From the April 2023 edition of “The Light”
As we approach the Resurrection of our Lord, I greet you on this Feast of Feasts and Season of Seasons. May the Light of our Risen Lord, Savior, and God Jesus the Christ be a blessing on you all and guide you on your journey to become God-like. His inspiration is invaluable, His blessing is precious, and His gifts are irreplaceable. Let us use them wisely for our spiritual edification and our divine ascent. Until the Feast arrives, however, we all need to keep vigilant and keep our focus on the remainder of the Great Fast in order to reap its spiritual benefits as we celebrate the Sunday of Mary of Egypt, the Triumphant Entrance of Lord into Jerusalem, and Holy Week. It is time to intensify our efforts, prayers, and focus so that our celebration of Great and Holy Pascha is more edifying and complete.
It is a tradition of the Ancient Patriarchate of Antioch, to which we belong, not to fast for the forty days after Great and Holy Pascha until the Feast of Ascension, following the statement that our Lord Jesus uttered in the Gospel according to St. Mark:
“And Jesus said to them, Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.” (Mark 2:19)
The Bridegroom is with us every year between Great and Holy Pascha and the Feast of Ascension. At the Feast of the Ascension He ascended to heaven as we recite in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed: “…And [He] ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father…”.
Why do we fast then at other times? There are many reasons for us to fast. It is a choice we make in order to achieve certain goals. It certainly is not compulsory, especially if our health does not allow it or our physician recommends against it. However, we need to be honest with ourselves if we can fast. On the other hand, fasting is supposed to improve our life on many fronts. It is beneficial for us to fast! The first major benefit is to discipline ourselves and give relief to our internal organs from the content of regular food that may include meat, fat, and other items. Discipline and self-control, which are virtues, are cardinal rules of life and Orthodoxy. Without self-control, we may allow ourselves everything that might cause us harm or addiction as St. Paul says:
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (I Corinthians 6:12)
Another major useful aspect of fasting is the willful obedience to the Church by eating or abstaining from the food groups that the Orthodox Church prescribes. Practicing obedience is a beneficial quality of our spiritual life since it is a virtue and makes us more like God. There are other benefits to fasting like saving some money and giving it to those who are less fortunate than us. All these benefits and others help us along in the process of becoming God-like.
In other news, the PLC hosted by St. George Cathedral, Miami, FL, is upon us. It is planned to be held during the period June 14 to June 17. However, you are welcome to stay on Sunday, June 18, for two Hierarchical Divine Liturgies in two days. In addition, Camp St. Thekla is also fast approaching and is planned for June 25-July 1 for session 1 and July 2-July 8 for session 2.
May God bless you and may the Holy Trinity protect you all.