The Joy of Filboid Studge

I could squeak through fasting rules with a 'Virtue Cookie,' but should I try to?

BY: Frederica Mathewes-Green


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All joys and pleasures on this earth are hors d'oeuvres, provided as a foretaste of the banquet to come. They let us glimpse where we're ultimately bound. Only a bad party guest would grab the tray from a passing waiter and hunker in a corner, stuffing every last mushroom cap in her mouth. Yet that's what we're tempted to do in this life, because although food, sex, entertainment, and such give only passing pleasure, at least they are under our control. We'd rather chew those crusts than enter the ravishing joy we were made for because, to tell the truth, it's frightening. In the brilliant light of God, the shadows stand out sharply, and we cannot avoid seeing our own failings and weakness. We see his overwhelming love and know it will not rest until we are wholly transformed, strengthened to endure that consuming fire.

In the end, that is the only real joy there is. In the present, it can seem pretty scary. I'll take the jelly beans, thank you, and think about all that another time.

Fasting is to transformation as exercise is to an athlete. We try to peel our fingers off certain food favorites and so gain more control over all our greedy impulses. An athlete who lifts weights does so not just to lift weights but to make himself stronger in all circumstances. While other religious traditions restrict certain foods as unclean, that's not the case for us. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with meat, fish, and dairy foods, or we wouldn't start eating them again on the holiest days of the year. So you don't have to scrutinize bread labels for trace elements of dairy whey (unless you find whey a particular temptation).

Fussiness about the letter of the fast can backfire, turning into prideful self-congratulation on one hand and pursuit of yummy loopholes on the other.

Unnecessary, non-nutritious treats don't suit the fast, even if they are dairy-free. The spirit of the fast, I'm coming to think, is met best by eating simply, eating less, and trying meal by meal to be obedient to the guidelines. Some circumstances may require flexibility, and that is not a catastrophe--just a missed opportunity to exercise. Of course, too many "just this onces" make for a roly-poly athlete.

So I can't really defend Virtue Cookies, even though they technically fit the fast. Perhaps if I left out the flour and chocolate chips, and added more water, and cooked it longer. A bowl of that might be just right for breakfast. Yeah! Nope, sorry. It's not working. I just can't work up much enthusiasm anymore for oatmeal. Maybe if I thought of it as "filboid studge."

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