A blessed Good Friday to Western Christians. Here is a short piece I did for The New York Times’s Room For Debate online feature, about the value of the Lenten fast. Excerpt:

Many Christians forget that Lenten fasting is not about pious dieting. Without charity and change of heart, fasting is in vain. After all, say the Orthodox fathers, even the demons do without food.

Done in the right spirit, Lent is a powerful means to heal damage inflicted by daily life in our wealthy, narcissistic, anti-ascetical culture. Orthodox fasting in particular is an exhausting discipline, but it is a merciful yoke. By the time you reach its Paschal end – O tofu, where is thy sting? – you wonder how such a burden could have left you feeling so strangely light.