The Lenten fast is underway, as we journey together towards the great and glorious feast of our Lord’s Resurrection. This period can be seen as a form of spiritual training, as a sacrifice, as an opportunity for our faith in God and our relationship with Him to grow and bear fruit. The Church, throughout this period of repentance and spiritual renewal, calls us all to set aside or sacrifice certain comforts, particularly rich foods, offering us the chance to offer more financial aid, care and concern for our neighbours. Fasting helps to foster the virtue of self-control, with the aim of the fast not simply being that of refraining from food, but rather from sin. This is a period of transformation from vice to virtue, from self-centredness to sacrificial love, from greed to philanthropy. St Paul identifies self control as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:
‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Gal 5:23) The word used by the Apostle Paul is ἐγκράτεια (egkrateia) meaning to perfect oneself from within. Many of us spend an extra few pounds on a ‘Detox’ drink from our local store, filled with nurturing and vitalising vitamins, benefiting our bodies as we go about our daily, often stressful lives. This Lenten Period invites us to ‘detox’ from all the sins and diseases of our soul – perhaps, we struggle with anger, with jealousy, with idle talk and gossip – all these sins weigh our soul down and act as a barrier between ourselves and God. If we break down these barriers, while abstaining from rich food and comforts, then we are able to make room for God’s love to freely pour into our hearts, for ‘the more you deny the flesh the more you render the soul radiant with spiritual health.’ (St Basil the Great, Second Homily on Fasting) This is not to say that all worldly cares and comforts are inherently evil, but rather the Church offers us a chance to put things into perspective, to prioritise the love of God and neighbour before matters of the world and of the self. ‘One should always guard against attachment; for this is what is harmful to the soul,’ Abba John (525AD) reminds us.
Let us, then, prayerfully and peacefully detach ourselves from any hindrances which are stumbling blocks in our spiritual lives and in our relationships with others. Let us not only reconcile ourselves with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Who always awaits our prayerful repentance, ask forgiveness from our families and friends who we may have offended – but also forgive those who have acted unjustly towards us.
Dear friends, the Lenten Fast is not simply about food, but primarily about – to put it simply – putting things right in our lives. Let us take this extraordinary and beautiful opportunity as we journey towards Pascha to reload our spiritual batteries through the holy and inspiring lenten services, enlightening our hearts with the flame of His love, so that we may then share Christ, ‘the Light of the world,’ (Jn 8:12) with everyone following the Paschal Resurrectional Liturgy this year
Wishing you all a blessed Lenten period and a joyful Pascha.
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