Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Great Lent - 'A Restoration of Relationships'

Dear Parish Faithful,

GREAT LENT - The Third Day

"Nevertheless, even though fasting, rightly practiced, does indeed involve sacrifice and self-denial, it is not to be construed exclusively in negative terms. Its purpose is most definitely positive: not to chastise the body, but to render it spiritual; not to fill us with weariness and self-disgust, but to break down our sinful sense of self-sufficiency and to make us conscious of our dependence upon God.  

"Fasting is certainly an ascetic podvig (labor/feat), but its effect is to bring about a sense of lightness and freedom, of wakefulness and hope:

'Thus says the Lord of hosts: the fast ... shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts' (Zach. 8:19).

"Thus it becomes evident that fasting, which is often regarded as the chief feature of Lent, is not an end but a means. Fasting is valueless if it fails to bring about a restoration of relationships.  

"In fact, in the Gospels, Jesus does not simply speak of fasting alone but often employs the doublet 'prayer and fasting' (see Matt. 17:21; Mk. 9:29).  If we fast, it is in order to render ourselves more apt for prayer, that is to say, in order to bring us back into relationship with God.

"The early Christians expanded this doublet into a triad: along with prayer and fasting, they emphasized the need for 'almsgiving' (Greek: eleimosyni) for acts of specific and practical compassion towards others.  

"The money that we save through fasting and abstinence is never to be spent upon ourselves, but should be given to those in special need. Moreover, as we have already seen, what we are to share with others is not only our money but ourselves; we are to give our time, our companionship, our loving concern. 

"So the reawakening of our relationship with God in prayer comes to fulfillment in the renewal of our relationship with others.  Fasting, prayer and acts of compassion form a single whole."

"Lent and the Consumer Society" by Archbishop Kallistos Ware (found in Living Orthodoxy in the Modern World, p. 81, 79-80)

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