LET US BEGIN THE FAST WITH JOY
An explanation of the traditional Lenten fasting discipline
The primary aim of physical fasting is to make us conscious of our dependence upon God. If practiced seriously, the Lenten fast involves, at least initially, a considerable measure of real hunger and a feeling of tiredness and physical exhaustion.
The purpose of this is to lead us in turn to a sense of inward brokenness and contrition; to bring us to the point where we appreciate the full force of Christ’s statement, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If we always take our fill of food and drink, we easily grow over-confident in our own abilities, acquiring a false sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. Ultimately, fasting leads not to hunger and weariness, but to wakefulness, freedom and joyfulness in full reliance on God. While some (e.g. the infirm and those on medication) may find it necessary to adjust (not disregard!) the fast according to their frame, those who are physically able are encouraged to observe the traditional Lenten fasting discipline:
Fasting, however, is not merely a matter of diet. True fasting is to be converted in heart and will; it is to consciously return to God in heart, mind, soul and body. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, fasting means “abstinence not only from food but also from sins.” “The Fast,” he insists, “should be kept not by the mouth alone, but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands and all members of the body.” Let each of us, as bride, prepare by prayer, true fasting and almsgiving to receive the heavenly Bridegroom — Christ risen from the dead, trampling down death by death!
WHAT TO GIVE UP FOR LENT
Give up watching television one evening a week. Visit some lonely or sick person instead.
Give up looking at other people’s worst points. Concentrate on their strong points and positive attributes.
Give up speaking unkindly. Let your speech be generous and understanding.
Give up your worries. Trust God with your problems and frustrations.
Give up hatred or dislike of anyone. Learn to love instead.
Give up the fear which prevents Christian witness. Seek courage to speak about your faith to others.
Give up spending so much time with newspapers and magazines. Use some of that time to study your Bible.
Give up grumbling. Learn to give thanks in everything.
Give up ten to fifteen minutes each day. Use that time in prayer.
Give up buying anything but essentials for yourself. Give that money to God’s work or someone in need.
Give up judging by appearance and by the standards of the world. Learn to give up yourself to God.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America