Advent in the Monastery—Part 3
Asceticism is part of every Christian's life and perhaps chief among these practices is fasting.
Fasting is the deliberate abstaining from food or something else, such as technology, for a spiritual purpose. The Church has set aside two days during the liturgical year for fasting, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Eeligious are called to practice asceticism beyond what the Church requires of the lay faithful.
As women set aside to be free for God alone, there can be so much that hampers that freedom. Letting go of attachments—be it to people, things, personal habits, or food— is an essential part of the contemplative life. We don't 'reject' such things because they are bad, but to become more and more free for God alone.
As you have probably guessed by now, one of our Advent practices is fasting. This is an essential tool as we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. Fasting makes us more aware of our deepest hunger, our hunger for God.
For Advent we fast and abstain from meat except for on Sundays when we have poultry and do not fast. How a sister fasts is left up to her, although we generally follow the guidelines of the Church for fasting: "one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal."
The importance is not how little you eat but on how much the practice increases your desire for God and prepares your heart to welcome Him. In other words, fasting isn't for a smaller waistline but for a bigger heart!