Armodoxy for Today: Fasting
In the Gospel of Matthew (17:13-21) we read,
A man came to Jesus, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Then Jesus said, “Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
So Jesus said to them, “… This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
In this short story from the life of our Lord, he mentions fasting, perhaps only as an addendum to prayer, but we understand that it is a powerful tool for the Christian.
Yesterday, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Western Diocese announced a 24 hour fast for solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Artsakh. For the last year, the Azerbaijan government and people have blocked food and medical supplies from reaching the Armenian population of Artsakh. They have targeted the Armenians for annihilation, in other words, they are in the process of committing the second Armenian Genocide.
Like prayer, fasting is one more necessary element in the life of the Christian. In Matthew 6, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks about the necessity of fasting. Not only did he teach it, he practiced fasting, most notably during his 40 day period of seclusion in the wilderness following his baptism and prior to beginning his ministry.
Fasting strengthens the will and resolve of an individual. During a fast, an individual feels hunger, sometimes accompanied by pain. It is at those moments of physical yearning that we understand the words of Jesus during his 40 day fast, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
A call to fast and prayer is a call to learn about your strengths and limits. It is necessary to prepare and strengthen your inner self for spiritual warfare. Behind all the physical wars out there, there are even bigger spiritual wars that cannot be escaped. Often, people look outside of themselves for the solutions to their fears and problems. Let us not forget that the Christian is called to personal responsibility. We may look at the current situation, whether in Armenia, in the Ukraine or in Sudan, and look for answers from others, especially large governments but that excludes us from the solution. Each of us have it within ourselves to rebel and be a part of the solution. Fasting aligns in the proper modality, and in the case of a nationwide fast, as the one called for by the archbishop, we align with others of similar goals. We begin to form a block in the spiritual warfare we wage.
Today’s meditation is a reading of Jesus’ temptations while fasting for 40 days and nights,
When He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.