Sunday, November 29, 2015

During the Nativity Fast

 The Nativity Fast continues...

The Fast is a time of cleansing the soul and body. It is considered, and quite rightly so, that for a Christian cleansing is necessary not only for its own sake, in general, but also so that one might worthily commune of the Holy Gifts of Christ. Therefore, people are right in saying that the Fast exists so that during the Fast one may become “worthy” to receive Communion. That is true because fasting, abstinence, and asceticism are good means toward repentance. This is something that should be emphasized: fasting is not the goal of religious life, but merely a means [toward it].

However, repentance is something more than a means. If repentance is not the life in Christ itself, it is its actual well-spring, something so involved in [the goal of life in Christ], that it is as it were an integral part [of that life].

Without repentance, there can be no faith in Christ. The Gospel sermon addressed to sinful people begins with the words of the Forerunner and of the Lord Himself: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). Repentance is the elemental, archetypal religious state that turns us toward Christ.

One who does not perceive the unworthiness, defectiveness, sinfulness and weaknesses with which he satisfies himself…does not see the need for God, and blindly believes that he can get along without Him.

However, one who perceives his own sinfulness, his impotency, his helplessness and limitations, one who is sorrowed by them and wants to be renewed and become the richer for it, one who turns to God and cries out as if from the depths of a pit, “Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord. Lord hear my voice. Hear me, for I am poor and in need!” (Ps. 129:1) – such a person is on a religious path; he is no longer self-contented, but wants to rise up out of himself and turn his attention beyond the bounds of his being. Thus, fasting is beneficial towards evoking in ourselves feelings of repentance. A sense of repentance can also appear in the absence of fasting. An example would be the thief on the cross who turned to Christ and in the blink of an eye, repented. You do not need a lot of time to repent. It is possible to repent in the blink of an eye! There were times when many martyrs would come to Christ without having fasted or made any other “preparation.” It may be possible through means other than fasting to be sanctified and “be made worthy” to commune of the Holy Gifts. But it is impossible to do so without repentance. It is impossible to come to Christ dressed in filthy garments. God said, “Ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:45). The morally unclean should not, and simply cannot, approach God and see Him. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Moreover, one cannot prepare for communion of His Holy Gifts without vesting the heart in “wedding” garments. 

Read the rest here.

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