Fasting: [Always] Coming Soon

Now that we are three weeks into the Advent fast, it’s about time we ask ourselves: Am I fasting the way I’m actually supposed to?

Let’s have a look at what true fasting is supposed to look like, shall we?

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
– Isaiah 58:6-7

This here is true fasting. It isn’t about reading every ingredient on every box or bottle. It isn’t about nitpicking or these minute details. True fasting is about giving what you have – your food, your money, your time, your prayer – to the suffering. It’s about neglecting your flesh, neglecting your own body and own earthly desires, and instead focusing on the heavenly and on the will of the Heavenly. And what is this will? It’s loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and it’s loving His children with that same love.

And believe it or not, by putting others and putting God before myself I gain so much! As we continue to the chapter, we find 10 promises that the Lord grants us when we fast the true, godly fast:

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,

The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
 The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
– vv. 6-14

Let’s break it down:

  1. You will be able “To loose the bonds of wickedness,
    To undo the heavy burdens,
    To let the oppressed go free,
    And that you break every yoke” (v. 6)
  2. “Your light shall break forth like the morning” (v. 8)
  3. “Your healing shall spring forth speedily” (v. 8)
  4. “Your righteousness shall go before you” (v. 8)
  5. “The glory of God shall be your rear guard” (V. 8)
  6.  …you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (v. 9)
  7.  The Lord will guide you continually,
    And satisfy your soul in drought,
    And strengthen your bones;
    You shall be like a watered garden,
    And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (v. 11)
  8. “…you
    Shall build the old waste places;
    You shall raise up the foundations of many generations” (v. 12)
  9. “…you shall delight yourself in the Lord” (v. 14)
  10. And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
    And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father” (v. 14)

Therefore let us examine the rest of our fast, and see to it that we fast the way God intended so that we may receive the blessings of these promises.

And in honor of the fast, here is my all-time favorite Fasting Trailer, courtesy of St. Mary’s Church in Toronto:

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Stronger Than A Thousand Mighty Men

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
– 1 Corinthians 1:18

This verse is kind of easy to gloss over. When I read through 1 Corinthians at one point or another I had underlined it, but that’s it. I feel like a lot of the time we read verses such as this one and think, That’s a nice sentiment, having the power of God, and then we move on to the next one.

We need to stop. We need to meditate in what “the power of God” really means. The power of God is not something neat or kind of cool. It is awesome, in the true, original meaning of the word: The power of God is so great that it fills people with awe and wonder. It moves mountains – literally! It heals the sick, lifts up the dead, disperses demons, even forgives sins. And that’s only to name a few!

Even before Christ walked this earth and showed us some of what He is made of, it was evident how incredible God’s power is:
The three saintly youth (Daniel 3:19-30)- God’s power kept the flames of the furnace from harming Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they praised God.
Daniel (Daniel 6:10-23)- God’s power kept the lions from devouring him.
Or how about Elijah! He caused a drought (1 Kings 17:1-7). He raised a young man from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24). He brought fire down from heaven (1 Kings 18:20-40)!

And there are countless more wonders that have been done through the power of God!

elijah

Just listen to what King David had to say about merely the voice of God:

The voice of the LORD is powerful;
The voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars,
Yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes them also skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD divided the flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth,
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”
– Psalm 29:4-9

The power of God is not just some nice, abstract idea. It is alive as He is alive. And if I am live through His resurrection, then the power of God is alive in me. If I truly have faith, even of a mustard seed (do you know how tiny those things are?!), then I could literally move mountains from one part of the earth to another; look at St. Simon the Tanner! He was just an average Joe like you and me, except for one thing: he had real faith. And with that faith he moved a mountain!

Or even more recently than that, people like Abouna Makary Younan, who casts out demons daily!

The power of God is real, and it is very present. And it does not just belong in the times of the apostles or early Church martyrs.

Which brings me to the next part, the “how” part. How do I attain the power of God within me? How do I find the faith I need? How can I be like Daniel, like Elijah, like the apostles?

Two words: the cross. 

There is no way around it. There is no way above it or below it. You know how in “Finding Nemo” Marlin and Dory don’t want to go through the deep, dark abyss so they swim above it instead? That isn’t an option here. The only way to have the power of God in me is through the cross. 

The entire premise of this verse centers around “the message of the cross”. The cross is what gives us this power. The only way to attain the power of God is to live the resurrected life. And to live the resurrected life, I must first die the death of the cross.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
– Romans 6:8-9

Take a look at the players mentioned above:
The three saintly youth still had to go into the fire.
Daniel still had to enter the den of lions.
Elijah was terrified for his life, was living alone in a cave, and thought he was the only follower of God left on the earth.

Each and every one of the key players in the Bible or Synaxarium carried a cross in one form or another. Every one of them offered his or her life as a sacrifice for the Lord.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
– Romans 12:1

It is only through putting to death the old man in me, the flesh, the earthly nature, that I will be able to live a true and resurrected life. And only then will I be able to live with the power of God in me.

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
– John 12:24

Imagine the wonders God could do through us, the grain, the fruit, if we would just die to ourselves and live for Him instead.

I May Sound Silly to Me and Everyone Else…

There are few mornings where I will pray my agpeya out loud. It’s unfortunate, because that’s the best way to do it. I’m usually rushing myself to finish so I can start studying and prepare for another day of doom (that is, pharmacology).

Today was an out-loud kind of day for me. And I’ll be honest, I’m no Ibrahim Ayad. In fact, I do not sound good. Those of you who know me know that I don’t have the worst voice in the world, but man when it comes to putting a tune to the psalms or the Gospel reading, hoo-wee! I sound like a dying animal to myself!

And yet, I still do it. I still pray out loud when I can, and even though I’m making my ears bleed, it still makes me so joyful. There is a level of peace that comes with praying the agpeya, but then there’s a whole other level of peace that comes with praying it with the elongated, meaningful tunes (accurate or not).

I very highly recommend you try it! It’s wonderful, guaranteed, or your money back! (Not that you’ve paid me anything, but even if you did, you wouldn’t want it back).