Friday, April 11, 2014

An Unexciting life: Fasting

From "An Unexciting Life"

For past posts on thoughts from this wonderful book, go here and here.

…we need to become free of the pleasure principle. Thus we are called on to practice fasting and more, to love it - really to appreciate that the way of the desert is a good and noble thing. To walk it is not an achievement but a privilege and a gift…There is no question here of masochism nor of a mindless puritanism, but a clear assertion that if the monk is to make his way to God he needs to disembarrass himself of whatever will slow him down and will have to be abandoned eventually in any case.

As has been said many times by many holy people, we need to empty ourselves so God can fill us up. That's what fasting is about. And it's a challenge to cling to that purpose, because (at least for me) my carnal nature wants to make fasting into a way to lose weight. But if I allow that thought to have any place in my fasting times, I lose the reward that God has for me, much as Jesus warned us in Matthew 6.

If, when I feel those hunger pangs, I am reminded to pray for the people or situations that God has given to me for that purpose, I am being a co-worker with God. If, on the other hand, I have allowed the idea of weight loss to enter into the equation, when I feel hunger pangs it's pretty easy to tell myself that a little "something" can't possibly make any difference. And maybe it won't, on a physical level. But it will rob me of the joy of working alongside God in establishing His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven, because I have lost my opportunity to be united with Him in sacrifice for his people.

This Lent has been a particularly challenging one for me. I'm thankful that I didn't set any high goals for myself since God has seen fit to provide many small and large tests for me this season. But testing is the point of Lent - are we capable of holding firm? Of clinging even more strongly to our Father in the midst of the storm?

I hope that I am learning how to be more realistic in my fasting. My tendency has always been to do total fasts (no food at all and only one or two glasses of something liquid in a 24 hour period). But God has been gently reminding me that the key to fasting is the turning of the heart to prayer instead of food, and that my test is in learning how to eat LESS rather than NOTHING, offering Him the sacrifice of that harder discipline (why is it harder to be moderate than it is to be radical?). And of course, to be consistent in prayer.

What is Lent? It is following Jesus into the desert - letting go of our "right" to a comfortable and secure life, voluntarily uniting ourselves with Him in the sacrifices He made for us.

1 comment:

  1. Our priest once exhorted us with a homily on two North American saints, in which he said, "They acquired hunger the way we acquire food." That simple statement had a huge impact on my mind, which I am trying to bring into my heart and habits.


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