Imitating Christ: One OF Us

That a Christian is one who both follows Christ and imitates Him seems pretty straightforward.  Jesus Himself told us:

“You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”  (John 13:13-17)

Today in American English we often hear the “you” of these commandments in the singular.  We are so attuned to individualism that we assume this is a command for each off us to keep individually, and yet the command is spoken in the plural and means that all of us together are to love one another.  Christ is an example to each of us personally, but then calls us to act communally as brothers and sisters.  We as parish are to serve all.  Christ gives an example to each of us, and together, communally, collectively, as a body, as a parish we are to fulfill the commandment together.

In this same discourse but a minute later Christ goes on to say:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

Again he addresses himself to each of us personally but calls us to love together, collectively and communally.  We are to be recognized as disciples not just an individual disciple.  We are recognized as disciples in community.  The parish is essential for our identity and witness.  In the parish community we can and are to fulfill the commandment that we together do what Christ commanded us to do.  This is very much what the early church understood about being Christian and discipleship:  one Christian, or a Christian alone, is no Christian.  Only in community can we love as Christ commanded us to do.  Of course we each have to contribute to this communal behavior, but it is always each of us have to work together to love as Christ exemplified and commanded us to do.

The plural “you” – we, us – is also in St. Paul’s exhortation:

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  (Rom. 15:7)

Christ welcomes us and receives us.  It is as one of us that we live our Christian life.

“Let us commend our selves, and one another and all our life to Christ our God.”

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Vicious Gossip vs. The Vivifying Gospel

Jesus said:  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  (John 13:34)

Anyone who has worked to love another, knows how much energy this requires.  It is easy for us to say that we love someone, but life shows us how much love can demand from us.  Spouses realize over a lifetime of marriage that love requires a great deal from them – demands things they never imagined would be required if you truly desire to love someone.  Parents bring their children into the world, and desire to love them, but again learn that love demands much of us in ways we cannot even imagine.   Just on a daily level, even when things are going well in our family, we realize that loving, forgiving, apologizing, overlooking faults, dealing with personalities drains a lot of energy, and yet this is what love requires.

Wrestling with love occurs in our lives as Christians as well.  Desiring to be a Christian while living in the world tests the limits of our love.  This was also the experience of monks who left everything to follow Christ.  It is easy to imagine that going to a monastery – where one naively believes “everyone is committed to Christ and Christ’s love just like I am” – will be the perfect world to work out one’s salvation.  But in the monastery too, love puts its demands on us – to deny ourselves in order to follow Christ.

The elders were keenly aware, from their own personal experience, of the high cost of fulfilling the commandment to love. Their reading of Scripture served to confirm this sense and to encourage them to risk loving even under extreme circumstances. It is startling, as we listen to the monks talk about the requirements of love, how literally they took the words of Scripture. Poemen’s interpretation of one Gospel text illustrates well the particular kind of demands love made upon the monks in their life in the desert, and how their reading of Scripture helped them to respond to these demands.

Abba Poemen saw the text, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13) as referring to just such a situation: “If someone hears an evil saying, that is, one which harms him, and in his turn, he wants to repeat it, he must fight in order not to say it. Or if someone is taken advantage of and he bears it, without retaliating at all, there he is giving his life for his neighbour.” Fulfilling the commandment, then, entailed having the courage to love in circumstances where one’s natural response would lead one in precisely the opposite direction.  (Douglas Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert, pp. 264-265)

 

Who Can Be a Christian?

What does it take to be a Christian?  Follow the law of Love, says St. Nicholas Cabasilas:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

“The ‘law of Love’ is the basis of his spirituality as [Cabasilas] writes in the sixth book of The Life in Christ.

‘This law demands no arduous nor afflicting work, nor loss of money; it does not involve shame, nor any dishonour, nor anything worse; it puts no obstacle in the pursuit of any art or profession.

