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The Spirituality of Fasting, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

22- Fasting is not a Mere Bodily Virtue

 

Fasting is not merely a virtue for the body apart from the soul, because any virtue requires the participation of the soul.

St-Takla.org         Image: Ancient icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, the Heaven's Ladder صورة: أيقونة أثرية بعنوان سلم السماء، أو السلم إلى الله

St-Takla.org Image: Ancient icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, the Heaven's Ladder

صورة: أيقونة أثرية بعنوان سلم السماء، أو السلم إلى الله

What then is the role of the body in fasting? And what is the role of the soul?

True fasting is a spiritual act primarily taking place inside the heart.

The function of the body in fasting is to prepare the soul or rather to disclose the soul's affection.

The soul rises above the level of materialism and food, and above the level of the body. It leads the body along in victorious procession and spiritual desires. The body expresses this through fasting.

If we confine our definition of fasting to the humiliation of the body through hunger and deprivation of what it covets, we will be adhering to the negative aspect of fasting, ignoring the positive and spiritual ones.

Fasting is not hunger for the body but nourishment for the soul.

Fasting, as some people speculate, is not a bodily torture, martyrdom, or a cross, but it is a way to elevate the body to reach the level of cooperation with the soul. When we fast, our intention is not to torture the body but to shun its behaviour. Thus, one who fasts becomes a spiritual and not a physical person.

Fasting is an ascetic soul which takes the body with it as its partner in asceticism.

Fasting is not a hungry body but an ascetic one.

Fasting is not bodily hunger but bodily elevation and purity. It is not a body that hungers and longs for food, but a body that rids itself of the desire to eat.

Fasting is a time when the soul flourishes and lifts the body up with it.

It rids the body of its loads and burdens and lifts it up so that God may work with it without impediment to the happiness of the spiritual entity.

Fasting is a spiritual time spent together by the body and soul performing a spiritual act, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. The body and the soul join in doing the work of the soul, ie. praying, meditating, praising and coming in communion with God.

We do not pray only with a fasting body but also with a fasting soul, mind and heart abstaining from lusts and desires. The soul also abstains from love of the passing world. All for the sake of living with God, nourished and loved by Him.

A fast in this way is the proper vehicle for spiritual deeds, a spiritual atmosphere to live in his heart, spirit, soul, thought, senses, and emotions with God.

Fasting is the bodily expression of abstinence from materialism and the longing for a life with God. Through abstinence, the body joins the soul in its aspects of spiritual work. Through this, the body becomes spiritual in attitude and takes on the appearance of the soul.

In spiritual fast, neither the soul nor the spiritual body, is anxious about bodily wants.

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