(Matthew 6, 14-21)
“When you fast, you are not to look glum as the hypocrites do” (Matt. 6, 16)
“Remember, where your treasure is there your heart is also” (Matt. 6, 14-21)
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Слава Ісусу Христу!
Dear brothers and sisters!
In our Church year we have some special quiet time. It is called the Great Fast. It is called the Great Fast not only on account of its duration (seven weeks) but mainly on account of its importance for the spiritual renewal of the faithful.
In the Old Slavonic, the Great Fast is called “Svjata Chotyrydesjatnycja”, meaning the Holy Forty Days while in English, it is called Lent from the Anglo-Saxon Lencten, meaning spring. The Great Fast can be described as a forty-day period of prayer, penance, and spiritual exercises in preparation for the proper celebration of Easter.
According to the Father’s of the Church, Justin and Ireneus, the Fast before Easter was instituted and sanctified by Jesus Christ. The apostles ordained it after the example given by Jesus. During these days we imitate Jesus who fasted in the desert forty days.
Our first parents were commanded by God to fast in the Paradise, not to eat from the forbidden tree under penalty of death.
The prophet Moses fasted for forty days on the mount Sinai before he received the ten Commandments. Fasting was considered in the Old Testament as a means of reconciliation with God.
St. John the Baptist the prophet fasted long time in the desert.
The practice of fasting was sanctioned in the New Testament by our Lord Himself. “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matt. 4, 2).
The people of the early ages not only abstained from meat, but also from all that is connected with it, - such as eggs, butter, cheese. They fasted all day, and only ate in the evening, after vespers.
The Great Fast, as we know it today, is the result of a most complicated historical development, not all stages of which have been, so far, sufficiently explained. Historically, we trace the institution of the Great Fast to the fourth century but it is impossible to determine when, where, and why this venerable practice was established. Its origin must be sought in connection with the institution of the catechumenate.
The primitive Church, having established Easter as a solemn day of Baptism, submitted the candidates (catechumens) to an intensive spiritual training during the pre-paschal period.
According to Byzantine tradition, the Lenten discipline consists of three separate parts: Corporal or External Fast, including the abstinence from certain foods, drink and amusements; Spiritual or Internal Fast which consists of abstinence from “all evil” – sin; Spiritual Renewal achieved by the practice of the virtues and good works.
The Fathers of the Church insisted that during Lent the faithful attend the Lenten church services which were enriched with moving liturgical hymns, penitential prayers and prostrations. One such penitential prayer with prostrations, ascribed to St. Ephraem (d. 373), is still used in our churches today:
“O Lord and Master of my life, keep away from me the spirit of discouragement, negligence, desire for power and idle talk; (prostration)
Grant me, Your servant, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and charity: (prostration)
Yea, my Lord and King, grant me the ability to see my own sins, and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed forever and ever. Amen”. (prostration)
During the Great Fast make more appointments with God, and the grace of the Lord will be with us. Someone said so very important and wise words about us during the Great Fast: “During the Great Fast let’s not eat each other”. I think this will be the best fast when we do it.
For each of us, I advise you to read these words before fasting:
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; time of war and a time of peace”
(Ecclesiastes 3, 1-8).