THE GREAT FAST (LENT)
This fasting period has many names. For instance we call it the Holy Fast because all its days are precious or we call it the Great Fast due to it being the longest fast of the year, extending 55 days. It’s also known as the Forty Day Fast, remembering that Christ fasted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. Likewise the Church fasts forty days and forty nights, while adding an extra week of fasting for preparation as well as another week for Passion Week, totalling 55 days. This fast can be very beneficial in helping to nourish a person spiritually, especially when they are struggling. We find in the Gospel of Preparation Sunday the reasons why a person might be struggling spiritually and these are:
- Losing their sense of humanity towards others by being selfish and self-loving. Not caring about the needs of others, whether or not they are hungry or satisfied. Christ speaks to us in the Bible about being charitable in Matthew 6:1-4. This isn’t just referring to monetary matters but also feeling for each other’s needs whether physically, mentally, spiritually or even humanly.
People these days tend to be selfish not caring for the needs of others, especially the poor. The poor these days aren’t hungry for food but rather for the company of another person. Just like how the paralysed man from Bethesda (which means the house of mercy) expressed it “I have no man” (John 5:7), when he was answering Jesus’ question “Do you want to be made well” (John 5:6).
My beloved in Christ, open your hearts toward others. Consider a day in your life wasted if it passes by without offering love and compassion towards another human being.
- Reducing the opportunities of having a heartfelt conversation with Christ through prayers and praises. Man’s cold-heartedness toward God these days can be attributed to being addicted to technology and social media, resulting in losing their connection with Christ. Prayer is a natural result of reading the Holy Bible, which speaks the truth and lights the person’s path by renewing their thoughts, feelings and visions. Ignoring the Holy Bible and its teachings causes all kinds of evil, as St John Chrysostom says: “distancing ourselves from Godly commandments results in inner blindness”. Not having enough time isn’t an excuse for ignoring the Holy Bible. The time you spend in reading the Bible and practicing prayer is what blesses the rest of the hours of your day.
- A superficial understanding of fasting without getting into its depth. Fasting is a spiritual act before being a physical one, as its goal is to control the body and it’s desires. It’s a means of strengthening ones will, through which we battle sin. It’s our spiritual goal to obtain a pure heart, as it is written, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Fasting alone is unbeneficial if it is not accompanied by other spiritual acts, which help nourish a person’s spiritual life. We practice most of the seven sacraments while fasting, for both physical and spiritual nourishment. Fasting helps us physically and spiritually while partaking of Holy Communion provides power and stability in Christ.
Lastly, fasting should be accompanied by the following verse: “go in to your room (your heart) and shut your door (your mouth)” (Matthew 6:6). Fasting days should be completely different to regular days. During the Great Fast we find Christ as our Treasure (week 1), our Victory (week 2), our Repentance (week 3), our Knowledge (week 4), our Healing (week 5), our Light (week 6), our King (week 7- Palm Sunday) and our Joy (week 8- the Resurrection, Easter).