The general keeps the power to command,

the labourer can work the ground,

the artisan can carry on with his occupation. There is no reason to retire into solitude, to eat unusual food, to be inadequately clothed, or endanger one’s health, or to resort to any other special endeavour;

it suffices to give oneself wholly to meditation and to remain always within oneself without depriving the world of one’s talents.'”  (Boris Bobrinskoy, The Life in Christ, p. 290)

The Joy of the Gospel Commandments

In Yesterday’s post, Enmity and Discernment, I mentioned the icon at the front entrance of our church, which I must pass every day that I’m in the building.  I cannot get to my office or to the sanctuary without  passing by my Lord who is telling me:

“I give to you a new commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Loving others is a command, not just an appropriate reaction to others.  It is to be a conscious choice of how we treat others, not an emotional response to how we feel about them.  The love we show them is not based upon how they treat us, or what they think about us – if it is, then we are behaving just like any sinner, but not like a Christian (Luke 6:32).

If we obey the Gospel command, it will have an effect on our heart.  What effect might it have on us if I love others as Christ loves me?

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever;

the ordinances of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  (Psalm 19:7-11)

Fulfilling Christ’s commandment impacts my soul by reviving it; my mind be giving it wisdom; my heart by filling it with joy; and my eyes by giving me true vision.  Every aspect of my being is touched by Christ when I obey His command to love others.

Enmity, Discernment

Each day when I enter the church, I see these words on an icon:

John 13:34
John 13:34

Those words have been part of my life, week in and week out for 20 years.  I cannot get to my office without passing by them.  Some days they seem to jump out at me and cause me to stop in my tracks.  Sometimes if I mindlessly walk by them, they call me back and I have to stop in front of them and remember.

Jesus’ only new commandment is that we are to love one another as He loved us.  Christ commands me to love others as He loves me.  That is a tall order for sure.  And every day I struggle with what it means and how I might do it, or even if it is possible for me to do it.   Of course, I can find ways to make the text more palatable and doable.  Since Jesus speaks to us (in the plural) he means that when we are gathered with other like-minded Christians who are all committed to Christian love, then we are to love them in that context since they will equally be loving us back.  But then, of course, Christ taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), so our Christian love isn’t limited to those who love us.  If it is, how are we any different than unbelievers?  (Luke 6:27, 35)

“We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil. With him never be reconciled! But with a brother, never be at enmity in your heart.” – St. John Chrysostom

“Prayer for our enemies is the very highest summit of self-control.” – St. John Chrysostom”

“Praying against one’s personal enemies is a transgression of the law [of the Gospel].” – St. John Chrysostom

Christ’s Gospel commandments are hard.  Sometimes they seem obscure, for how can we do them?  Is it humanly possible?  Perhaps, Christ just was a utopian idealist, and some day, in heaven or paradise or some distant place, a pie-in-the-sky La La land, things would be so very nice and polite.

However, we live in this world, in which there really are enemies, and people we don’t particularly like or want to be around.  What are we to say to Christ when He commands us to do something that seems too hard, or maybe even not possible?

“Yes, sir!”

He is our Lord, God and Master, and we are His servants.  So before every service I light a candle before this icon which portrays Christ’s commandment, and I have to lay aside all excuses, and say, “Yes, Lord!”  Bowing my head in humility, I also have to say, “Forgive me.”  Forgive me for doubting it is possible, for not even trying, for not being willing to deny myself in order to follow You, for wanting to sit at your right hand but not being willing to stand with you at the Cross.

“It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved. To look upon another – his weaknesses, his sins, his faults, his defects – is to look upon one who is suffering. He is suffering from negative passions, from the same sinful human corruption from which you yourself suffer. This is very important; do not look upon him with the judgmental eyes of comparison, noting the sins you assume you would never commit. Rather, see him as a fellow sufferer, a fellow human being who is in the need of the very healing of which you are in need. Help him, love him, pray for him, do unto him as you would have him do unto you.” – St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

(Quotes of the saints are from For the Peace from Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace, and Nationalism, pp 114-115)

 

Loving as Christ Loves Me

As I am able, I do Matins three times each week, as I have for the past 30 years.  I am a morning person and do appreciate morning prayers for orienting me throughout the day and through the week.  As I do Matins, I include the prescribed daily Scripture readings during the service, followed by a few minutes of silent meditation.  Matins now begins at 8:30am, as a result of my illnesses and the ongoing chemo, and the fatigue that comes with them.

