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The Spirituality of Fasting, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
19- Kind of Food
I have talked about hunger and the period of abstinence, what remains is the topic of what are the different types of food appropriate for fasting. It is useful to remember of what the Prophet Daniel said about his fast:
“I ate no pleasant food” (Dan 10:3).
Therefore, if you fast but still give your body what it craves for, then in truth you had not fasted. Thus, distance yourself from things that you crave so that you may overcome your body and subject it to your will. Do not seek special food or ask for it to be prepared in the manner that you like. If an item is placed before you which you have not ordered but which you like, do not eat much of it I would like to remind you of our saintly fathers who said, "If food you crave is placed before you, spoil it a little then eat it".
By spoiling it, he may have meant, for instance, that you add something to it to alter its taste.
At least, do not eat all that is offered to you of the kind of food you crave. As one of the fathers said: "Conclude your meal while you still crave it", meaning that your body wishes to go on eating that kind of food while you try to control yourself and stay away from it.
Here we face many questions posed by some people:
Can vegetables and margarine be consumed when fasting? Is soya cheese acceptable? Should we or should we not eat fish during a particular fast? What do you think of non-dairy chocolate? Etc.
These questions can be resolved in one way by examining the ingredients or contents of these foods. On the other hand, these questions should also be viewed from a spiritual point of view: For example, vegetable fat, is merely polyunsaturated, but if you eat it because of your craving for fatty food, then the matter becomes different, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. Literally speaking, you would be fasting, but you would not be benefiting spiritually.
We do not want to keep to the formalities of fasting alone. The same applies to Soya cheese. One may argue whether or not it contains if it contains ingredients of animal source. However, from a spiritual point of view, do you love cheese so much that you insist on gratifying your bodily desires during the fast by finding a substitute or an alternative? The same applies to non-dairy chocolate; do you crave that brand in particular? Why not substitute it with a cup of cocoa?
As for fish, it is primarily animal food. Although it has been permitted for the weak who cannot endure the large number of fasts, it is not permitted in first class fasts.
However, if your body craves fish while fasting, do not eat any.
This does not only apply to fish, but to anything that you may crave in order to control your desires when fasting, even if it may be permitted.
Is not marriage lawful? Yet, those who fast stay away from sexual intercourse while fasting in order to have self control. (1Cor 7:5). The Gentile King, Darius did the same. (Dan 6:18).
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