Fasting: Freeing Our Selves from Slavery

The time period from August 1-14 is in the Orthodox Church the Dormition Fast.  This two week summer lenten period is a preparation for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.  This is the last of the Twelve Major Feasts of the Orthodox Church calendar year which begins with New Year Day on September 1.    Orthodox are often reminded that fasts are not supposed to be burdens put on us during the course of the year but rather are supposed to be joyous periods which lighten our burden in the world by helping us gain mastery over things which dominate our lives, including our own appetites.  Hieromonk Calinic (Berger) writes:

“Because they have our healing and our glory as their goal, the Church’s fasting periods are also periods of joy. How can we but rejoice, when we free ourselves from so many things that dominate us? For this reason the Church calls Lent the period of ‘bright sadness’ or ‘joy-making mourning.’ It is a joy of renewal. Our hymns repeat this theme: ‘With great gladness let us accept the proclamation of the Fast.’ The idea is wholly Biblical: ‘The fast of the fourth month…shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore, love truth and peace’ (Zach 8:19). Our Lord Himself commanded us not to be of ‘sad countenance’ while fasting but to wash our faces and anoint our heads (Mt 6:16). The period of fasting is not a period of gloom and of being morose but of hope that things can be better through a healing change. Therefore it is a period of light, energy and inner renewal. All Christians who keep the fast experience this power.” (Challenges of Orthodox Thought & Life, p 103)

Obviously we can turn a fast into a legalistic keeping of rules imposed on us, or we can look to change our daily habits in order to free ourselves to seek God in our daily lives.

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