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The Spirituality of Fasting, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
42- Drills Pertaining to Repentance
Since fasting is a period of repentance, and repentance drills are numerous, let me mention the following:
(a) Concentration on a point of weakness or a favourite sin:
Each person knows perfectly well which sin he easily falls into and which sin he repeatedly commits and repeatedly referred to in his confessions. Try to discard on of these sins while fasting. In this way, your fast indeed becomes sacred.
(b) Train yourself to quit a certain habit while fasting.
An example of this is a smoker who trains himself while fasting to quit smoking. Likewise he who is addicted to drinking coffee or tea and cannot rid himself of this habit. Likewise the person who is addicted by to watching television, wasting his time, discharging himself of his responsibilities.
The period of fasting is an opportunity for to all of them to quit their habits.
(c) Fasting could be a period of quitting a sin of anger or judgement of others.
Many people fall into this well-known sin. Drills may deal with eliminating a number of verbal sins that one may have become accustomed to saying. In fasting, he may train himself in elimination them one by one.
(d) How easy it is for man to condemn his sinful actions by using verses from the bible:
For instance, if he slips into the sin of anger, he reminds himself of the Bible verse: “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.“ (James 1:20), and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. He should repeat this verse often every day especially in situations where anger wars upon him. He should rebuke himself saying: What benefit is my fast if I anger and do not do the will of God?
If he slips into any of the spoken sins, he puts the following words of the Bible before his eyes: “Every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.“ (Matt 12:36). He then says to himself in reproach: To what benefit is my fast in self-control but can not control my tongue saying to my brother: “You fool” thus deserving of “hell fire?” (Matt 5:22).
(e) Whenever you feel hungry and covet food, rebuke yourself:
Say to yourself: When you give up this sin, I shall allow you to eat, for the Bible says: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thess 3:10), and you have not repented in a way befitting the fast or befitting a heart that is the residence of God.
Rebuke yourself, and say to it: What is the use of me shunning food if I have not yet given up the sin that separates me from God and that makes all my fast of no avail?
(f) Take your point of weakness and make it the topic of your prayers and the target of your efforts during your fast.
Concentrate fully to be careful and exacting and in resisting it.
Pour yourself before God, and say to Him: Save me, O’ Lord, from this sin. I admit my weakness in this particular case and will not conquer it without Your help. Have mercy, O’Lord, on my weakness and helplessness. I do not want to conclude this fast before this sin is eradicated from my life.4
Collect Bible verses that deal with this sin. Place them before you so that you may read them constantly.
Let fasting be a period of struggle with God so that he may grant you fortitude to conquer your sins. Train yourself while fasting in this kind of struggle, and say: Since, according to the Lord's words, fasting exorcises the evil ones, may it exorcise the devils that wars within me with the sins with which I am weak. May it exorcise my sins as it exorcised devils when coupled with prayer.
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