April 2008 - Fasting and Feasting During Lent

Dear Parishioners and Friends of All Saints Church,

            Sometimes it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. The following thoughts come from Cross Roads, Holy Cross, Mt. Lebanon, PA, vol 8, issue 3 (their recent monthly newsletter).

Fast from judging others; Feast on Christ dwelling in them.

Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of Light.

Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.

Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from anger; Feast on patience.

Fast from worry; Feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.

Fast from hostility; Feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from anxiety; Feast on hope.

Fast from yourself; Feast on a silent heart. 

            What? Did you think this article had to do with food? If all of our lenten food restrictions had no impact on our souls, then other than a few health benefits, of what purpose do we fast? The letter of the law has value, but not without the spirit of the law. Fasting in the flesh has value, but without the deeper searching and cleansing of the soul it is merely an interesting diet.

            I remember hearing a story from the Desert Fathers that makes an valuable point. As I recollect, there was a certain desert monk that due to a health condition was required to drink chicken broth. Now it was during Lent that another monk happened to be going by this ill monk’s cave. As he passed by, he smelled the chicken cooking in the pot. Immediately he became irate at the audacity of a holy monk cooking chicken during Lent.

            After ranting and raving at the monk for his poor judgement, he demanded an explanation. “I am required by health problems to drink the broth from the cooked chicken. I am not required to season it. So I boil the chicken without anything to flavor the water, and I give the flesh meat to the poor.” Have you ever tasted boiled chicken broth with no salt and no seasoning??? YUK! I’d rather take medicine...

            You might be able to guess the reaction of the second monk. He bowed and asked forgiveness of the first monk as he realized the other’s spiritual strength and discipline. As the first line above says, Fast from judging others; Feast on Christ dwelling in them.

            No doubt by this time you have been following the lenten fast appropriately. As we pass into the second half of the season, might I suggest that as you abstain from certain things going into your mouth, that you also consider abstaining from the items as listed above coming out of your heart for the remainder of this lenten season. That way, both body and soul will be cleansed, strengthened, and prepared to receive afresh the spirit of Christ when we celebrate the resurrection.