Tags

, ,

On the Importance of Observing Lent

by Saint Philaret, Metropolitan of New York

 It is amazing with what little concern so many of us regard the Church fasts.  These fasts are broken and not observed by people with such a quiet conscience, as if a trifling and insignificant matter were occurring.  The Church’s view is altogether different.  According to its teaching, breakers of Lent, without a worthy reason, must be denied Holy Communion for several years.  St. Seraphim of Sarov said straightforwardly:

“He who does not observe Lent is not a Christian, regardless of who he considers himself to be or what he calls himself….”

Lent is unconditionally necessary for man.  Externally, Lent is a spiritual struggle of absolute, filial obedience to the Church, which teaching should be sacred to him, not something to be neglected or trampled.  Internally, Lent is a struggle of self-denial.  In this lies its great value and meaning insofar as a strict observance of Lent tempers man’s will and successively improves his character, making him steadfast in his religious convictions and actions.  Let us not forget that Christ Himself fasted and foretold that His Apostles would also fast.  He said of the evil diabolical power that,

“That kind does not leave except by prayer and fasting.”

It is often said today that Lent is harmful for our health. Of course, instances occur when an organism does not need fasting but increased nourishment.   The Church does not demand a strict fast from the sick, but only according to their strength.  The main thing which we must remember is that only people who do not observe Lent themselves speak about the “harmfulness” of Lent.  Those who observe Lent will never say this for they know that Lent is not only harmless but positively beneficial for physical health, from their own personal experience.  We are convinced of this historical reality.  It is well known how strictly our ancestors used to fast, amazing other Slavs and Greeks, not to mention the heterodox with their firmness and endurance.  Who will say that our ancestors were weaker than we, that we are more tenacious and stronger than they?  We are not even mentioning the fact that our doctors, in many cases, start the treatment of illness with a fasting diet.

Of course, Lent is not only the restriction of physical food.  During the days of Lent, the Church sings:

“Fasting physically, let us also fast spiritually … Let us give the hungry bread and lead the homeless into our house … A true fast is the alienation of evil, the curbing of the tongue, the putting aside of fury, the removal of lust, speaking evil, deceit, and oath breaking …”

For a Christian, Lent is a time of denial and self-education in all respects.  The Christian fast, required from the faithful, gives them great moral satisfaction,  A great teacher of shining Christian asceticism, Bishop Theophan the Recluse, says the following about Lent:

“Lent seems to be gloomy until you enter into its sphere of action; but only begin and you will see that this is light after night, freedom after fetters, alleviation after a burdened life.”

 

 

“Essays on Moral Theology for Young Students”, Harbin 1936

 

Advertisements