Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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To fast too furious?

Iftar (berbuka puasa)

Iftar (berbuka puasa or fast breaking) at Mesjid Raya al-Mansun (Mansun's Great Mosque) in Medan, Sumatera.

A blessed Ramadan to all!

Depending on which authority you follow, based on the observation of the first crescent of the new moon, the holy Islamic month of Ramadan began either last Wednesday or Thursday. This month of months is set apart by fasting.

Islamic practice is to refrain, during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan, from consuming any food, drink, tobacco, and having sex. On the positive side, Muslims are encouraged to pray, give charitably and think on God more during the fast.

As the Islamic calendar is based solely on lunar phases without regard to tropical seasons, the months slowly move through the seasons each year. Ramadan falling in August means, in the northern hemisphere, around fifteen hours without food or water each day for around 29/30 days. (Mehdi Hasan has written some basic FAQs on Ramadan for New Statesman.)

As an Anglican I’m fascinated by the Islamic fast. The practice of fasting in Anglicanism is in a shabby state. For most it consists of ‘giving up’ something for the forty days of Lent, usually chocolate. It is not exactly taxing. Apart from the giving up of things, we do encourage Lent courses as a way of getting some positive spiritual input, but we have to admit that it’s all quite slim. The Roman Catholic Church has always been more legalistic when it comes to fasting, setting out what can and can’t be eaten, and how much. However, the history of Catholic pronouncements on fasting shows a steady rolling back of strictures. In contrast, Eastern Christianity has retained a more robust idea of fasting: animal products and alcohol are not consumed during fasts, making one a vegan teetotaler.

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Meals with Jesus IV: Tea with Tarts and Traitors

This article is the fourth in a series on Meals with Jesus which formed part of this year’s Lent course. This fourth is on the pericope of the Calling of Levi, Luke 5·27–39.

Eating with the tax collectorHe had given us this look that cut off our complaints and told us to go with him to see. What would our families say if they saw us? We hoped no one we knew would see us.

We knew we were not great and holy men, but he must have called us because we are the ordinary, downtrodden Jews. Just like King David, he would raise us from obscurity to splendour. We have great respect for the priests, don’t get us wrong, but they are a bit too lah-di-dah for us. They keep on their Temple schedule without speaking out about the injustices we face under Roman occupation. We always had suspicions that they were in league with our oppressors, and here we find this Levite collecting funds for the Romans and lining his own purse in the process.

We were sure he would do something to rebuke the sinful Levite traitor. We were straining to see and hear as he strode up to the booth. But what he said was familiar, it was those words that filled us with dreadful challenge on the beaches of Galilee, that told us we were his chosen men — “Follow me!”

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