Is it the Change from eating the fatty and rich food or is it the change of the heart? Most people get together to have a feast of food inviting family and friends right before the lent begins for we fast from all the rich and fatty food during lent, like all meat, poultry etc. As if we forgot God’s command saying “Do not Labor for the food that is perishing, but for the food which endures to everlasting life. I am the Bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:27, 41)
St. Ephraim presented to us a comparison between the feasts of the earthly food versus the feast of heavenly food:
- The earthly feast contains bread and man works hard to get it and can only benefit by a portion of it and the rest is wasted by the body. While the feast of Paradise contains the fruits of the Holy Spirit; such as love joy, peace, self- control, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and kindness (Gal 5:22-23). St. Ephraim pictured the Paradise to be full of live and moving trees that move in such an order toward the believer in an effort to let him enjoy the life in Paradise; it leans closer to him and spreads out her branches that he may pick from her fruits, what a sweet gesture of love. However, the believer is told he does not need his hands to pick the fruits but the need is for the Holy Spirit to prepare the believer for the new residency in Paradise. Then there is another tree that is softly moving toward the believer to bring him inner joy and heavenly peace; and another tree brings him a drink from the river of flowing water that quenches his thirst and he is never in need for the water from this world.
All the trees of paradise continue to blossom into what no eye has seen nor ear heard or ever been imagined by man.
- This heavenly feast has three courses meal;
- The sweet breeze of Peace that transform all the anguish from trials and hardship into gentle dew that comforts the soul and brings her into Angelic life.
- The work of the Holy Spirit in this heavenly feast that ignite the flame of love in the heart of the believer. This love grows stronger toward God, the people, and even toward one’s enemies.
St. Ephraim sees the believer putting on gentleness and kindness that resembles the nursing Mother in how she nourishes her babe.
Most importantly, the preparation for the lent should be a time for our hearts to escape the world and all its desires as if we went with Marys’ to the garden to meet our resurrected Christ and cling to Him and not desire anything of this world.
MOMENTS SPENT WITH MOSES THE FASTING PROPHET!
In the beginning of the Great Lent, I desired to meet with Moses the Prophet to ask him a few questions about Fasting; like is it necessary to fast? How can I prepare for it? How can I observe it?
I: Enlighten me father on what to do on the Pre-Lent Sunday?
Moses: sighing; it is sad to hear of the misconception about the Preparatory Sunday. It is not supposed to be an opportunity for preparing tables filled with all kind of desirable food; rather it is the embracing of all mankind to the true love, and rising with it through the Passover of the Cross, that we may be blessed with seeing the glorified resurrected God who is the Savior of the world.
I: What do you mean, father?
Moses: When the Lord called upon me to go up the Mount Sinai, He didn’t ask me to abstain from food nor was I concerned about what to eat on the mountain or whether I’ll find water in a well or a fountain during the 40 days.
- I felt that I was lifted up by the eternal arms, carrying the people of God in my heart. I wished that I could carry all humanity for we may all enjoy the meeting with God and the open conversation with Him.
- My nature is like all others of my brethren. My body needed food and drink. However; because of my desire for salvation of others and my longing for God, I didn’t feel hunger nor thirst or the need to sleep. The forty days have passed quickly as a blinking of an eye as if I was in heaven.
- I was talking to God as a man talks to his friend (Exodus 33:11); I was not concern whether I was on earth or in heaven.
I: You are great among the prophets, but I am weak and wars come from all directions; for the Evil one desires my separation from God, how can I fast like you?
Moses: Don’t say that, for God is closer to you than your family and friends. He is in your heart, no need to climb a mountain like me to observe a fast. You could implement it at your church, your home, your work, during your sleep and even during eating or drinking and talking to people.
I: How can I observe that practical fast?
Moses: Listen my son: The Lent time is the source of energy for the whole year to lift you up from glory to glory (2 Corn 3:18) and for your meeting with your Savior; the Desire of all nations.
* When you first wake up and before you get off your bed, your heart should cry out to your Christ saying, “Please let your Holy Spirit work in me; so this day would be the Lord’s Day, Let me remember you with every breath. Please anoint my heart, thoughts, senses, and all of my being with the spirit of evangelism that I may be an ambassador for You (2 Cor 5:20) and witness for You before people and the angels.
* Request a strong protection for your mouth to quiet it down (Ps. 141:3) and for God to speak through you, even during your work.
* It is advisable to have a daily plan for worship, through the living Spirit, not the deadly letter. (2 Cor 3:6)
* Let the Agpeya (the book of Canonical Hours) prayers be mixed with the crying of your heart. Then you may request His presence, to see Him, to talk with Him and He would reveal His mysteries to you.
* Pray for the whole world, the non-believers and the fallen ones, the church, the congregation, your family and finally yourself!
* The Lord commands giving alms to the poor, with praying and fasting. (Matt. Ch. 6) In St Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth, she didn’t bring food, or new clothes for the baby, but she brought the Glorious Incarnate Christ in her womb. The greatest gift to the whole world that is in need for!
* My Son; I remember that Elijah and my self-fasted for 40 days and we have enjoyed seeing the transfigured Lord Christ on Mount Tabor.
Now; I felt the great Moses was with all his heart being drawn to heaven, and how I hoped to talk longer with him, that I might have enjoyed hearing more of his experience with God. Nevertheless, I thanked him for the moments spent talking with him, hoping to meet him in the Lord many times over!
Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
Translated by: Nancy Boyd
Edited by: Magdy Fares Malek