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Question 291

Pater, I have quite a few medical issues for which I take various medication. I am fasting but not a strict fast due to these medical conditions. That is to say that I have stopped consuming meat but I'm still eating dairy products as well as fish. I will however stop these about ten days before Easter. Can I still go for confession and take holy communion?   

 

Answer to Question 291

 

There are many who cannot observe the fasts because of some bodily ailment or can only keep them in part. There are others again who would benefit physically from the fasts, but use an ailment as an excuse not to fast. If strict fasting harms our bodies then in truth we shouldn't keep to all the rules of fasting, but under a doctor's advice we can maybe cut out meat and some dairy products. Fasting is a tool to help us kill the passions, but not to kill the body. If fasting harms us then we shouldn’t fast. Fasting is not at all an act of religiousness because we what to appear to others as religious. It is not a “little suffering” which is somehow pleasing to God. It is not a punishment, which is to be sorrowfully endured in payment for sins. We should always keep in mind what St. Paul says that: “we are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6: 14), and that “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3: 6). “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 14: 17)

 

We may not always be able to keep to the rules of bodily fasting, but this of course doesn't hinder us from observing the Spiritual fast. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, fasting implies not only abstinence from food, but from sins also. “The fast,” he insists, “should be kept not by the mouth alone, but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands and all the members of the body: the eye must abstain from impure sights, the ear from malicious gossip, the hands from acts of injustice.” It is useless to fast from food, protests St. Basil, and yet to indulge in cruel criticism and slander: “You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother.”

 

 As for confession you can go for confession at any time as it has nothing to do with fasting and neither does having Holy Communion. As you are contemplating going to confession I will not tell you if you are allowed Holy Communion as this is the duty of the priest who will hear your confession.