The fast begins in full this week for our Lenten season.
When I was Catholic Lent always started out by deciding what I would give up for 40 days.Usually I would try to pick one thing that I truly favored like chocolate or tv and would do pretty well with that one thing.But being orthodox requires a whole list of things to give up: meat,fish with a spine,olive oil,dairy,wine and I'm sure there is something else I'm missing because there is always something else,orthodoxy is like that.
Some days can be much more difficult to give these things up and when I'm having an especially tough time of it on those days,I just work on giving up one thing until my resolve comes back to me.
I try to remind myself that this is not a sacrifice it is a discipline,which we are all lacking and if I fail on one day I just try better the next.Fasting is not to deprive our selves its to help strenghten us.It is believed if we can control what we put into our mouths it will be much easier to control what comes out of our mouths and believe me not putting into my mouth is always easier then not letting certain unnecessary speech come out of my mouth.
Anyways I have resolved that being a human being and not a very saintly one at that,there is only so much success one can expect and it is far more important to try and fail then not try at all.Maybe that's what fasting really is its the understanding that not being perfect does not mean giving up.It means getting back up and trying again and again and again until we get a glimpse of where we need to be.
success is not always measured in feet or yards but sometimes in inches and every inch counts for something and helps us to build on our foundation which is our belief in God.
God does not expect us to be perfect he expects us to be human but I think he wants us to be the better part of human which is something we need to work on daily.He wants us at some point in our day to realize what we are saying or doing is not the direction we need to be in and make the correction.
Jesus said all the law lays on the fact that we must love God will all our heart soul and mind and we should love our neighbors.That's all he ask.It seems so simple doesn't it? But its not its the most difficult thing you will do with your day.It requires you to be patient when your full of anger,kind when you are upset,understanding when you are resentful and caring when your hurried.
Love is not easy it is very opposite to our daily emotions it goes against the grain and takes time to think about and put into practice,especially with total strangers or our enemies.
During lent there are always two books I try to read,even if I don't finish them during the appointed 40 days.One is the orthodox way and the second is the teachings of St.Francis.Both books help me to try to remember I am a spiritual person and how to acquire,through simple acts,true focus in my life.
When I was catholic I lived with a great deal of guilt about my short comings. orthodoxy as taught me that we all fall short of the mark and to not try again is a greater sin then failing repeatedly.
So at this period of fasting and lent let us remember if we do one kind act every day for 40 days we will have accomplished forty pieces of love in less then six weeks and one good act is always worth the multiple bad acts we thoughtlessly do through out the year.
One prayer I will share with you,that helps to keep me focused on the reason for lent goes like this:
Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred,let me sow love.
Where there is injury,pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair,hope.
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console.
To be understood as to understand.
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Lent is to be taken one day at a time,one meal at a time and one act of kindness at a time and in hind sight we will see how much we have gained in our forty days and maybe be better people through our whole year.