Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Should I Give Up for Great Lent?

I hear this discussion so often that I am more convinced that most do not understand fasting from the Orthodox Christian point of view. First and most importantly fasting should not be considered purely as an act of self-denial. “I must give up something I really enjoy. God sacrificed His life for me; at least I can sacrifice sweets for Him.” Although fasting is about our relationship with God, it is more about self-control rather than self-denial. Self-denial emphasizes the concept of punishment rather than loving control.
The central aspect of fasting is to place our will (our desires and wants) as second to the will of God. The benefit of fasting is to die to ourselves and allow God’s will to control our will. Indeed this is one element of self-denial BUT when we choose what we will “give up”, in truth we don’t release any control. WE choose what WE want to give up? How is this self-denial?

This idea, of “cafeteria style” Christianity, where we choose what we want from a menu rather than allowing the Church to guide us, is a symptom of our selfish desire to always remain in control. It is also present in our moral decisions every time we choose whether or not a teaching of the Church has any value or truth.

So if we want to give something up for God during Great Lent, we should begin by fasting according to the teachings of our Church. I assure you that if you don’t already fast, following the established guidelines of the Church will not only show God you love Him but it will also be more successful in training us to sacrifice our will for the will of God.

Remember one thing when it comes to eating….Adam and Eve chose for themselves what they would eat.

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