Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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I pray, read the Agpeya and the Holy Bible. However, there are many things I don’t know but would like to learn about. When I asked many elderly people, all they did was yell at me.

I go to conventions and I learn, but what are the chances of my questions being answered when there are hundreds of others there, too, with other questions. My question is concerning fasting. What is the REAL point of fasting? Personally, I drink Soy Milk and eat fake cheese and veggie burgers. All these substitutes taste the same as what they are substituting. So if fasting is about resisting temptation, what am I resisting if I’m not really losing anything that I “like?” I still drink soy milk which to me tastes the same as skim milk and I still eat the substituted food that fill my needs as much as the subsisted food. This leads me to further ask if it is okay to abstain from something else other than food.

I am glad to know that you pray, and read the Holy Bible. This is very good and you should never cease to do so. What I am perplexed about is that you say, When I ask many elderly people, all they did was yell at me. This is hard to believe. If this is really true, you might need to ask yourself why everyone yells at you. Perhaps the problem lies not in the questions you ask but in the way you present them.

Fasting, praying and reading the Holy Bible are not enough to take you to heaven, but it is what is in your heart, your real love for God and following His commandments. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee prayed enumerating his good deeds before God comparing himself to the tax collector, but as our Lord said, it was the tax collector, the repentant sinner, who went home justified (Lk 18:10-14).

Do not be intimidated to ask questions at the conventions. There is nothing wrong with wanting to know more about the church. On the contrary, it is very important to get to know your religion and your church better. The more you get to know about them and about our merciful and great God and His work on the cross, the more you will love Him and humble yourself before Him. You can learn a lot about the church and her dogma from the articles posted on our Diocese website.

The whole point behind fasting, is not to show God our strength and physical endurance, but to resist temptation and humble ourselves before Him that He may strengthen us. When we fast, we do not fast for God but for ourselves; because God will benefit nothing if we do or do not fast. Unfortunately, when people speak of fasting, their main focus is on change of diet. Nowadays with the new dietary foods in the market and the growing industry of non-dairy products, fasting is becoming just substitution of dairy by non-dairy cheese, ice cream, even meatless meat. This is total hypocrisy and is exactly like what the Pharisees used to do by following the laws by the letter leaving the real essence of worship and fasting.  If you find joy in eating these products, you should not eat them. Along with cutting down on food intake, fasting should entail cutting down on food expenses and giving the money saved to the poor. This would be outside the regular tithing.

It is a good idea to give up something else, but as the Lord said "These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Mt 23:23). Do not substitute the fasting organized by the church for something else for we as Christians are all one body; and if the body is fasting, all the members of this body should be fasting.
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