Historically, the Church in the wisdom of God has prescribed feasts as well as fasts.
Practically speaking, the feast serves to remind us of freedom and of blessings…of the reality that “every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from above” (James 1:17). Further feasts protect us from a certain type of spiritual morbidity and religious pride that “have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).
Yet, there is something even deeper in the feast that I am only now starting to discover.
In the past…and probably too often in the present…a feast was an excuse to gorge myself, to eat my favorite foods, to throw off restraint. I had a rather American attitude that I had paid my dues and given up a pleasure and now it was mine by right to make up for lost time. In truth I failed to keep in mind what Paul said:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)
Yet God in his mercy taught me something even in the midst of my wrongful approach to the feast.
I found myself one day with a nagging desire, a hunger for something. My initial thought was, “This is Easter season. I can eat anything that I want.”
But there was nothing that I wanted.
It wasn’t that I had some profound spiritual thought about not misusing freedom. Nor was there some religious pride that wanted to prove some false holiness by fasting during the feasting season.
There simply was nothing…absolutely nothing in the world that would satisfy the hunger for…what?
Suddenly I recalled what I had once heard about Jesus going to the temple in the midst of the festival of booths. At the end of seven full and glorious days of feasting, Jesus stands up and asks, “Is anyone thirsty?” (John 7).
This is a question more absurd than when your southern grandmother asks what you want for supper as you struggle to get up from the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Yet now it made total sense.
Fasting reminds us of all the good things God gives us. It reminds us of his mercy and kindness. It calls us to a life of service and generosity…because we realize all we have comes from God.
But in the feast we learn that none of His gifts can quench the thirst for God. When we have eaten more than our fill and yet still something gnaws inside, then we can answer.
Yes, Lord. I thirst.