"the fasts and vigils of which he made a frequent practice"
This sculpture of a fasting Buddha underscores the link between bodily denial and spiritual purity seen in many religions - Credit: Sailko
Fasting was an extremely popular practice among Puritans, who believed that afflicting suffering on oneself was an essential means of rendering the soul humble before God. The especially devout accompanied their fasting with the ritual donning of sackcloth
so as to heighten their pious humiliation. In time, individual mortifications of this variety gave way to formal fast days
designated by the church in response to specific problems of the day. On these occasions, everyone was required to abstain not only from food but all secular activities and to immerse themselves in prayer.