Thursday, March 10, 2005

Beloved, Let Us Learn to Fast and Die

One of the things they tell you (whoever "they" are) when you're getting ready to be a parent is, "Be careful of how you react to stress: if it's in a way you wouldn't want your kids to see, you might want to consider developing new coping mechanisms." Because kids, I already know, see everything. It's sad, really, then, that lately, with the approach of the Great Fast, that I have not only given in as of late to all my normal sins that help me cope, but literally have run after them as of late.

"Incline not my heart to evil, to contrive excuses for sin with men that work iniquity, and I shall not join with their elect." Not only am I contriving excuses for sin, it seems, but excuses to sin. It's that basic idea again--I just talked about this with a friend yesterday!--we die to our own will because we know that surrender of our will doesn't leave us any more vulnerable to harm and/or death. That there's a God Whom we can trust with our selves because we can't trust ourselves.

Always funny to me (or it would be, were it not so sad and embarrassing and, yeah, humbling) that this sort of thing always seems to increase during periods of aceticism--Great Lent, Nativity Fast, etc.--and that, in the words of St. Athanasios, “[it] is required that not only with the body should we fast, but with the soul. Now the soul is humbled when it does not follow wicked opinions, but feeds on becoming [i.e.: adorning] virtues. ...virtues and vices are the food of the soul, and it can eat either of the two according to its own will....Such was the case with our Lord, Who said, ‘My meat is to do the will of My Father which is in heaven’ (Jn. 4:34)” (Taken from orthodoxdynamis: See the full post here).

I'm not sure what it takes to beat this; during my days in the charismatic movement there was always a "deliverance du jour" that promised to fix it all miraculously. Seems like, were this truly done, it would destroy us, since it seems we don't really trust the Giver or want Him; rather we want the gifts he gives. Metr. Anthony Bloom makes it clear in his book, Beginning to Pray that we shouldn't even approach God wanting holiness; nothing less that wanting God for who He is--and not whom He can make us to be--will do. Which is my problem. And which is, in different ways, everybody's problem. We don't really trust--which is the foundation of the idea of belief in--our God.

St. Antony, pray for us that we might not fear God but love and trust Him, seeking Him during this time of denial of soul and body. And grant, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, the Grace of Yourself that we might catch but a glimpse of Your Glory during this time of fasting.

"I beseech Thee to purify me with Thy showers of forgiveness and lighten me with fasting."

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