Both Fast and Feast
“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt 9:15).
The question of fasting is raised because of Lent. When the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus why his disciples are not observing the ordinary rule of fasting, he replies with the image of a wedding feast. During weddings, which often lasted many days, people were exempt from the obligation to fast.
But at the heart of the image was Jesus’s claim that he was the bridegroom whose presence interrupted the fast. He was proclaiming a new nuptial covenant between God and Israel. His presence invited everyone to feast, not fast. The “Good News” was cause for joy and celebration.
The image, of course, also anticipated the time when the bridegroom would be taken away. Jesus' death on the cross and return to the Father began a period of intense longing for the early Church. The Book of Revelation ends with the prayer, “Maranatha,” or “Come, Lord Jesus,” which expressed the expectation of Christians for the second coming. This prayer characterizes the celebration of Easter. Our belief in the resurrection of Jesus and his continued presence among us is a faith still in progress, a reality we believe but still await.
So the Christian Eucharist is both fast and feast, longing and celebration. The simplicity of our Communion, a small wafer of bread and a sip of wine, is the “pledge of future glory,” not the full banquet in the Kingdom. We still live hidden lives in Christ, even as we grow to maturity in his likeness as members of his body.
Lent repeats the ancient pilgrimage in the desert that defines God’s Pilgrim People. As a church, we are not there yet, but always going forward, nourished by the manna that is Christ, our Daily Bread, both fast and feast.