By Fr Simon Eshakki
Lent is approaching, and it is important to understand why the Church does what it does during this season before we enter it. Here are some of the reasons why we fast during Lent:
Following Christ’s Example
Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert before going into his public ministry. It was there that he was tempted by the devil. Jesus went away to a quiet place and fasted for a certain amount of time. During Lent, we follow the example of our Lord as we walk with him by fasting from things that we desire in order to be strengthened to fight temptations to sin..
Preparing for the Resurrection
In the Chaldean Liturgy we fast and prepare ourselves before big feasts. Sometimes it is just a day before a feast, but other times it is a longer period, like Advent, which is four weeks before Christmas, or like Lent, which is the 7 weeks before Easter. The feast of the Resurrection of the Lord is the Great Feast (Edha Raba in Chaldean) and so the fasting period before it is called the Great Fast (Sawma Raba). We fast to prepare ourselves to walk with Jesus in his suffering so that we can also walk with him in his Resurrection. The whole Christian life is, in fact, walking with Jesus.
A unique aspect of the Chaldean view of Lent is that all of us are joining together to become more virtuous human beings. The hymn that our Chaldean Liturgy brings forth during this season tells us what the point of our fasting is:
Let us cleanse our consciences and scour our minds from the stain of sin, and our vices cast away as we strive for excellence.
Fasting is meant to make us stronger, as we deny ourselves something that we desire that is not necessarily bad (like alcohol, chocolate, TV shows, smoking, meat or anything else we choose to give up), so that we become masters of ourselves. While fasting helps us become masters of our own desires, it also increases our will power to fight sin.
The Devil Hates You
Lent is not something we do alone. As a Church, community, family and a team, we strengthen ourselves in virtue while attempting to remove our bad habits. We do this so that we can become better husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, and most importantly, followers of Christ, The devil hates this idea, so be prepared for an attack. The temptation won’t be something obvious. But expect it to be difficult. In any shape or form that it comes, the temptation can be overcome by the grace of God. And through our effort and openness to him, we can become champions of faith, helping others by our example.