Lenten Journey – Fasting

Day #6 of the Lenten Journey into the Divine Liturgy by Fr. Vazken Movsesian.

The priest is fully vested, and here we remember one more means of physical preparation via fasting. We agreed earlier to look at the physical preparations first, before the spiritual and emotional preparations, for in fact the physical dimensions of anything are always easier to comprehend. We learned about each of the articles of the vestments which transforms the priest for the celebration of celebrations. Fasting is the bridge between the physical and emotional. While the abstinence from food is the outward expression of fasting, the appeal to discipline and strength of will are matters of the spirit and soul.
In our Lord’s life, there is a story where a young man is brought to Jesus to have a foul spirit exorcised from him. The boy’s father had appealed to the disciples who, though commissioned to be able to heal, were unable to do so. When Jesus removes the unclean spirit from the boy, the disciples ask him, “Why were we unable to cast out the demon?  To which Jesus responds, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9)
Prayer and fasting go hand and hand. Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” A pure heart is accented with the pure body, for in fact, the purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to come into the presence of God – to commune with God, to see God. Fasting is the key to that physical purity – to cleanse and purge the system from all impurity so that the Holy Sacrament is accepted in cleanliness.
Fasting also heightens our understanding of necessity. When we fast, in our hunger, we naturally think of our next meal – we look forward to satisfying our hunger. It is during these moments that we must ask ourselves what is truly essential for life. How important are those meals? We come to view in a different manner Christ’s words, that bread alone is not essential for life, but life finds meaning and fulfillment by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Matthew 4)  
Physical preparedness gives us a foundation on which our spiritual side, our soul must be ready for this Sacrament.
In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord directs us to the spiritual preparedness for the Holy Eucharist. He says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
This is the highest form of preparedness for the Divine Liturgy – to be at peace with our fellow human being. Yes, the vestments and fasting are essential, but our Lord sets apart this rule for the altar table as a necessity.
Earlier when I mentioned that emotional and spiritual preparedness were much more difficult to understand than the physical side of preparedness, I was alluding to this commandment. Wearing robes and even abstaining from food is not as difficult as this most important rule of preparation. Note that our Lord put the harmony between us humans as a higher priority than God! Again, he says, leave your gift at the altar – more important than God – go and reconcile with your brother or sister.

This first week of the Lenten Journey we walked the course of preparedness. While each article of the vestment set gave us a chance to reflect on various aspects of readiness, the most important lesson of all these days is the need to prepare the soul for the Holy Divine Liturgy. It is the reconciliation between us that is at the heart of the Liturgy. It is what St. John the Evangelist speaks of when he says, “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” It’s that simple and yet that difficult.

Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
Background Lent Song: Here I Am to Worship played by Heidi 

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