Some mornings I am alone for Matins, but I never feel alone there.  Never feel like chastising parishioners for not showing up.  I enjoy Matins because it is a blessing for me.  I assume people will come if it is a blessing for them.

One morning, there were 3 parishioners present.  I have always felt blessed by my parish and the good people whom God has called together.

As we sat for the silent meditation I looked around and thought how I loved each of these three for different reasons and in different ways. The young mom is cute with her matching 4 year old daughter.  She seems to me always kind and friendly despite her suffering with an autoimmune illness. The one man is a good friend and intellectual equal with a very level headed attitude about everything.  I enjoy talking with him.  The other man suffers from mental illness and is an addict, and I feel great compassion for him and his many struggles.  He wants to be normal, and yet it escapes him as he escapes reality.

I think that I really do love them each for different reasons.  But then, into my head comes Christ’s words, “love one another even as I have loved you…” (John 13:34). Although I imagine that I really do love each of these my fellow parishioners, I realize I’m reacting to them, sympathizing and empathizing with them.  Yet this is still not how Christ loves me.  Christ is not merely empathetic and sympathetic to me.  He empties Himself for my salvation.  He dies for me, forgives me and restores my humanity to me.  He leads me to the kingdom of heaven.

I have to transfigure what I think of as my love so that I love them as Christ loves me. The love is not based in my emotions or assessment of each of them.  Rather the love is found in Christ.

I realize how far short I am of loving them as Christ loves me.  My love is imperfect, and more a feeling noun than an action verb.   I realize how far short I am from Christ’s teaching, and from His example.  Yet, He still takes time to speak to me.

I have to call to mind how Christ loves me, so that I can know how to rightly love them.  St. Paul puts it in these terms:  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).  To love others as Christ loves me means to be crucified with Christ and to have Christ live in me.  Again, St. Paul says: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” (Ephesians 5:1). I still have a long way to walk before I do that.  Yet I realize,  these days my walks are so much shorter than they used to be.

To Love as Christ Loves Us

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)

Silouan“Glory be to God that He has not left us comfortless but gave us the Holy Spirit on earth. The Holy Spirit teaches the soul ineffable love for mankind, and compassion for all who have gone astray. The Lord had pity on them that had gone astray, and sent His only-begotten Son to save them; and the Holy Spirit teaches this same compassion towards those who have erred, who go to hell. But he who does not possess the Holy Spirit has no wish to pray for his enemies. St. Paisius the Great prayed for his disciple who had denied Christ, and while he prayed, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Paissius, for whom dost thou pray? Knowest thou not that he denied me?’ But the Saint continued to weep for his disciple, and the Lord then said to him, ‘Paissius, thou hast become like unto me in thy love.’ After this fashion is peace acquired, and there is no other way. Though a man pray much, and fast, but has not love for his enemies he can know no peace of soul. And I should not even be able to speak of this, had not the Holy Spirit taught me love.”   (St. Silouan the Athonite, pp 314-315)

Do Unto Others: Love

John 13:34

In the Gospel lesson of  Luke 6:31-36, our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to treat others as we want others to treat us.  We are not to treat them as they treat us, but as we would want them to treat us.  Here we find Christ fleshing out a bit what it means to love others as He loved us (John 15:12), which He Himself called His new commandment.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

St. John Kronstadt (d. 1908) comments:

“Furthermore, love every man as yourself – that is, do not wish him anything that you would not wish for yourself; think, feel for him just as you would think and feel for your own self; do not wish to see in him anything that you that you do not wish to see in yourself; do not let your memory keep in it any evil caused to you by others, in the same way as you would wish that the evil done by yourself should be forgotten by others; do not intentionally imagine either in yourself or in another anything guilty or impure; believe others to be as well-intentioned as yourself, in general, if you do not see clearly that they are evilly disposed; do unto them as you would to yourself, or even do not do unto them as you would not do unto yourself, and then you will see what you will obtain in your heart – what peace, what blessedness! You will be in paradise before reaching it – that is, before the paradise in heaven you will be in paradise on earth. ‘The kingdom of God is within you,’ says the Lord. ‘He that dwelleth in love,’ teaches the Apostle, ‘dwelleth in God and God in him.’ ” (My Life in Christ, p 38)

How Will Others Know That We Are Christians?

