Friday, November 27, 2015

Back to fasting

With yesterday’s 24 hour respite from fasting (in America) for the only day nationally set aside to thank God for our blessings in the rear view mirror, we return today to the Christmas Fast. The Christmas Fast, meant to prepare our soul to encounter Christ at His Nativity in a few short weeks, is rarely practiced in America, at least from so-called cradle Orthodox. With “the holidays” and “holiday parties” at every corner, it has become increasingly difficult to fast for the forty days before Christmas.

From my perspective the difficulty is what brings the benefit. Fasting in and of itself doesn’t bring much blessing. It in fact is the very willingness to depart for the secular trends that nourishes our soul. Think about it this way; if every time we were faced with the choice between the Church and ‘society,’ we chose society, our soul would sink deeper and deeper into the pit. On the other hand, when we are willing to at least attempt to choose the Church’s way of life over the society, we have already won the first battle, if not the entire war.

When I teach fasting to teenagers I often say, “If you can’t say ‘no’ to a hamburger, what makes you think you can say ‘no’ to sex on a Friday night?” Likewise, if we can’t for a few short weeks care more about our soul and fast in preparation for Christmas rather than attending every holiday party we can fit into our schedule, what makes us think we will be able to choose other holy options in our path? Once we have accepted that society is the way we choose, what chances do we have to be generous rather than greedy, sharing rather than selfish, honest in business rather than shrewd, content rather than contemptuous?

These are the real battles of a Christian in society, and fasting trains our body and soul to choose the holy life of the Church, which has been guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than the secular life of the world, which is guided by sin and evil. So today, the day after Thanksgiving, having given thanks to God, we return to fasting....for the good of our soul.

Have a blessed remainder of the Christmas Fast.

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