AnglicanTheological Anthropology

Personhood Series-Fasting

“Individualism is idolatry because individualism seeks to transcend humanity by making us all gods with our own interests and wants. Individualism is idolatry because it denies that we are our relationships.” -Andy Root                                                                                                                                                                                        

Fasting is a discipline that God gives us in order to make us persons in the truest sense of the term. A person is a relational human; a being who realizes that they are not self-existent, but intimately intertwined with and formed through the lives of all those around them. The ancient church adopted and modified the word “person” to describe the beings of the Holy Trinity; beings whose existence is bound up to the other beings in that Triune communion; beings who are eternally in relationship with one another. Each Person’s existence cannot be known apart from the relationships they indwell. The Father is Father because of the Son. The Spirit is sent from the Father and through the Son. If we fail to consider one of the members of the Trinity, we will misunderstand the other two. If we fail to see the Son as Son, we will misunderstand how the Father is Father. If we fail to see the Father as begetter, we will fail to see how the Holy Spirit also proceeds from him.

If we human beings are to seek to reflect the image and likeness of God, we too, must seek to become relational beings in the way that God is relational. The way of love in the Trinity is the telos for all human relations. In other words, we must learn to love properly since “God is love,” and love is the description of communion actualized.

We, as sinful and broken creatures, have wired ourselves to prioritize our own wants before the needs of others. Fasting helps us to kill the seeds of selfish individualism within us. The practice helps us to say “no” to ourselves; it helps us remove the selfish desires that turn us inward so that we can be more aware of and available to the people around us. The practice helps us extinguish the inner tendency that seeks to use other people out of self-interest. Through fasting, God forms us in the way of self-denial for the sake of others. He ingrains in us the understanding that other people are placed in our lives not as objects to be used, but as persons to be loved and celebrated. Fasting teaches us that the way we exist for others–and the way that they exist for us–truly matters. It instills in us the understanding that beings in the created universe are to be respected as the manifestations of the logic of God. Thus fasting is not simply about the subduing of vices, but about the proper relation to persons.

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TJ Humphrey

TJ Humphrey

TJ is a student at Nashotah House Theological Seminary and aspiring to be ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. He is an avid reader, especially in works that deal with relational ontology, liturgical theology, and the ecclesial life of the Church. For fun, TJ loves to spend time with his family, travel, go backpacking in the mountains, watch a good hockey game, sip on a good bourbon, and geek out with a good theology book.