Христос посеред нас! Christ is amongst us!
With the month of March upon us we have now entered into the Lenten Triodion, and will begin our Great Lenten journey towards the holy and blessed Ressurection of our Lord. During Great Lent the church places certain struggles before us, the foremost of which is a liturgical cycle that encourages us to be more involved in prayer, and an expectation of beginning a rule of fasting in our lives. At times, fasting can be a confusing and difficult practice to do correctly and with that said, as we are beginning this Lenten journey, it is important for us to realize and understand how fasting should be done and some of the misconceptions of fasting.
Misconceptions of Fasting:
· Fasting is only for Monks and Nuns - All Christians, who are bearers of Christ, are to take up the practice of fasting, along with the other Christian practices like Prayer, Confession, and Communion.
· Fasting is designed to earn favour from God - Fasting is meant not to be a sacrifice to God, but to be a tool in which we discover more about ourselves, our strengths, and our sins. That discovery is in fact a gift that God gives us through the teaching of fasting. This misconception also lends towards a prideful attitude of fasting that is seen in the Pharisee from the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee.
· Fasting is primarily about choosing what to abstain from - Although we are encouraged to follow our own rule of fasting, there are also very clear guidelines. The church describes meat as being the foremost thing that we give up for Lent, followed by all dairy products. Your own personal fast should be slowing building you towards being comfortable giving these foods items up completely, at which you point you grow to the next stage of fasting in other areas of your life. It is not up to us to say what we fast from, but to what extent we follow that fast.
· Fasting is a time of sadness and gloom - The church quite often finds itself in times of sadness, but even during the saddest of events in our church, we are always full of joy knowing that the holy Ressurection of Christ will soon be upon us and with that in mind we should not approach fasting or prayer with a sense of gloom.
Now that we have examined some of the myths surrounding Fasting, let’s examine the purpose of fasting.
Why should we fast?
· To foster a dependence on God - Fasting is a difficult and strenuous activity that at times can almost seem impossible because we place so much importance on food. But when we put our faith and trust in God, fasting becomes not just a building of strength, but also helps us to achieve a stronger faith in our Lord Jesus Christ who gives us the strength and the nourishment of His own Words and His own Body and Blood that we may not only succeed in our fasting, but hopefully be with Him in paradise. For as Christ said to the serpant who tempted Him "Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
· It is to share in the Divine likeness - While on earth we understand that Jesus, although being equal to the Father, submitted His will fully to that of the Father. This is an example to us that we also must submit to the will of our Lord so that we one day partake on the Divine nature and achieve Theosis, being God-like.
· To break the strongholds of sin - Fasting is something that changes so much of our daily lives, it disrupts what has become our daily and natural practices on a daily basis. It forces us to start fresh by evaluating how we are living our lives and when this process is done with Christ is mind, it can make room in our daily activities for the Holy Spirit where It may not have been before.
· Seeking out Gods help and overcoming adversaries - We are constantly tempted by sins like greed, lust, pride and many others. These temptations can be caused by our own sinful state but they are also caused by the temptations of the spiritual adversaries of Christ. Fasting is a way for us to gain discipline in our spiritual life and to help safe guard us from unnecessary temptations by placing our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you have any questions regarding fasting during Great Lent or need guidance in the process of fasting pleasecreel free to contact me.
Yours In Christ,
Fr. Peter Haugen
Fr. Peter Haugen