Encounters with God: from what I have lived and heard close to my Father and brothers and sisters in Christ (IV)

  • Posted on: 12 September 2017
  • By: delia

The modern deceit: to read for 2-3 hours from spiritual books, but when you start praying, you say something for 2-3 minutes and you fall asleep because you are too tired.

Other notes about fastening

A ‘penalty’ which is worth trying during fast is that of non-eating during meals. This helps those who wish to acquire watchfulness of the mind and to attract grace of God; it helps within the fight against the devil. Constantly snacking on something between meals shows our inability to control ourselves.

If we do not understand what the fast means, we transform it into a bodily ritual, we live it very superficially; then it is normal that at a certain moment we do not grasp its meaning and we  become disappointed that God does not answer our prayers - some of us even give up fasting. If one keeps the fast just for the sake of keeping it, with disgust, hate and stubbornness against God, it is better to stop fasting and to talk honestly with God, and the reward will be greater.

Let us pray so that God gives us the right understanding about what fasting means and then everything will become easy and pleasant for us. If we would await the fasting period with love because we understand its benefits, then we would truly enjoy it and it would not seem difficult anymore; we would not struggle with the culinary aspect of it and we would begin to focus on other aspects, to use our energy for other purposes.

Normally, an Orthodox Christian is unable to watch TV during fast. The news, for example, only upset us and fills us with all types of spirits - spirits of rebellion, of deception or of fornication. Whether we agree or not, whether we like or not what we see, it is impossible to remain neutral after we watch news that apparently are supposed to be the most neutral of all TV broadcasts.

Not watching TV can enhance our chance to find out who we are and what is in us and who is in us, the chance to become once again our own masters, the masters of our own words. If we cannot give up watching TV entirely, we should at least begin to limit the time we spend before it.

Fasting also calls us to introspection. During our first fasts we pay attention to what we eat, but when man reaches another level of understanding, this aspect becomes less important. It all comes down to attitude, to how we relate to what we eat; we can eat peas on a daily basis and we may not be fasting because we love them and we eat them every day.

Since there is a brotherly bond that ties all in a community, a single thought of judgment brings great disharmony, a major destabilization of the community’s spirit. We need to understand that the role of the fast is to form in us a healthy attitude towards God and towards our neighbour, through the avoidance of any kind of divisions, of which judgement is the champion.

It is a grave matter that we have drifted away from God and from our brother, but even more serious is the fact that we have moved away from ourselves and we no longer know who we are. We cannot imagine heaven with a man whom we could not stand during our lifetime. It is very important to spare one another. If you judged someone, you should not go to tell him that you have judged him because he might not bear this.

Let’s be slow in hurting one another! Let’s not ‘refresh’ ourselves by saying words of revenge to the person who has upset us because while wounds can be healed, the scars will still remain. Let’s seek inspiration through all the spiritual means available to us so that we can start to truly live the things that we know only in theory.

The modern deceit: to read for 2-3 hours from spiritual books, but when you start praying, you say something for 2-3 minutes and you fall asleep because you are too tired.

People can bear a fast when it is done for medical reasons, but when it is for God, nothing works, there is a certain spirit that impedes us when it comes to following Christ. We should be aware that the devil will not remain quiet; when we start fasting he will come to try to stop us.

When we take into account the aim of fast, the unimportant aspects of our daily life will pass without significantly shaking our body and spirit. We must always remember the goal and the meaning of our time here. When we bow down before someone, it means that we make ourselves dust and earth before him and we beg forgiveness for what we have done wrong. The stronger the grace of God is within us, the easier we will forget the wound and we will forgive the offence that our brother has caused us.

Becoming humble is a noble deed before God. Grace lives in the little ones, not in the great ones, says Saint Silouan. The humbler man becomes, the more he soars on the path of self-impoverishment, the higher he will stand before God and the greater his ability to receive the  Grace of God. When we think ill of anyone at all, the consequences of the bad thought begin to work and, by virtue of this phenomenon, the other will respond in the same way: so it is never possible to know who has begun, which is why we pray: ‘Lord, let me see my trespasses’. It would be good to learn Saint Ephraim the Syrian’s prayer - specific to Great Lent - and to say it at least a few times a day.