The Fast of Great Lent begins today, and I am beyond excited. Maybe it’s because there’s a lot going on in my life, what with my new home, my husband’s new job, and my friend’s illness. I just feel like I need the kind of revival that only Lent (and later Holy Week) can provide. I need sorrowful tunes and Old Testament prophecies.
After writing a detailed post on how we fast in the Coptic tradition, I promised a follow-up post about why we fast.
I think it’s almost impossible to write a single definitive post about why we fast. There are so many benefits that I am overwhelmed with where to start. There are hundreds of sermons on the topic. What can I add to the conversation? So instead I’ll summarize:
1. By fasting, we give opportunity to our spirits to be lifted up.
2. By fasting, we learn to control our senses.
3. By fasting and prayer, we cast out demons.
4. We fast so we can get to heaven faster (my daughter’s contribution to this list).
Most simply put, we fast as a way to “discipline the body and bring it to subjection” (1 Cor. 9:27). We neglect the body to feed the soul. We deny our stomachs and enrich our lives with prayers and charitable deeds.
My mom pointed out the other day that she truly feels that, when we learn to fast from food, we build the discipline needed to abstain from other things. I know how to put aside earthly things. I practiced as a teen when cupcakes were handed out at school, and I had to let them pass me by, for the sake of my growing relationship with God.
I need to fast to empty myself of the world to give room for God to come in and fill me. In order for the fast to have true effect, I must also empty myself of sin, of worries and worldly concerns. I should be praying more, serving more, giving more during Lent (and other fasts). The goal of the fast is to abide in Him and push out all the distractions that keep me from focusing on God and seeking His face wholeheartedly. With Him is joy, peace, love, nourishment…
Fr. Anthony Messeh has a great sermon series called “Hungering for God” focused on the Advent fast.