Saturday, March 1, 2014

getting at the heart of our humanity

This Sunday is Forgiveness Sunday, the last day before Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. During Lent we pray more, give alms, forgive everyone, and generally try to focus on spiritual things and prepare our hearts to receive the grace of the Resurrection of Christ. And of course we fast. We remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. This connection is explained well in many articles, one of which I read this week on the blog On Behalf of All. Here are a few excerpts:
    The spiritual discipline of fasting is something that has been part of the religious life of man since the very beginning. In the Paradise of Eden, the Lord commanded Adam: “From every tree that is in the paradise you may eat for food, but from the tree for knowing good and evil, you will not eat from it. And on whichever day you eat from it, you will surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17).
      Adam was meant to abstain; he was meant to fast. He was meant to say “no” to his own desires, so the he could say “yes” to God. We don’t fast in order to “merit” anything from the Lord, but rather to become like God, imitating Christ in his 40-day struggle in the wilderness. And when Christ was tempted by Satan (as all those who are engaged in Christian fasting will experience), his reliance upon both prayer and the promises of God were enough to sustain him.
      When the apostle tells the Galatians, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal. 5:16-17), he shows us yet again that we are “at war” with our own flesh or desires; the “lust of the flesh.” In order to be spiritually renewed as a Christian (and into a true human being, as Christ), one must strive to place the importance of that which is eternal over the temporal desires and passions that tempt us (and which Satan and his minions use to tempt us).
     The purpose of fasting is not dieting or carnal in nature, but rather gets to the heart of what it means to be truly human. Our relationship with the Father was distorted in the Garden, and only through true spiritual renewal—such as can be experienced through the ascetic discipline of fasting, coupled with both prayer and almsgiving—can one “grow” to become greater than one’s flesh.
Read the whole article here.

East and West will celebrate Easter on the same date this year, so I know many of you will be beginning your labors just a couple of days later than I, on Ash Wednesday. I pray the Lord will strengthen us all and bring us with joy to Pascha!

1 comment:

Anna Yager said...

I think that Lent might be my favorite liturgical season. It's all about uniting with God, as a lover unites with the beloved. I love the connection with Adam - I had never seen the commandment not to eat of the fruit as a fast, but of course it was, and it had to be part of Adam's "landscape" for him to be complete. A person who has never disciplined his fleshly desires is not strong and whole as God intended.