More Reflection on fasting Ash Wed From the ‘Soul Institute’

This morning for the closing prayer the priest prayed these words, “That our Lenten fast may be pleasing to you and be for us a healing remedy.”

Father Charles M. Murphy in his book ‘The Spirituality of Fasting’ writes, ” In a much-read and discussed book, ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals’ Michael Pollan describes what he diagnoses as ‘our natural eating disorder.’…Our national eating disorder explains how dieting has replaced fasting for many people. People diet, of course, in order to achieve better health. Often, however, dieting becomes an obsession if individuals has absorbed cultural models of beauty and attractiveness that are inhuman and oppressive and that cause them to hate themselves and their bodies…The psychological problems of anorexia and bulimia are very complex and difficult to treat. For persons so suffering, the notion of being overweight becomes something horrific and repulsive. In this regard Aelred Squire, a scholar of early Church History, has made this helpful observation:

‘It may well be though that Western man in particular has reached such a degree of psychological alienation from his body that to help him to fast and to mortify his bodily life without helping him to change his attitude towards it is to try to push him further in the direction which, if left to himself, he must in the end inevitably accomplish his own destruction.’

The July 16, 2007, issue of Time magazine had as it cover story, ‘How we get addicted: New brain research is helping us understand why we get hooked – and how we many get cured.’ It author, Michael D, Lemonick, argued that the solution are new designer drugs that show promise in cutting off the craving that drives an addict towards relapse. These drugs change the chemistry of the brain…My intentions, says the author of this book on fasting, is to re-introduce Catholic and others to the life-enhancing practices of fasting and abstinence and to the vision of life upon which these are based…Fasting and abstinence are part of the greater life that God intends for us.”

Father Charles writes, “The body can be seen as the ‘text’ of the soul, the medium for reading the inner working of the human person. Thus we have a true understanding of the meaning of fasting and how fasting differs from the modern conception of dieting. Dieting focuses only on the body, but fasting focuses on the heart and its transformation. As Peter Brown rightly observes, ‘In the desert tradition, the body was allowed to become the discreet mentor of the proud soul. Of all the lessons of the desert to a late antique thinker, what was most truly astonishing was that the immortal spirit can be purified and refined by clay.’”

Thoughts for the day: Fasting brings healing. There is an old saying that is true, “Eat to live. Don’t live to eat.” Fasting can help us rid the body of toxins. We are to put to death the old Adam in each of us, so that the life of Christ may shine through us. Fasting is a beautiful way to put to death the unruly desires in us that prevent the life of Jesus from shining through us.

Some wisdom on fasting from the Church Fathers.

St John Cassian “A clear rule for self-control handed by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry.”

St Jerome “Fasting is not an absolute virtue, but the foundation of other virtues”

Pseudo-Clement “Fasting is better than prayer, but alms giving is better than both.”

Tertullian “Feed prayer on fasting”

Prayer for the day
Holy Spirit give me the gift of a desire to fast and abstain from what I don’t truly need
Holy Spirit help me to see that food and drink are a gift from you and that I may use them the way that you intended them to be used.
Holy Spirit help me to give up this small thing today (Let Holy Spirit give you the what) so that I can live what St Paul says, if I eat or drink I do all for the greater glory of God

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