Tag Archives: fasting

Why the Ethiopian Orthodox Lenten Fast?

A few days ago at lunch with my guides I decided to share their Lenten fast. They follow the tradition of the ancient Christian church to abstain from meat, poultry, milk, eggs and butter and basically live on vegetables. It is not so difficult to follow the discipline in a culture that supports it. Every restaurant has Lenten fasting menus and the fast is no sacrifice at all in that all the vegetables are organic and spiced so well that the Lenten fare is a gourmet delight! Today at lunch when they brought to the table another wonderful vegetable dish, I thought if this is a fast bring it on. Seriously, I am so happy to share the fast with my devout Ethiopian driver and guide.

This fast affirms my solidarity with them in faith. They are Orthodox and I am Catholic however I feel such a kindred spirit. Ultimately one fasts for spiritual reasons however at the same time it is a public witness we share the same faith. And that to me is very spiritual. After all our belief in Jesus must be incarnate in all of our relationships. Today my guide told me his recently deceased uncle who was my age, was a priest at Saint Michael Church in Lalibela. That has made my sharing the Ethiopian lenten fast. Even more important to me. I decided to embrace the fast of the host country that has made me feel so welcomed.

My driver and my guide Alex and I are keeping the lenten fast together as brothers in faith. The smile on their face is a joy that is the fruit of the spiritual discipline. This tour is becoming for me a Lenten pilgrimage.


Blow the Trumphet in Sion! Proclaim a Fast! Call an Assembly!

These words of the prophet Joel will be proclaimed on March 5, Ash Wednesday. These prophetic words summon us to embrace the Lenten fast of forty days. May we embrace the Lenten Fast in the spirit of the words of the hymn, “Again we keep this Solemn fast” attributed to Pope Saint Gregory the Great: “More sparing, therefore let us make, the words we speak, the food we take.” Fasting is not an end in itself but rather a means to attain a deepening of prayer when we go to the heart room of our soul to which Jesus calls us through the Gospel of Ash Wednesday. ”But when you pray go to your inner room. Close the door and pray to your Father in secret.” (Mt. 6:6) Fasting cultivates the interior silence of our inner room, that is, our soul, so we pray to our Father that our lives bear the fruit of charity.

In the words of Saint Paul we must pray always. Lent is an invitation to deepen our life of prayer through the effort to attend daily Mass as much as possible and Stations on Friday evening. During the Lenten Fast make a good confession, which is the sacrament where we proclaim and celebrate the mercy of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. This takes discipline but then again it bears the fruit of charity. A very simple exercise would be to pray in the morning and evening the Lenten prayer of the fourth century doctor of the church, Saint Ephraim the Syrian:

O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement, lust of power and idle chatter.
Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humble-mindedness, patience, and love.

May Lent be our path of repentance for these 40 days as we journey to the renewal of our spirit when we will celebrate for the 50 days the joy of Paschaltide! So then may we slow down a bit during these 40 days. Consider turning off the radio or limit time on the internet and maybe be so bold as to turn off the TV or at least severely limit viewing time. This takes discipline however it gives us time to go to that inner room which is our heart and soul so we may concentrate on what is most important, which is our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, who for our sake, “God made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Lent is the acceptable time to examine our life in the light of our Catholic faith to reform our imagination. For example, we can take a break from manufactured entertainments in the media and look at things bearing much more meaning. As part of this I can recommend Monsignor Lane’s blog on symbolism in art. Read some of the entries and spend some time looking at the paintings. Click on most any of the paintings to get a larger version so you can see the details. You may wish to start with these:

Archbishop Chaput put it so well in an article for CatholicPhilly.com, “Lent is an opportunity and a grace, not a burden. May we use the weeks of Lent this year to clean and ready our hearts so we can receive Jesus Christ this Easter, and share his life throughout 2014.”

So when we hear the trumpet blow in Sion on Ash Wednesday may we enter into the Great Lenten Fast with eagerness of faith and boldness of spirit.

Recommended Reading, Lenten Meditations

Ash Wednesday will be here very soon, on March 5, and we will be in Lent. It is a good time to take stock of where we are spiritually, but a better time to go deeper spiritually. The Catholic Church provides many ways for us to do that: fasting, abstinence from meat, Mass on Ash Wednesday, and so on. You are very much encouraged to come to daily Mass. Schedules do not always allow for that, though, so perhaps a book of short meditations that you could pick up at the end of a busy day would be helpful. Here are some recommended books. The Aquinas can be read online free of charge. The others are available various formats including Kindle.

Meditations for Lent, by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

Aquinas’ Lenten Meditations

Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches, by George Weigel

At the Foot of the Cross – Gerald Vann, an English Dominican
7 lessons of Mary for the Sorrowing Heart

The Seven Last Words of Jesus by Romanus Cessario, OP