we will take inspiration from liturgy instead, offering suggestions on ways to honor the respective liturgical dimension of each of the Advent Sundays through actions that celebrate or put us more in touch with God’s creation. One of the overarching themes of Advent is time - a special time, a time that is there for us to get ready. And so, true to this theme, each of the blogs will all offer ideas and tips on how we might want to spend some of this very special time in light of the Anglican Fifth Mark of Mission that calls us to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of earth.
The big theme of the first Sunday in Advent is preparing and fasting. Yes, fasting - not eating cookies or baking Lebkuchen! “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming”, Mathew says in 24.36-44. And In Romans 13.12, Paul asks for a change in behaviors: “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy!”.
So let me invite you to celebrate this first week of Advent by spending some time fasting - environmentally inspired! I don’t mean fasting as in not-eating, or at least not just - but rather mindful fasting, fasting as a way to remind ourselves of the preciousness of food, of the labor it takes to plant and to harvest and to turn produce into meals. Most fasting - when done in moderation - has reinvigorating effects on one’s health also, and also that may be a good way to make sure we are ready for whatever God has in store for us. Personally, I can recommend three fasting practices. All have emerged from the health-side of things and I use them often in order to find focus and mark moments of change. And all of them could be good to adopt for a week or so in setting a sign for yourself that you are putting on the armor of light.

Foto: Fasting - in various forms - can be a great way to put on the armor of light as the First Sunday of Advent liturgy suggests, leveraging fasting as a way to change habits and ways of life, including some of the ways we live that threaten our environment.

The first practice -  intermittent fasting or 16/8 fasting - is something that many of you may know; it involves limiting the times during which one eats to an eight hour window per day. It is a practice that is easy to integrate in one’s regular life - even or in particular during the first week of Advent. Also, it is a practice that creates time that one can take to appreciate the gift of food and reflect on the preciousness of nature as a source of our food.
The second practice that I can recommend is called Buchinger Fasting. This is a format that is widely offered in Austria as well as in other german-speaking countries - perhaps because it was developed early in the 20th century by a German physician, Dr. Otto Buchinger - and in my 25plus years in the US, I have not encountered anyone over there who seemed to know about it. Essentially, Buchinger Fasting is a form of detoxing: You combine a very meager food intake - essentially not more than a cup of vegetable broth and a glass of thin juice each day - with taking time for walks, meditation, and resting. There is a lot more to this, of course, and if you are curious you would want to read up on it or simply join one of the many guided Fasting Sessions offered in monasteries or health centers across the country (mostly in German, but you can ask and often they have bilingual fasting coaches).  I have myself practiced it many times over the years and find it a fabulous way to re-connect with God and with nature - it frees your mind and opens your frame of thinking.  And indeed, this year, Advent first will find me in a monastery about an hour from Vienna, doing just that. Ask me how it went next week ;-).
The third and last practice that I would recommend as a way to put on the armor of light, would be to shift to a completely plant-based diet for a week.  Most of us who are neither vegetarian or vegan may think of vegetarianism as something difficult, but simply giving it a try for a week can be a great way to get to know a way of life that is fundamentally better for the environment - and for your own health (if done right). Plant-based eating is recognized in the medical community as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses. At the same time, plant-based diets put much less pressure on the earth’s resources - such as water, land, or CO2 and other climate-inducing gases -  than diets that involve meat or animal products; they indeed may be the diets of the future.
Curious? Want to give it a try? Let’s take time for - environmentally inspired - fasting this year, during the first week of Advent! Let’s use this precious time as a way to get ready - for Christmas, yes, but also for the changes that are there to come if we want to keep and sustain and renew life on earth sustainably.
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