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The Deep Meaning of Fasting
A Meditation by Matthew the Poor
Fasting… represents the first battle in which Christ did away with His adversary, the prince of this world. In His forty days’ experience of absolute fasting, Christ laid down for us the basis of our dealings with our enemy – along with all his allurements and vain illusions. “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting”. For when a person enters into prayerful fasting, Satan departs from the flesh.
As the Son of God, Christ did not need fasting, nor did He need an open confrontation with Satan or baptism or filling with the Holy Spirit. Yet He fulfilled everything for our sake so His life and deeds would become ours… Fasting was to elevate the flesh to the level of war with the spirits of evil, those powers that hold sway over our weaker part, the flesh.
…Baptism, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and fasting form a fundamental and inseparable series of acts in Christ’s life that culminated in perfect victory over Satan in preparation for his total annihilation by the cross.
It is then extremely important to accept and to feel the power of each of these three acts in our depths and draw from Christ their action in us as they worked in Him, so that His same life may identify with ours. The ultimate aim of baptism, of being filled with the Holy Spirit, and of fasting is that Christ Himself may dwell in us: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”.
…It is impossible for us to carry our cross well and get through the temptation of the devil, the ordeal of the world, and the oppression of evil without fasting on the Mount of Temptation… Here the Church’s imitation of Christ’s work is a necessary course of life for us, in which we may discover our salvation, strength, security, and victory. It was not for Himself that Christ was baptized, nor was it for Himself that He was crucified, and, consequently, it was not for Himself that He fasted forty days. The works of Christ – themselves a mighty and omnipotent power – have become sources of our salvation and life. Their power, however is not imparted to us unless we experience and practice it…
In Lent we prepare ourselves for the Last Supper. We prepare for two like things coming together. How could those who do not sacrifice themselves be worthy of Him who sacrificed His life? If we eat of a sacrificed body and do not sacrifice our own selves, how can we claim that a union takes place? The Mystical Supper on Thursday, which is the intentional acceptance of a life of sacrifice, is but a preparation for accepting suffering openly, even unto death
5 Matthew the Poor. The Communion of Love. Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984. 109-122.