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Fr. Markus Solo SVD – Fasting: Hold firmly toward resurrection

http://www.sesawi.net/2012/03/09/fasting-hold-firmly-toward-resurrection/

Fasting: Hold firmly toward resurrection

 

by: Rev. Fr.  Markus Solo Kewuta SVD

March 9, 2012 | Filed under: Prapaskah |  | 355 views

 

FASTING has always been an integral element of the spirituality of religions, including Christianity. Through fasting, a Christian is making an extraordinary experience of renouncing himself, being in harmony with God and others, and being ready to follow God’s commandments.

In Christianity fasting refers to the Greek word nestewo, meaning “not eating”. The Latin translation ieiunium is similar to the Greek version, which means empty, referring to the stomach.

In the third century, the Goths (ancient Germanic people) used the word fastan which became fasten. Prior to takeoff, each plane passenger must “fasten their seat belt”. This means “hold yourself firm in your seat to prevent an accident”. You will be safe if you hold firm.

The Christian Lent is a 40-day period, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter night. Mathematically, it is a total of 46 days, but on the six Sundays one is not expected to fast. This corresponds to the 40-day fasting of Jesus in the desert. Before the Synod of Benevento, Italy, in 1091, the days of fasting included Sundays.

Sundays are not included in the fasting days due to the fact that on Sunday, Christians around the world celebrate the memorial of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, which is the key event of God’s salvation work in human life. This joyful remembrance, therefore, cannot be suited to fasting (see Tertullian, De Corona, 3,3B).

During the time of fasting, Christians try intentionally to meditate on and internalize the passion of Christ through the intense celebration of the Way of Cross in the church.

This liturgical practice is represented practically by fasting, avoiding meats, alcohol and rich meals on Wednesday as remembrance of the day of the capture of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and on Friday due to the death of Jesus in Golgotha. Meats and alcohol are prohibited due to their festive character which is not in the line with fasting.

Nowadays, fasting among Christians has a broader scope along with greater awareness regarding environment and health. There are both single and collective initiatives such as car-fasting, Internet-fasting, TV-fasting, etc. Yet, such initiatives must be purified and clearly oriented spiritually in order not to lose its character that is based on the passion of Jesus Christ.

The call for repentance on Ash Wednesday refers also to the situation of human beings: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”. Heaven is the eternal destination. Therefore, direct your life towards eternity.

Fasting means not only repentance, but also prayer and almsgiving. Prayer is the opening of hearts and almsgiving is the expression of sincere solidarity with those in need out of love for how God loved the world.

In the Old Testament, the Prophet Moses fasted 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai, before he received the revelation of the Ten Commandments. The Prophet Daniel fasted prior to his great visions. The Israelis fasted in order to acquire the willingness to listen to God and to be guided by His words. Fasting enabled them to listen to God and receive his revelation.

The 40-day fasting of Jesus in the desert in The New Testament gave him a special and divine authorization to start his mission to the public in Galilee by appealing to repentance. The long period of abstinence made him able to recognize the temptation of Satan, who was misusing the Biblical verses.

Through fasting, Jesus reiterated that human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Bread, symbolizing secular goods, could lead human beings to glorify materialism and to forget God.

The word of God, on the other hand, is spiritual food and an eternal guarantee for the faithful on the pilgrimage towards eternal life. “Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Christian fasting appears similar to saum/siyam of the Muslims during the month of Ramadan: in order to bring the mu’minan (the believers) closer to Allah and to be ready to receive the revelation of the Koran on the night of power (laylat al-qadr). The Christian journey of 40 days of abstinence, meditating on the passion of Christ in order to receive the resurrected Jesus on Easter Sunday, has an awe and sobriety expressed through “not eating” and “holding firm”.

Although being different in respective rules and practices, both Christianity and Islam emphasize the same internal, spiritual purpose of fasting which is being firm on the path of God, being closer to Him in order to acknowledge him through the revelation in His Words, to hear His voice and to internalize His commandments. This must be done along with prayers and social charity for the poor.

The Bible tells the story of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin due to a lack of abstinence. They disobeyed the commandment of God and acted following their own desires and decisions, thus abusing free will. But fasting reminds Christians of hope in the compassion and mercifulness of God to bring weak human beings to new life in Jesus Christ.

Jesus prepares a meal for his disciples to break the fast since his death. All is now at an end and a royal meal, in which Jesus becomes as servant, begins.

This is the new attitude in the spirit of resurrection: “Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant”.

Jesus shows a new value to fasting in the context of resurrection: It is also about hospitality and our relationship to each other.

Whoever wants to be great and honored, must serve others in love and justice. God himself will be there if we are each other’s hosts and guests, as he will be when all fasting ends in His Kingdom.

 The writer works at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Desk Asia, at the Holy See, in the Vatican

Sumber: The Jakarta Post

 

About Romo Markus Solo Kewuta SVD
Imam Kongregasi Serikat Sabda Allah (SVD), ahli Islamologi dan kini bertugas sebagai Sekretaris Pribadi Kardinal Jean-Louis Tauran yang menjabat Kepala Kantor Hubungan Antaragama Vatikan di Roma.


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