The hymns from Great and Holy Monday give us some indication as to what it means to be a Christian.  Orthodoxy places a lot of emphasis on fasting during Lent, and yet fasting is not the goal of the spiritual life.  In the three hymns, below, we find some of the goals of the Christian spiritual life which were what we should have been aiming toward throughout Great Lent.

By this will all men know that you are my disciples,” said the Savior to His friends as He went to His passion, “if you will keep my commandments.  Be at peace among yourselves and with all men.  Think humbly of yourselves and you will be exalted.  And, knowing that I am the Lord, you will sing and exalt me throughout all ages.

Christ teaches us that people will be able to identify the disciples of Christ, not by how ascetical they are, how strictly they keep fasting rules, but if we keep Christ’s commandments.   While Christ commands a variety of things in the Gospels, we see a particular emphasis in what He commands:

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”  (Matthew 22:36-40)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  (John 13:34-35)

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  (John 15:12)

We are identifiable as Christ’s disciples, according to our Lord, when we love as He loved us, when we love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and when we love others as we love ourselves.    If we fail in these commandments to love, then we are not recognizable as Orthodox Christians, and all the Lenten self-denial in the world will not make us His disciples.

The mother of Zebedee’s Children, Lord, could not understand the ineffable mystery of your dispensation.  She asked the honor of a temporal kingdom for her sons, but instead you promised your friends that they should drink the cup of death, a cup that you would drink before them for the cleansing of sins.  Therefore, we cry out to you: O Salvation of our souls, glory to You!”

Discipleship, fasting, abstinence, self-control or self-denial will not help establish the Kingdom of God in this world.   They actually are world denying and teaching us to live for the Kingdom of Heaven.   We are not fasting in order to earn the right to sit at the right and left hand of Christ our Lord.  That thinking purely belongs to the fallen world.   We are trying to learn the values of Christ’s Kingdom, which means learning to deny the self in order to truly love and to move away from the self-serving, self-love we sometimes mistakenly think is what a Christian should aim for.  We are not trying to bribe God, pay God or manipulate God.  Our goal is to love God.  If Lenten efforts don’t bring us to that end, they have “missed the mark” (aka: ‘sin’; Greek: hamartia).

You taught Your disciples, Lord, to desire what is perfect, saying: ‘Be not like the Gentiles, who oppress the weak.  It shall not be so with you, My disciples.  For of My own will I am poor.   Let the first among you, therefore, be the servant of all.  Let the ruler be like those who are ruled.   Let him who is first be like the last.  For I have come to serve Adam in His poverty, and to give My life as a ransom for the many who cry to Me:  O Lord, glory to Your!‘”

Christ came to earth, and descended into Hades in order to serve Adam.  Christ comes to earth as a servant, to meet the needs of humanity.  He didn’t come to earth to become rich and powerful.  He was rich and powerful before leaving the divine throne to become incarnate on earth.

“... our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”  (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Christ gave up riches and power in order to serve us.  He didn’t come into the world as some powerful war lord or conquering emperor.  Rather He came humbly, riding on the ass into Jerusalem.   And humbly He went to Hades, as a servant, in order to serve humanity and lift us from our impoverished condition.  Christ raises us from the dead.  He does the heavy lifting and the work of a servant to free us from our enslavement.   He became the slave so that we might become rich with the blessings of divinity.

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.”

