The forty-day Lent is the spring of our spiritual life, in it the soul is renewed after it casts away the impurities of lust, the dirt of selfishness, and the dullness of arrogance and anger; so it would be able to practice the tear-filled joy of repentance.
Thus, fasting in the first place, is penitence which is the “Metonia” of the soul that is, changing the direction (renewing) of the mind: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”(3). The renewing of the mind necessarily entails changing its habits and correction of its mistakes of anger, injustice, and slander to meekness, love, and peace: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness (getting rid of evil habits,) to undo the heavy burdens (of vanquish,) to let the oppressed go free”(4). Repentance is the coming of the annual divine love to transform us, that is to invigorate us, so we can grow and get closer to the measure of our stature “till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the fullness of Christ”(5).
And fasting is a sacrifice and an offering. In the Old Testament, God’s people learned to tithe their crops yearly, “You shall truly tithe all the increase of year grain that the field produces year by year”(6). By offering the tithes, man would have returned to God what He had given him. By doing this, God’s blessing would be bestowed on the crop, and man would be acknowledging that all what he has is God’s and is from God, and that man is a mere servant and a steward over God’s bequest. Meanwhile, through these offerings, man thanks God for His generous gifts.
The Israelites did not consider giving these offerings to God a loss, but rather a gain, be-cause they believed that the Lord would bless their crops through them. Consequently, the harvest season was festive and a joyous time: “You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.”(7).
The Prophet Isaiah links up the offerings and all the acts of mercy with fasting. He stresses that for fasting to be accepted by the Lord, it should be accompanied by acts of mercy as a requirement: “Is it (the chosen fast) not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?”(8) The time of fasting is a chance to return everything to God who owns it. We say in the holy Liturgy, “We of-fer unto You Your gifts from what is Yours”
Fasting and prayer together are essential to attain fellowship with the Lord: No Christian worshipper could conceive of fasting without deep and vehement prayers, together they comprise direct fellowship with the Lord. Christ taught us the inevitability of prayer with fasting for our spiritual tussle when He said, “this kind (which entice to sin) does not go out (is not beaten) except by prayer and fasting.”(9)The Bible tells us about the strife of the saints that it always entails prayer and fasting; the prophetess Anna the daughter of Phanuel “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day”(10) and that the apostles Paul and Barnabas “appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed”(11) St Paul mentions that in his marvelous ministry “in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations… in sleeplessness (tearful prayers,) in fastings…” (12) Our Lord Himself did not need to fast, strive, weep, or endure all these tribulations, but He did to guide me to follow His suit. For my sake, and with amazing humility, He prayed, “For their sakes, I sanctify Myself!”(13)
My deepest belief is that every child of Christ, who lives his life with his Savior in close-ness, can never find in the holy Forty-day Fasting period but all spiritual joy, factual re-pentance, and irreplaceable opportunity to offer a pure sacrifice to his Savior, distancing his heart away from all malice and hatred, filling it with all peace and love for all, so God would accept his sacrifice of fasting and prayer of love.
And Glory Be to God.
1. Joel 1:14
2. Isaiah 58:6
3. Romans 12:2
4. Isaiah 58:6
6. Dueteronomy 14:22
7. Dueteronomy 16:11
8. Isaiah 58:7
9. Matthew 17:21
10. Luke 2:37
11. Acts 14:23
12. 2Corinthians 6: 4,5
13. John 17:19