The Church calendar is loaded with feasts and fasts throughout the year. Our jobs and responsibilities may become humdrum, but the liturgical cycle helps us to prepare, anticipate and rejoice in unison. Feasts and fasts are life-giving practices of the Church.
Feasts are celebrations. There are feasts, great feasts and Pascha (Easter), the feast of feasts. The birth of our Lord, His victory over death and the lives of His saints are all reasons to celebrate, and the Church does so with reverence, joy and beauty.
Fasting is not an invention of the Church to punish us or spoil our fun. God is not honored by imposed legalism. Fasting results in great joy, if done correctly. Fasting accentuates feasting. If every day were a feast, then no day would be a feast.
Care must be taken. What is good for one person may not be good for another. Monks and nuns in monasteries observe stricter fasts than the great majority of the clergy and laity who live in the world. Age, health issues, occupations, living situations and other issues impact how we fast. We might not be able to fast from a particular food on a given day, or at all, but we all have something from which we should fast.
If the heart is properly prepared, we will welcome the time of fasting. What we think and feel impacts our body. What we consume with our bodies impacts our soul. We cannot separate the two. We are whole persons.
Fasting alone may benefit the body and grieve the soul. Fasting with genuine prayer (not mere mouthing of words) is another matter. When these are practiced together the body and soul cooperate with each other and with God. Spiritual clarity is gained. Knowing the reward brings joy to the effort.
We should all be careful to heed the words of our Lord (Mt. 6:1-18) before engaging in these practices. The Church is here to help us with feasting and fasting.