By Mary Sayad

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    February 2009

    The late Father Alexander Schmemman looked at it this way.

    Fasting is our entrance and participation in that experience of Christ Himself by which he liberates us from total dependence on food, matter and the world. By no means is our liberation a full one. Living still in the fallen world, in the world of Old Adam, being part of it, we still depend on food. But just as our death -- through which we still must pass - has become by virtue of Christ's death a passage into life, the food we eat and the life it sustains can be life in God and for God. Part of our food has already become "food of immortality" - the Body and Blood of Christ Himself. But even the daily bread we receive from God can be in this life and in this world that which strengths us, our communion with God, rather than that which separates us from God. Yet it is only fasting that can perform that transformation, give us the existential proof that our dependence on food and matter is not total, not absolute; that united in prayer, race and adoration, it can itself be spiritual. All this means that deeply understood, fasting is the only means by which man recovers his true spiritual nature. *

    Fasting, then, points to the fact that there is certainly something more to life than just physical contentment and satisfaction. Fasting is meant to serve as an aid to help us concentrate our attention on God. It is meant to lead to a simplification of life: less time for self, more time for God; less time and care for physical food; more time and care for the Word of God and the Bread of Life. Fasting is designed to take the focus off self and selfish desires and to place the focus on God and the needs of His suffering people.

    More than that, fasting is not just for the stomach. It concerns the eyes, the ears, the hands and the feet. Saint John Chrysostom wrote:

    Let the hands fast by being free of greed.

    Let the feet fast by ceasing to run after sin.

    Let the eyes fast by disciplining them not to look at what is enticing.

    Let the ears fast by not listening to evil talk and gossip.

    Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.

    For what good is it if we abstain from fowl and fish but bite and devour our brothers?

    Fasting, then, is something quite positive. We fast from certain things in order to feast on others. The Church enters Lent with a strict fast; our Church calls this sacred time the "Great Fast". The season of greatest celebration (Easter) is preceded by the season of greatest fasting (Lent). Fasting is not just for the stomach but for the whole person to forget self and to reach out to others as Christ Himself reaches out to us.

    *Great Lent. Alexander Schmemman. Saint Vladimir's Press (Crestwood, N.Y.), 1969, pp. 106-107.

    Beloved Friends,

    The Lord calls us to holiness by fasting. I couldn't give you a better explanation than the above posted letter.

    Reach out to Jesus and Mary. Receive the Sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Penance. Keep His Commandments and fill yourself with spiritual wisdom through the Holy Bible. Taste the goodness of the Lord.

    During this special Lenten season, continue to keep our military and their families in your prayers and Rosary recitals. Pray unceasingly for world peace and the banning of abortion. Abortion is an abomination to the Lord and achieving world peace rests upon respect for life. Thank you.

    Your companion in prayer,