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March - April 2010

WHAT'S THE POINT?

It is fair to say that for many people - including many Orthodox Christians - the fast of Great Lent has been reduced to a change in diet, and an extra service or two during Holy Week.

While some faithful will make more profitable use of the Fast, the outward acts, the re-enactment of childhood memories, dominate our religious landscape. In an increasingly rushed, fallen world, we seek the "bare minimum" required. It should not surprise us when, as a result of this approach, we get almost nothing out of the Fast of Lent.

When our Lord Jesus Christ fasted in the desert for forty days and nights, He did so in spiritual struggle against the devil and the passions. He did so not as nostalgia or to appear "good". He fasted for the salvation of our souls.

In our spiritual weakness, there are legitimate reasons for taking it easy during the Fast: sickness, tiring travel, or pregnancy. Yet these do not apply for most of us: we are for the most part blessed to be living in satisfactory health outside of hospital. Few of us are pregnant (certainly less than half of us can ever be so). And even fewer among us must travel through the deserts or mountains in a given day.

If we find ourselves asking, "What is the point of the Fast?", we should look at ourselves, rather than trying to assail the time-tested practice of 2000+ years of holy people. Rather, let us ask ourselves, "What is the point of our life?"

If we "just need a break" - that is to say, entertainment - to console ourselves, the Fast makes no sense. If we have other "important" things that prevent us from praying or attending to God, the Fast makes no sense. And if our main goal in life is "to be happy" (i.e. to have pleasure), then there is no point at all to the Fast of Lent.

However, if the goal of our life is to be freed from our passions, addictions, and temper, the prayers and restricted living of the Fast makes sense. If we strive to love God more than we serve ourselves, the Fast makes sense.

And if we hope to see our true selves, in light of the words prayed in the Lenten services, it all - everything in the Christian life - makes perfect sense.

- FrG+

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