Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Great Lent - By Pope Shenouda III

HH Pope Shenouda III

The Great Lent
By Pope Shenouda III 

 When Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights in the wilderness in preparation for His saving ministry, we are told that the devil tempted Him to change stones into loaves of bread. The Lord rebuked the tempter with the words,
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 

(Matthew 4:14; Deuteronomy 8:3)  
In this way Jesus succeeded where Adam had failed
(see Genesis 3:1-6)

His answer to Satan is a trenchant affirmation that to live our lives as though God did not exist, that is, “by bread alone,” is to live according to a demonic lie. Fasting is an essential element of the Christian Life. Christ fasted and taught men to fast. Blessed fasting is done in secret.  It has its goal in the purification of our lives, the liberation of our souls and bodies from sin, the strengthening of our human powers of love for God and man, and the enlightening of our entire being for communion with the Blessed Trinity.Let us fast with a pleasing fast to the Lord. This is the true fast: the casting off of evil, the bridling of the tongue, the cutting off of anger, the cessation of lusts, evil talking, lies and cursing. The stopping of all these, is the true and acceptable fast. Genuine fasting, which subjects our flesh and its passions to the will of a humbled and contrite spirit is perhaps the most effective means to grow in God’s grace 
(see Romans 8:1-17) 

It opens our innermost self to the promptings of the Holy Spirit Who yearns to make our soul His temple. It is this possibility for growth in Christ-likeness through fasting that should fire our self-discipline according to the canons and rules of the Church. The point is to give up a measure of our dependence upon the material world in order to experience personally our hunger for God. 

The days of fasting are days of repentance and contrition. At the same time, they are periods of joy and cheer as believers experience victory and power in their innermost self. Fasting does not imply fatigue, restraint, or irritation, but rather it inspires joy and inward gladness with the Lord reigning within the heart. This is the experience of the Coptic Church particularly during the Holy Week. At that time believers practice asceticism more than any other time of fasting. The signs of real spiritual joy and consolation filling the heart are so clearly evident then. How you begin and conduct your fast will largely determine your success. You have to plan to make your time with the Lord more meaningful and spiritually rewarding.  

Set Your Objective!

Why are you fasting? Is it just as a tradition of the Church? Or is it for spiritual renewal, for guidance, for healing, for the resolution, of problems, for special grace to handle a difficult situation? Ask the Holy Spirit to clarify His leading and objectives in your prayer for fasting. This will enable you to pray more specifically and strategically. 


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