Today’s reading is part of the sermon that Jesus gave on the mountain. In His sermon, the Lord highlights one of the dangerous subjects. These subjects that we encounter during the beginning of lent, during prayers and during charitable deeds. He sets our objective towards the Father and warns us from forging the spiritual work and falling in the devil’s tricks.
Every spiritual work should be directed to the Father
In all, the Lord’s sermon concerning our spiritual work in charity, fasting or praying, directs our sights towards the Father. He warns us, ‘your Father who sees in secret’. We have known the Father in Jesus Christ. In fact this is the foundation of our Christian belief, “Now we are children of God.” (1 John 3:2). Our son-ship for God must be very clear in all of our lives and our communication with God. The son-ship is the foundation of prayers. That is why when we pray we say, “Our Father in heaven.” (Matt.6:9). In our fasting we present it to our heavenly Father… Our fasting and prays are not obligations, we are not enslaved by our Creator or because we fear His punishment or we are greedy for a reward… We pray to God our Father. We want Jesus to live within us, we want to be the sons of our Father in heaven because He is Holy.
Therefore the holy lent is for the Father and is not a punishment or guilt. It is not to subdue the soul, to deprive it, or suppress it and so forth… of those negative meanings. The fasting is the love of the Father, who loved us and sacrificed His only begotten Son for us. The fasting is a partnership for our love for Jesus, who fasted for us for forty days and forty nights. The fasting is the selection of the leadership of the Holy Spirit to guide our lives in Jesus. Similarly Jesus was lead with the Spirit in the wilderness of the holy fast.
- Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men:This is how the Lord warns us, from these entities that are dangerous and a threat to our spiritual lives, in the beginning of lent. It corrupts every spiritual work, from charity, to fasting and prayer… These dangerous enemies are: hypocrisy, the false appearance, asking for the praise of men, the forged wage (which is taken from the people)… Beware of these, ‘So that you would be characterized with virtue, but you deceive its power’. Be caucious and enlighten so that your secret is not revealed, and your treasure is exposed before the enemy. One should strife to work in concealment. Your left (yourself) doesn’t know what your right (your spirit) is doing.Hide the spiritual and work of piety, even from yourself, so that you would not praise yourself, and then you lose your wages… But if we have done all the virtues, we should still say we are worthless slaves.
- When you pray:
Enter into your chambers, close your door and pray to your Father. This is how one should pray as our Lord Jesus taught us… It is the continuous presence in the bosom of the Father, behind closed doors… God’s men, the saints, they are the ones, who knew their ways to the chamber of prayers. They succeeded in closing their doors from the world, and prevented the world from entering, and they rushed towards the Father unhindered…
The Virtuous Noah: He entered into the chamber of the ark and the Lord closed the door, the ark’s door. The church in our chamber, our place of rest. There the Lord holds us within His bosoms, so that the world’s flood doesn’t enter. In the church there is an opening for the dove (the Holy Spirit) to enter, to comfort us and give us tidings of peace.
- Daniel the Prophet: He held onto the chambers of prayer… He placed in his heart not to be defiled, and he grew stronger in the chamber. His window opened towards Jerusalem (the heaven, wishing for eternal life, with which he subdued the devil’s power and silenced the months of the lions).
- Ezekiel the Prophet: The Lord told him, “Go, shut yourself inside your house.” (Ezek. 3:24) so that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, then go out to speak to the people with words of life and God’s warnings.
- All those who closed the door of the earthly chamber, a heavenly door was opened for them, and they enjoyed the grace of God. Let this lent be a change for new experiences in prayer, lifting of our hearts and minds towards God… The lent without prayer, is like hot charcoal without incense … Mix the toil of the body and the sacrifice of the lent, with the thanks of prayer and the heat of worship. So you would return from the land of lent, full of power to work God’s deeds.
3. “When you fast, anoint your head and worth your face.” (Matt. 6:17).
The fasting, according to the Christian understanding, seems difficult. Even the people of the world see it impossible … How Jesus could go out into the wilderness, fasting for forty days and forty nights without food or water. If this is acceptable with respect to Jesus, as the capable Lord, then how can mankind endure it, for he is weak? How can man fast with all those world requirements and responsibilities?
Go Out with Jesus
Jesus Christ says, “For without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Therefore, our unity with Jesus is that He who was in the past, is today and is forever.
We do not fast by ourselves. We could not endure the fasting in the wilderness, not even for a single day without Jesus. We could not stop the attacks of the enemy and his temptations in the wilderness of fasting… So be assured my beloved one, that you are fasting in Jesus and with His help. Before you go out to the wilderness of fasting, place your hand in His hand. You quickly went out with Him, and within your heart, you are fasting for Him. With Him you live, and therefore you can face Jesus. The wilderness of fasting is converted into paradise and the existence with God. He will be your thirst. What is impossible for man is possible in Jesus. This is the reason behind the daily liturgy in the church during lent, because the church gives us Jesus as our daily bread, to fill us in our fasting.
Therefore during the true fasting, we wash our faces with the tears of repentance. We wipe our head with oil of blessing. We approach the Father who sees what is within us. He knows every single heart and He judges each one accordingly. He gives us the body of His Son and fills us everyday with the cup of His blood.
Training Suitable for Lent
- Choose for yourself (with guidance from your confession father) sections from the Holy Bible, to read during lent days, and schedule it over several days.
- Set up time for reading. It should be during the prime time of the day. Don’t give the Lord what you don’t want or what you can live without… Give the Lord from the best of your times and the prime of your abilities and power. Read with contemplation and humility. Try diligently to study and live what you read in the Bible. Keep it in your daily life. Look how God keeps His times with you. Diligently keep His commandments, implementing what you read in your daily life.
- Don’t fast with water and salt while you indulge in others affairs.