Lent Meditation 5

  • (Refrain – Let us love holy fasting, in which the victorious were crowned; let us participate in their contest and be joined to their crowns.)
  • 1 – Daniel longed after fasting as one would thirst for wine; he loved temperance as the greedy love gain. He turned to fasting and grew young: he fasted for three seasons, and his beauty was cleansed of old age. He became beloved because of his fast.
  • 2 – The angel Gabriel called the man desirable in his old age, who despised delicacies in his youth and was nourished with grains. He fasted for three seasons in his old age as if they were a day, and he carried his riches on his shoulders like a prosperous worker.
  • 3 – Because he despised love of eating, he was beloved by the heavenly; because he loved fasting and prayer, he was called a man beloved. Brethren, let us also be like Daniel the icon, and shine in his likeness through vigil, fasting, and prayer.

This one is about the prophet Daniel, whom I don’t know much about. Some basic ideas about each verse:

The first verse is rhetorically using the metaphor of bodily desire, which is a clever reversal when applied to fasting. One of the reasons to fast is to curb our desires, but here the author is admonishing us to desire fasting itself. This operates as a kind of shortcut: the eventual result of fasting is a refinement of our desires, but if we love fasting directly we get to the goal immediately. Similarly, the vanity of wishing to be young and beautiful is rhetorically used in this kind of reversal: Daniel, in his old age, looked like a young man by fasting.

The most interesting thing in the second verse is the idea that endurance or fortitude comes from a life of asceticism or self-denial: in his old age (when you’d expect him to be weak), Daniel was able to accomplish three seasons of fasting as if they were a day. And here we are whining when we need to wait until noon to eat.

The third verse has more reversals: Daniel’s hatred of gluttony caused him to be loved by angels. This discipline of the body somehow brings about a deeper union with the spiritual world – which makes sense since the mind is more able to focus on spiritual things when it’s not concerned with food and other bodily things. Daniel is called an “icon” at the end, that is, someone to look at and admire, but also imitate.

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