The Start Of Lent - Eastern Mirror
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The Start of Lent

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By EMN Updated: Feb 13, 2024 11:41 pm

Ash Wednesday

Introduction: Today is the first day of Lent, on which ashes are blessed and used to mark the heads of the faithful as a sign of penance. Ash Wednesday begins the 40 days of lent, a time when we remember that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and resisting temptation. Lent is the forty-day liturgical season of fasting, special prayer and alms giving in preparation for Easter. The start of Lent is marked by one of the most significant services during Roman Catholic mass. Fasting should not be seen as solely depriving oneself but also as an opportunity to redirect our focus on God. Christians can combine fasting with times of celebration and feasting, such as Easter or other significant spiritual milestones. Fasting is a divine discipline that is practiced by Christians. It is one of the powerful methods through which you can fill yourself with the Holy Spirit and get closer to God. It has been a significant spiritual practice in Christianity for centuries. Rooted in biblical teachings and exemplified by Jesus Christ, fasting serves as a powerful tool for self-discipline, rejuvenation, spiritual peace, and drawing closer to God.

Fasting finds its roots in the Bible: Fasting is the act of abstaining oneself from food or something else (listening to songs) during a particular period. Giving up on food doesn’t essentially mean not having food completely. It can be giving up on certain food as well. It depends on the believers who choose to carry out this divine act of discipline. You have the choice to fast for a particular period of the day or skip a meal. There are multiple ways to get closer to God through Fasting while getting the required physical nourishment for your health. It should be noted that though fasting finds its deep roots in the Bible, it is not mentioned directly in the Holy Scriptures. Instead, there are numerous references and instances where fasting was practiced by prophets, apostles, and even Jesus Christ himself. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said, “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.” Here, Jesus is teaching his discipline how to fast. Here, it is mentioned as a norm (when) rather than as an option (if). From the Old Testament to the New Testament, fasting is portrayed as a means of seeking God, repenting of sins, and experiencing His presence in a deeper way. Examples include Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and the apostles in the early church, all of whom engaged in fasting as a spiritual discipline.

Benefits of Fasting: Fasting encourages believers to exercise self-control and detach themselves from worldly desires and distractions. It serves as a means to seclude oneself from worldly affairs. By denying the body’s physical needs, individuals can focus their attention on nurturing their spiritual well-being and travel toward the path of God. As individuals learn to fast, they master the act of overcoming the evils within them. Fasting humbles the soul by recognising our dependence on God and acknowledging our need for repentance and forgiveness. It acts as a catalyst for genuine introspection, confession of sins, and taking measures to move toward the Holy Spirit. Through fasting, believers can fill themselves with the Holy Spirit. It is a practice to live a Spirit-filled life. Fasting creates space for believers to seek God’s guidance, clarity, and direction in their lives. It elevates our spiritual sensitivity, allowing for a deeper connection with God and a clearer understanding of His will. You would have come across instances where Christians complete their fasting with prayers to God. This is because fasting itself is a spiritual practice. Hence, it is often accompanied by fervent prayer and intercession, amplifying the spiritual power behind these practices. It enables believers to focus their prayers on specific needs, both personal and communal.

Fasting understood by Catholics: Limiting the intake of food and drink for a religious purpose. Full participation in the saving mysteries of Christ not only demands that Christians share in the Christ Who is resurrected and glorified, but also in the suffering Christ. Fasting has traditionally been one of the foremost ways in which we express our desire to share in His suffering. Fasting is legitimately undertaken to discipline our passion and desires and to express our commitment and devotion to God. Customarily, fasting required that a person take only one meal a day, but current Church discipline permits one to take a main meal and two lesser meals which together do not equal the main meal. Mandatory fast days now are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, on which days one must abstain from meat and eat only one main meal. Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence, and meat may not be taken on those days; and on the other Fridays of the year, individuals may either fast, abstain or practice other forms of mortification.

Conclusion: Fasting, deeply rooted in biblical teachings, continues to be a transformative spiritual discipline within Christianity. By embracing self-discipline, humility, and a deeper connection with God, believers can experience spiritual renewal, clarity, and a more intimate relationship with God. Whether through personal or corporate fasting, Christians have the opportunity to nourish their souls, grow in faith, and draw closer to the heart of God.

“Eat whatever you want for Easter, the sacrifice is not in the stomach, but in the heart. They refrain from eating meat, but don’t talk to their siblings or relatives, don’t visit their parents or bother them to attend to them. Don’t share food with the needy, forbid children to see their father, forbid grandparents to see their grandchildren, criticise other people’s lives, beat their wife, etc., A good barbeque or beef stew won’t make you a bad person, just like a fish fillet won’t turn you a saint. Better seek to have a deeper relationship with God through better treatment of others let’s be less arrogant and more humble at heart. – Pope Francis

Rev. Fr. C. Joseph, Counsellor

St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous)

Jakhama – Kohima, Nagaland

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By EMN Updated: Feb 13, 2024 11:41:57 pm
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