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The Bridegroom and Fasting - Part 1

Posted on 5th March, 2021





  Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and the people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”  And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day…”  Mk. 2, 18-22 (Mt. 9, 14-15; Lk. 5, 33-35)

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   Fasting was well known to the Jews as a sign of repentance and mourning.1 The only fast enjoined by the Law was for Expiation Day (i.e. Day of Atonement-Yom Kippur-LEV 16, 30) but the Sanhedrin and synagogue rulers could requisite others due to public calamity & private piety.  The Pharisees observed Mondays and Thursdays as fast days2 from sunrise to sunset.  The question put to or Lord was intended to place him in an unfavourable light by contrasting the conduct of his followers with the ascetic practices of the Pharisees and of John’s disciples.  He presents to his questioners the image of the disciples’ joy in the presence of their Master an implicit reference to the Old Testament image of God as “Spouse” of Israel:


   “And I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord”. (Os. 2, 19)


   “And your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name.” (Is. 54, 5).


   “When I passed by you again, behold, you were at the age for love; and I spread my skirt over you, and covered your nakedness:  yea, I plighted my troth to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine.”1(Ezek. 16, 8)


   Jesus implicitly reminds John’s disciples of the parable quoted from their master about him, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly in the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full” (Jn. 3, 29).  It is significant that Jesus himself is now presented as “the Spouse”.3



1 A CATHOLIC COMMENTARY ON HOLY SCRIPTURE, Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd, St. Mark’s Gospel no. 728d

2 THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MARK Text and Commentary for Students, Alexander Jones, Geoffrey Chapman, 1965, pg. 79

3 Ibid.



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