Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, then hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God's ear to yourself. Offer your soul to God. make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the means of giving.
~ From Sermon 43 preached by Chrysologus.
Ash Wednesday is a Day of Fasting and Abstinence
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are to be observed as special days of Fasting and Abstinence. Fasting means reducing the amount of food which we would normally eat. Abstinence means not eating meat. The law of Fasting binds all those who are between eighteen years of age and sixty years of age. The law of Abstinence binds everyone age fourteen and older (except for the frail and the sick). Parents are urged to foster the spirit and practice of penance among those who are too young to be subjects of either law.
We all should be able to fast in some degree on this day. Undoubtedly most of us eat and drink too much. Rather than eating when we are indeed hungry, when our body needs food, and drinking when we are thirsty, we usually eat or drink for some kind of pleasure. Lent is a superb time to subdue our eating and drinking indulgences and learn to monitor our body respectfully and healthfully. It is after all the temple of the living Spirit. By fasting it also enables us to share something of the plight of millions of our brethren around the world who are dying from hunger and who would gladly eat the crusts we cut off our bread and discard. By fasting we also learn not to be wasteful.
Fasting also helps to mortify the flesh. "We must deny our own wills, our appetites of gluttony and drunkenness, ... for the purchase of temperance." It is therefore a means whereby "the will of man may humbly obey God, and absolutely rule its inferior faculities."
However fasting is not simply a matter of exercising self discipline and showing how strong willed we can be. It in fact has two parts: the outward, pertaining to our body, and the inward in the heart and mind. Thus like abstinence the discipline we impose on ourselves is an act of love for Him in thanksgiving for the many blessings He has given us through His passion, and to help us to grow in holiness and in imitation of Christ Himself. By fasting, it means also we try to practise the example of our Lord. Not only do we have His commendation for it by His forty days in the wilderness, but also we have His example when He withdrew from the crowds to a lonely place to pray and fast.