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The Spirituality of Fasting, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
30- Fasting Accompanies Repentance
Days of fasting days are sacred and man lives them in holiness.
During these days, the mind, heart and body must also be sacred. Fasting is a period of training during which you attempt to approach God and at the same time, sin pulls you away. Therefore, you must eliminate sin through repentance to draw close to God.
While fasting, your body abstains from food, and your soul abstains from every earthly and worldly lust, and all passions that pertain to the body. Through repentance therefore, you approach God. Ask yourself, are you fasting this way?
Without repentance, God rejects and does not accept your fast. You do not gain either heaven or earth and you torment yourself in vain. If you want God to accept your fast, examine your sins, and revoke them. God gave us as a symbol a lesson when He accepted the baptism of repentance before he fasted.
Take the example of the fast of Nineveh:
The Bible says about the people of Nineveh that “every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.“ (Jon 3:8). For this reason, God did not destroy them when He “saw their works, that they turned from their evil way.” (Jon 3:10). The bible did not say: "when He saw their as sackcloth or their fast," but when he saw their repentance which was the principal element of their fast.
In the Book of Joel, we see an example of repentance that accompanies fasting.
The Lord addresses the people through His prophet saying: “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful. “ (Joel 2:12,13). It is clear that fasting was accompanied by repentance and weeping. Therefore, it is not mere abstention from food. Rather, it is inner emotions towards God.
In his fast, the Prophet Daniel offered the repentance of the whole nation.
He fasted, confessing to God, saying: “We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. … O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face … O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.” (Dan 9:5-8).
We therefore reconcile with God through fasting.
Do not say: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? (Ps 13:1). You should rather say: 'How long will I forget You, O Lord, forever? How long will I hide my face from You?
Therefore purify and sanctify your soul. Prepare for these special days, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. Make ready to have God residing in your hearts and not by merely abstain from food.
If you are in sin, be reconciled with God, and if you are reconciled with Him, deepen your love for Him.
If you removed sinfulness in a fast, continue in the same way afterwards.
Repentance is not confined to fasting alone, but made fit through fasting. Through fasting, man heart is purified, and this purity continues with him.
In all this, be ready to strive against the Devil.
Joshua, son of Sirakh, told his son that if he set forward to serve God, he should prepare himself for all trials.
When the Devil sees your fast and repentance, he becomes envious of your spiritual acts. Thus, he fights you to deprive you of the fruit of your labour and seeks every trick to bring about your downfall, saying: I shall not leave you until you give up. Remember the words of the Apostle Peter, who said, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith. “ (1 Pet 5:9).
Thus, fasting is a period of spiritual warfare as was the case with Jesus Christ. (Matt 4). It is also a period of triumph for him who shares it with Christ.
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