Tag Archives: lent

Fasting was instituted by Our Lord

Yesterday for Ash Wednesday, I proposed that we listen to the words of Saint John Chrysostom on the subject of fasting. Perhaps a more modern person, Saint Francis de Sales, is in order for fasting as a key discipline of Lent. De Sales preached the following. Thanks to Dom Hugh for bringing this excerpt to light which bears a little reflection form us all:

To treat of fasting and of what is required to fast well, we must, at the start, understand that of itself fasting is not a virtue. The good and the bad, as well as Christians and pagans, observe it. The ancient philosophers observed it and recommended it. They were not virtuous for that reason, nor did they practice virtue in fasting. Oh, no, fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner… We know very well that it is not enough to fast exteriorly if we do not also fast interiorly and if we do not accompany the fast of the body with that of the spirit

We must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, wholeheartedly, universally and entirely. If I recount to you St. Bernard’s words regarding fasting, you will know not only why it is instituted but also how it ought to be kept.

He says that fasting was instituted by Our Lord as a remedy for our mouth, for our gourmandizing, and for our gluttony. Since sin entered the world through the mouth, the mouth must do penance by being deprived of foods prohibited and forbidden by the Church, abstaining from them for the space of forty days. But this glorious saint adds that, as it is not our mouth alone which has sinned, but also all our other senses, our fast must be general and entire, that is, all the members of our body must fast. For if we have offended God through the eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why should we not make them fast as well? And not only must we make the bodily senses fast, but also the soul’s powers and passions — yes, even the understanding, the memory, and the will, since we have sinned through both body and spirit.

Ash Wednesday, 1622

One Human Family, Food for All

One familyAn international —and personal, because it touches the conscience— issue which plagues all people no matter of faith is that of hunger. It is a wretched thing to be without food even for a night. Some 800 million do not have sufficient food. How can I share, live in justice and care for the other person?

As President of Caritas Internationalis Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga SDB, wrote a letter recently from which I excerpted the following:

Caritas Internationalis launched the ‘One Human Family, Food for All’ campaign before Christmas. The campaign offers an opportunity to answer Pope Francis’s invitation.

We believe that it is a fundamental injustice that over 800 million people in the world are hungry. These people wouldn’t be hungry if there were greater equality in wealth and resources were shared more fairly. Each of us can live more simply, consume less, waste less and be more conscious of our choices. Sharing – our bread, our resources, ourselves – is the cornerstone of our faith and a solution to global hunger.

In the run up to Lent here in Rome, all the children dress up for the tradition of ‘carnivale’. The face of Jesus Christ is also present in many guises and we may not recognise him at first glance. We may ignore his call if we’re not attentive. “He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty,” said Pope Francis.

Lent is a call to taste people’s hunger and touch their poverty with our very fingers. It is a time to join hands with our brothers and sisters who are part of the 3.5 billion poor in the world. As the Americans would say, it’s time to “do the math”.

Please support the Caritas One Human Family, Food for All campaign to eliminate global hunger by 2025. You can act by donating online at www.caritas.org or by doing something large or small in your community to help the poor and vulnerable.

Can we support the Caritas Internationalis campaign ‘One Human Family: Food for All’, working towards ending hunger by 2025?

Ash Wednesday

imposing ashesFor 40 days we enter into a period of fasting and prayer just as the Lord did in the wilderness, facing the Evil One, in preparation for his public ministry. The hallmarks, to be effective, have to sting a little. Prayer, fasting and the act of almsgiving ought to be intensified since these things are done throughout the year. That is, I need to be personally involved in lenten practices and we ought to feel the sacrifice of time, the intellect, and the will. The journey of faith is none other than fighting with sin and accepting the sovereignty of God in and over our life. We call this a journey for a precise reason: we are never finished turning our life with the help of grace to the Author of Life. In time it is hoped, that our measure is replaced by Christ’s, the influence of the powers-that-be is changed to the influence of the Messiah. Lent is the yearly reminder that heaven is our goal, the joy of new life is given to us because this is God’s desire for us. Zero-in on the Lord’s Passion and receive the gift of resurrection. Pope Francis said today in Rome,

Ash Wednesday, begins our Lenten journey of penance, prayer and conversion in preparation for the Church’s annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. In these days the Church asks us to ponder with joy and gratitude God’s immense love revealed in the paschal mystery and to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism. This journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ also calls us to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst. Specifically, it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted. May this Lent, then, be a time when, as individuals and communities, we heed the words of the Gospel, reflect on the mysteries of our faith, practice acts of penance and charity, and open our hearts ever more fully to God’s grace and to the needs of our brothers and sisters.

Since I like the Church Fathers, it seems that St. Maximus the Confessor has something to say to us:

God’s will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance. The heralds of truth and the ministers of divine grace have told us this from the beginning, repeating it in every age. Indeed, God’s desire for our salvation is the primary and preeminent sign of his infinite goodness, and it was precisely in order to show that there is nothing closer to God’s heart that the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and that he died, suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God.

The wisdom of trusted Fathers of the Church s helpful:

The life of a monk [actually, use Christian] ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit. In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. (Rule of St. Benedict)

Growing in Freedom through forgiveness beginning in Lent

forgivenessThe Christian approach is to “give something up” for Lent as a way change one’s sinfulness to a life of holiness. At least that’s the hope. Typically we fail pretty early in our lenten practices because the sting of the sacrifice is not really present in the way we live and we don’t see the point. Our walk with Jesus Christ has to be more than a Cadbury Easter Egg. What are you are you giving up for Lent? And, why? What is driving you to give up thus-and-such for Lent? Can mercy be a real way of living for you?

In what ways would your life be different if you made an offering to God that included giving up several unseemly attitudes that if you were serious your life would be fundamentally happier?

Forgiveness is God’s gift to us. Will we receive this gift and share it with others? Forgiveness means everything…it is the method of living the proclamation of the Gospel. Forgiveness always a new day to us to live in freedom and it takes us out of the ghetto called religion.

Here’s a proposal of letting go:

Arrogance, intellectual and affective
Blame, bitterness and resentment
Doubt in faith, hope and love
Envy and excuses
Fear of failure, lack of courage
Feelings of unworthiness and guilt
Gossip and negativity
Impatience with self and others
Lack of counsel
Preferring other things to Christ
Presumption, pride and worry: thinking that God is on my side at all times for all reasons
Refusing the hand offered in friendship
Refusing to honor the other person
Refusing to have mercy on others
Self-pity
Sense of entitlement and a spirit of consumerism.

Lenten penance according to St Augustine: fast from discord, and forgive

For anyone still deciding what to give up for Lent, (Ash Wednesday is around the corner) or even for those who have decided, here’s a great suggestion from Saint Augustine that may be helpful:

“Before everything else, brothers and sisters, fast from quarrels and discord…. If you want to shout, use the kind of shouting about which [Scripture] says, ‘With my voice I shouted to the Lord’ {Psalm 142.1}. That indeed is not a shout of quarreling, but of loving; not of flesh, but the heart….

Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you’ {Luke 6.37-38}. These are the two wings of prayer, on which it flies to God; if you pardon the offender what has been committed, and give to the person in need.”

[Sermon 205, On the Beginning of Lent]

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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