(Philippians 2:4-8)

We are to become Christ-like, we are to imitate Christ by serving one another.   Lent is supposed to be a time in which we learn how to be Christ-like, how to serve others rather than try to lord it over them.  Christ served sinners.  He came into the world to save sinners, not the righteous (1 Timothy 1:15; Luke 5:32).  That is who He descended into Hades to liberate.  He didn’t come into the world to make the living, but rather to make the dead to live.  Our ministry is to proclaim this Good News to everyone in the world, and even to the dead.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Our ministry is to give life to the world.  Great Lent and Holy Week are designed to help us gain this focus and to attain this goal.  We are to serve the same people that Christ came into the world to save.

 

Fasting: It is Not About the Food

Some reminders for the beginning of Great Lent from the hymns of the first week of Lent.   Note the words: joy, radiance, love, prayer, courage, light, holiness, purity.   If we think Lent is only about self-denial, suffering and sacrifice, we miss the spirit of the season.   Lent is not only about fasting from food.  We are trying to change our hearts and minds to be more Christ-like.

LET US BEGIN THE ALL‑HOLY SEASON OF FASTING WITH JOYLET US SHINE WITH THE BRIGHT RADIANCE OF THE HOLY COMMANDMENTS OF CHRIST OUR GOD: WITH THE BRIGHTNESS OF LOVE AND THE SPLENDOR OF PRAYER, THE STRENGTH OF GOOD COURAGE AND THE PURITY OF HOLINESS!  SO, CLOTHED IN GARMENTS OF LIGHT, LET US HASTEN TO THE HOLY RESURRECTION ON THE THIRD DAY, THAT SHINES ON THE WORLD WITH THE GLORY OF ETERNAL LIFE!

The commandments of Christ are eternal life and to love God and love neighbor.   Here are the only three times Christ speaks about commandments in John’s Gospel (in the RSV):

“For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me.”  (John 12:49-50)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”  (John 15:10-15)

In his letter to “the elect lady and her children”, St. John states the same teaching again:

“And now I beg you, lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we follow his commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love.”  (2 John 1:5-6)

mercytoChristThe rules and regulations of Lent must be practiced in the spirit of love for them to be a Christian fast.  If our focus on food fasting rules detracts from our love for God and others if becomes self centered or even causes us to engage in self-love which is the exact opposite intent of the fast.  If our focus becomes food itself, than we are not doing the fast right even if we are following every Lenten regulation perfectly. Remember, in the pre-Lenten Gospel lesson of the Last Judgment from Matthew 25:31-46, no one is judged or condemned for having failed to fast, nor is anyone praised or rewarded for strict fasting!.  True fasting leads to our becoming merciful toward others, especially toward the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters.  The Pharisee who could truthfully boast that he kept the fasts perfectly is not justified by God!

LET US PRESENT A GOOD FAST, WELL‑PLEASING TO THE LORD!  A TRUE FAST IS ALIENATION FROM THE EVIL ONE; THE HOLDING OF ONE’S TONGUE, THE LAYING ASIDE OF ALL ANGER, THE REMOVAL OF ALL SENSUALITY,  OF ACCUSATION, FALSEHOOD AND SINS OF SWEARING.  THE WEAKENING OF THESE WILL MAKE THE FAST TRUE AND WELL‑PLEASING.

 A fast from anger – there is a fast pleasing to the Lord!  Abstinence from lying, fault-finding, cursing and swearing – these are the things we truly must abstain from!  A fast which changes our hearts and our moral practices and stops us from sinning, this is the Lent which God wishes for us.  Let us please God and not make the fast something cursed in His eyes – and the Holy Prophet Isaiah warns us about such a cursed fast.

Hear what the Lord God says to us through the Prophet Isaiah:

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?

Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’

“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,

And exploit all your laborers.

Indeed you fast for strife and debate,

And to strike with the fist of wickedness.

You will not fast as you do this day,

To make your voice heard on high.

Is it a fast that I have chosen,

A day for a man to afflict his soul?

Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,

And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?

Would you call this a fast,

And an acceptable day to the LORD?

“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.

(Isaiah 58:3-11)

 

See also my blog The Perfect Image of Fasting