Today, Orthodox Christian world is celebrating Easter – one of the most significant days in a Christian calendar. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil, the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and the eternity of life. It is the time of prayer and remembering Christ.
I spent my childhood in the USSR and was not brought up in a strict Christian tradition and knowledge for many reasons. I don’t know much of the significance, the rituals, the procedures of the festival. I don’t know how the day for Orthodox Easter is determined based on the old Gregorian calendar. But I remember from my childhood that those people who were seriously following the knowledge and tradition, were also very serious about what they ate. The faithful people were and are supposed to follow precise dietary restrictions for extended periods of time throughout the year which adds up to approximately 200 out of 365 days in a year https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC156653/. I have seen this commitment to fasting not only amongst Christians but also with Muslims, Hindus, Jewish and Buddhists. Full fasting or voluntary abstaining from eating food for some periods of time is practiced by the followers of Islam during Ramadan to experience how the hungry of this world feel and to humble down our desires. It is practiced by Hindus to obtain certain spiritual realizations and understandings or particular benefits from nature. It is practiced by Buddhists to help in attaining enlightenment.
Interestingly, in 2016 fasting got the Nobel prize in Medicine. Fasting, when viewed from a scientific point of view is a good way of helping our bodies to regulate the intakes of certain food types, the excess of which might be harmful to the body, like, for example, oils, fats, certain types of proteins. While taking a break from those, our bodies get a chance to save the energy from digesting those heavy elements and recuperate its energy overall. It is not a secret that what we eat is important for our health. We do not water our plants and crops with coke or soda. Similarly, even though food is often designed to trigger our senses and desires to consume more, fasting helps us keep our senses intact and our intellect in control of what we choose to eat and whether it is good for us and for others. It might seem a small thing, but conquering a desire to eat anything and everything under the Sun is the first small step to putting our intelligent sense over our whims. Afterall, every religion teaches us that we truly attain happiness in this world when we attain happiness within our own selves. It’s not about getting happier in getting more. It’s about learning how to be happy with the essential things that we have, remember that nature is the one who provides and God is the one who gives to all.
Easter has a personal sentimental value for me. Many years ago, in my teens, after the pre-Easter fast, I decided not to break it (as per Christian tradition on Easter) and continue on with my dietary restrictions for many reasons: physical, spiritual, ethical. I have not changed my mind since then and my life fast gave me some important understandings, the key of which is the ability to know what is a real hunger and what is a whim.
Happy Easter and lots of love to everyone!