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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
51- Reply to the objection: Is communal fasting a Biblical doctrine or not?
There are numerous examples of communal fasts in the Holy Bible, such as:
(a) The people's fast at the time of Esther
All the people fasted together at the same time for one purpose, praying for one request of the Lord, and the Lord accepted their fast and granted them their request (Esth. 4).
(b) The fast of the people of Nineveh
They all fasted together and not in secret, and the Lord accepted their fast and forgave them their sins (Jon.3).
(c) The people's fast at the time of Nehemiah and Ezra
Nehemiah says: "Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads" (Neh.9: 1). And Ezra says: "Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions" (Ezra 8:21).
(d) The fast at the time of Joel
The Bible says: " 'Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, 'Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’... consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room" (Joel 2: 12-17).
(e) The Apostles' fast in the New Testament
When the Lord Jesus Christ was asked why His disciples did not fast, He replied: "But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast" (Matt.9: 15). The Apostles did fast together and not in secret, and the Lord accepted their fast.
Some examples of the Apostles' fasts: "As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them... " (Acts 13: 2,3).
(f) St. Paul fasted for a long time together with all the people on the ship (Acts 27:21)
Therefore communal fasting is acceptable and is a Biblical doctrine. It is proof of the oneness of soul in worship and in approaching God, especially if the purpose of the fast is a matter that concerns the whole community, or if the whole community partakes in the fast, as they do in prayer, in one soul.
There is no hypocrisy in communal fasting
In communal fasting there is no distinction between one person and the other. The level and depth of the fast of each individual remains ‘in secret’. In the New Testament there is not one single verse that prevents communal fasting.
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