The English word breakfast, in fact, means the meal that breaks the fast. Fasting is on the mind of many Chaldeans as they enter their second day of a three day Baoutha fast. Fasting is the voluntary avoidance of something that is good. When Chaldean Catholics talk about fasting, they normally mean restricting the food that they eat. Depending on the fast, Chaldeans will abstain between meals and the more disciplined and spiritual Chaldeans will fast from mostly all food.
While fasting takes the form of refraining from eating, it is primarily a spiritual discipline designed to tame the body so that the faithful can concentrate on higher things.
Annually Chaldeans fast for three days in observance of Baoutha; a community promise made to God centuries ago. (Click here to learn more about Baoutha)
This year Community leaders are asking Chaldeans to turn their prayers and alms towards the needy of Iraq. Death tolls continue to skyrocket in Iraq over unsafe conditions and lack of security. “To put it in perspective it is like ten Haiti in Iraq,” says Andrew Ishaya of Turlock, California. “It sure would be nice for to have a $60 million telethon for the war causalities. Until that time, I will use my Baoutha Fast as an appeal for mercy to the innocent men, women, and children of Iraq. And whatever money I can save from my fast I will donate to an Iraqi orphanage my church is helping to support.”
“Fasting is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all the Christian disciplines,” says www.CHALDEAN.org spiritual columnist Frank Dado. “Through fasting and prayer, the Holy Spirit can transform our lives. Fasting and prayer can also work on a much grander scale. According to Scripture, personal experience and observation, I am convinced that when God's people fast with a proper Biblical motive, repentant, and contrite spirit, God will hear from heaven and heal our lives, our churches, our communities, our nation and world. Fasting and prayer can bring about revival - a change in the direction of our nation and the nations of earth.”
Ironically the Baoutha fast commerourates a Chaldean Bishop’s plea, founded on God’s command of Jonah to help the people of Nineveh (modern day northern Iraq), during a plague.
Chaldean Churches in Iraq hold a special Mass to rally the community behind the centuries old promise to God by the Chaldean people. In Iraq, during the three day fast the Chaldean diet varies. Mostly the Chaldean faithful will abstain from meat and dairy. Those with special needs may modify the time when they fast.
Iraqi Chaldeans would fast from meat and diary limiting their meals for three days to vegetables, herbs, soups, rice, and fish. Leafy vegetables like spinach and parsley are often favored due to their cost and easy access.
The intent of the fast is to self-impose a restriction that is challenging enough to make you mindful of prayer and reflective of the suffering of others.
Fasting coincides with prayer and almsgiving (charity) says Dado. “By controlling the passions of the body, we free our souls for prayer. And by refraining from eating, we free up food or money that we can give to those less fortunate than ourselves. The three spiritual disciplines go hand in hand, and the Church calls us to practice all three together, especially during fasting.
The Chaldean Church like all Christians of the Catholic family encourage individual Catholics to observe a stricter fast. Extreme fasting, however, can be physically harmful, so, as with all physical forms of penance and of spiritual discipline, Chaldeans should consult their physicians and parish priest before embarking on a very strict fast.