Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Written for the Parish Newsletter
From the opening of our Ash Wednesday Service until Easter, I call everyone of you to observance of a holy Lent. One theme of the whole Season is found in Psalm 51, a time of penance. It is also a time of good works. Indeed, like every season, what it emphasizes must go on throughout the year; and, the emphasis of each season is part of the wisdom we have inherited in the Church. By the Church calendar, we are reminded of those things that Christians must never forget, but that we could forget without our seasons.
The basic outline of what Lent teaches comes from the sixth chapter of St. Matthew, the middle of the Sermon on the Mount: “When you give alms…When you pray…When you fast…” Fasting (the Biblical way to humble oneself before God) without prayer is just abstaining from food. Both, without alms, are empty.
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rearward. (Isaiah 58:6-8).”
The purpose of fasting is two-fold. First, it is to humble yourself before God (Psalm 35:13), and it is a weapon in spiritual warfare, when combined with prayer (Mark 9:29). These things may seem strange in our modern (or, if you prefer, post modern) culture. Even in many churches, such talk is strange and seems out of place. But, this is what has been revealed and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. It was very real and relevant to the ancient Christians who faced persecution. It is very relevant to modern Christians, our brothers and sisters, in lands where persecution of the Church still takes place regularly. If we cannot see the relevance, it is because our safe and comfortable culture has blinded our eyes to spiritual reality.
All the more reason why I call each of you to a holy Lent.