Bahai News - A Spiritual Lunch, The Baha'i Fast

A Spiritual Lunch, The Baha'i Fast

Atlanta, GA -- February 24, 2000 -- Although fasting is an ancient religious practice, it is seldom done in our culture. Few of us have ever voluntarily gone without food or water for extended periods for any reason, religious or not. This is an age of instant gratification; self- denial is alien to most people. However, the Baha'is in Metropolitan Atlanta will join six million Baha'is world-wide in their annual period of fasting. For nineteen days each year, March 2nd through March 20th, members of the Baha'i Faith abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

"The period of fasting is a significant time of the year for me," said Al Viller of Duluth. "As the days pass, I cease to focus on the moment-to- moment challenge of fasting and begin to sense the growth in my spirit." "During the fast," Viller said, "I tend to devote my lunch time to more prayer and mediation, having a 'spiritual lunch', rather than feeling sorry for my stomach. I know that my stomach will survive and believe that my spirit will thrive. We say the fast lasts nineteen days; in fact, it only lasts twelve hours each day...I take it one day at a time."

Before dawn, Baha'i families awaken to pray together and have their morning meal. The obligation of fasting begins at age fifteen and continues until the age of seventy. People who are traveling, sick, elderly, pregnant or nursing women, and those engaged in heavy labor are exempt from fasting. Like Lent in Christianity and Ramadan in Islam, the Baha'i Fast is essentially a period of meditation and prayer when the individual reflects on his or her own spiritual life. It symbolizes the importance of detachment and self-restraint from the things of this physical world and serves as spiritual preparation for the Baha'i new year, which begins March 21st. The Baha'i Faith, the second most widely-spread religion in the world after Christianity, has more than six million members worldwide of whom 133,000 reside in the United States.

Editor's Note: References to the Baha'i Faith should appear in printed publications with both the words Baha'i and Faith beginning with initial capital letters (i.e., the Baha'i Faith). The Faith was founded in 1863 by Baha'u'llah, whose name means "The Glory of God." For more information about the Baha'i Faith, visit www.atlantabahai.org and click on NEWS CENTER.


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