Lent Meditation 4

  • (Refrain – Thanks to him who gave us his holy fast, a mighty weapon against the enemy.)
  • 1 – God, open my mouth that I may sing the story of holy fasting, whose work is filled with blessings: it clarifies the mind; it scours the body; it expels sin from our species. It is the opposer of death and the tricks of the evil one; it overturns the enemy by its mighty power. 
  • 2 – Brethren, put on the armor and the shield of salvation. Let us all diligently labor as much as possible, and prepare our bodies and souls: let us appease God through fasting, tears of remorse, and pure works: visiting the sick and giving to the needy.
  • 3 – Let us fast together in body and soul: not fasting from bread but causing need in the poor, showing off, making ourselves look righteous, lest we hear the voice that proclaims: “begone from me, you cursed, to the eternal fire prepared for all sinners at the end.”

Some fasts are self-imposed; some are given by God. The latter are better because they require acceptance and obedience and humility in their very inception. So it’s not about “coronavirus stopped me from fulfilling my lenten promise” but “ok God had other plans for Lent; let’s dance to his tune and not our own.” 

The first verse of this Madrasha is about the effects of fasting when properly done: clarity of mind (instead of the usual filth you think about) and body (no comment); less fear of death (since we’re more able to face God when we cooperate with his grace); greater ability to figure out and face temptation (since he uses attachment to worldly things to tempt us, and fasting helps us detach from them). 

Second verse: fasting should be accompanied by “tears of remorse,” or if you can’t muster that, at least a solid act of contrition. It should also come with “pure works,” numbered here as visiting the sick and giving to the needy. That’s where it gets complicated now, at the end of all things. A lot of people around the world aren’t allowed to visit the sick, at least physically. I don’t see any reason not to take advantage of technology in these cases. Use your cell phone to help someone get through a lonely day by talking to them. You’re holding the damn thing right now anyway. You can even use it to give to the poor with Venmo or GoFundMe. 

The harsh words at the end of the third verse are apt. Jesus isn’t a fan of showing off, and he knows that the temptation is always there, especially when we’re doing holy stuff like fasting. The ugliest thing about showing off isn’t just that we lose any sanctifying grace that we could have gained, but that we can even trick ourselves and believe that we’re holy, and even worse, holier than others. As if our holiness is our doing, or that of others is any of our damned business. So the hymn reminds us about the damnation awaiting the self-righteous, so our fasting, and any other hardship we might face in the coming weeks and good deeds we might be called to do, can have some benefit for our souls. 

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