In the first century, Jews fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. The original Christians were all Jewish, and were accustomed to fasting as a spiritual discipline. Most often that fast took the form of avoiding meat in the diet. In those days, meat was a luxury food. Because most people had to buy meat in the market back then, it was expensive. But anyone could grow vegetables or forage for them, and anyone could catch a fish in a lake or a stream. So the poor could still eat without much money. Meat was known as a rich man’s food, and fish was thought of as poor people’s food. That is why the most common form of fasting was to omit meat with the exception of fish.
Although not done for religious reasons, our family nearly always eats fish on Friday. In Arkansas, our fish came to us without monetary cost, we simply caught it in the Little Red River. Our freezer always overflowed with the catch of the weekend. Now that we are city-folk in PA, we must buy our fish at the market. Not only do we not have time to fish, the fish in the local rivers are fraught with mercury and toxins.
And so, this evening, we sat in our lawn chairs and watched Blaine and the neighborhood children catch fireflies, waiting for the fish to cook.
Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” —Matthew 9:14-15