On Fasting

On Fasting

O my soul, give yourself up to repentance; be united to Christ in thought; cry out with groans: “Grant me pardon for my evil deeds that I may receive from you, who alone are good (cf. Mk 10,18), absolution and life eternal”…

Moses and Elijah, those fiery towers, were great in their deeds… First among the prophets, they spoke freely to God; astonishingly, and unbelievably, they took delight in approaching him to pray and converse with him face to face (Ex 34,5; 1Kgs 19,13). All the same, they took care to have recourse to the fasting that brought them to God (Ex 34,28; 1Kgs 19,8). Therefore fasting, together with deeds, brings about life eternal.

By fasting, devils are repulsed as by a sword for they cannot bear its joys. What they love is the gamester and drunkard. But if they see the face of fasting they are unable to support it; they flee far away from it as Christ our God teaches, saying: “It is by fasting and prayer that demons are cast out” (cf. Mk 9,29). This is why we are taught that fasting brings us to life eternal…

Fasting restores to those who practice it the father’s house from which Adam was cast out… God himself, the friend of man (Wsd 1,6), first entrusted to fasting the man he had created, as to a loving mother, as to a teacher. He had forbidden him to taste of one tree only (Gn 2,17) and if the man had observed this fast he would have dwelt with angels. But he rejected it and so found anguish and death, the sharpness of thorns and thistles and the sorrow of a miserable life (Gn 3,17f.) Now, if fasting is shown to be of value in Paradise, how much more must it be so here below to win us life eternal!

Saint Romanos Melodios (?-c.560), composer of hymns

I’m especially struck by that last paragraph. I had never thought about it in that light, that Adam and Eve were given a fast by God when they were forbidden to eat from the fruit of one tree. That our first parents fasted in Paradise… That truly is something to ponder in this season of Lent.

Quotation taken from Daily Gospel Online.


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  • Thanks (as usual) for your thoughts.  Here are a couple of mine. 

    I always read the Bible stories to my kids.  Most children’s Bibles are very conscious of what the children can/can’t handle.  The ones I have used with small children don’t actually show Jesus on the cross, although my children are (of course) familiar with the image from church.  It seems to me that if you follow up Good Friday with Easter Sunday, you don’t have as many problems.  But if you don’t believe in Easter, why would you read this part of the Jesus story to your children?

    As far as your experience at Mass goes, I think it is wise to speak to others in the vestibule, quietly, and without disrupting the Mass – it builds fellowship among young families and encourages others.  At least, that was my experience.  More often than not, it’s the mothers of sons, because it seems to me that it’s always bounce or noise with little boys.  They are wired for bounce!  Probably it’s a good thing that you spoke to this other mother and her daughter.  At worst you’ll be seen as well-intended.  And perhaps you’ll see her again, and she’ll speak to you… which would be a good outcome, wouldn’t it?

  • For a young child, ages 3-6, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd curriculum approach always pairs any discussion or statement of the crucifixion with the resurrection. The phrase “Jesus died and is risen!” is used.

  • Building on what Cathy said, I was particularly interested in my last class of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd when they spoke about Lend. For ages 3-6, the focus is on the Good Shepherd – the God who loves us. Plain and simple. Even when the Scripture references the shepherd “laying down his life for the sheep”, for 3-6 year olds, you just keep right on reading. It is not until the 6-9 year olds that the catechist will take the shepherd and lay him down. For 3-6 year olds, Lent is never about repentance or atonement and any language as such is not used. Rather the focus is on the Good Shepherd and the anticipation of the Resurrection.
    I think it is important for anyone, before they enter that mind frame of “I’m a sinner, Lord, have mercy on me” they know that God loves them. Perhaps the child in your first section has never really been taught or learned that critical foundation that God loves her and so it is making it all the harder to handle any reference to the Passion?

    I think where you might have been wanting to tie this post together is that children need to know that God loves them. They need that foundation before they build on it. And they need to know that at home and at Church. And without that the crucifix will appear more of a condemnation for one’s sins rather than a sign of the deepest love in mercy.

  • I guess this really was a “thinking out loud” kind of post. And I forgot to include a link to that first piece and then cropped my quotation badly. (I’ve fixed both of those things now.) I should have kept the first part where she talks about trying not to let her own struggles with faith affect her children. I’ve been reading the Permission to Live (used to be Young Mom’s Musings) blog for a long time. The author was raised in a Fundamentalist Protestant church environment and had super controlling and abusive parents thus she definitely never understood that God’s love is unconditional. She is now really struggling whether she believes in God or not. Recently she wrote a post in which she listed out the possibilities Thus she really isn’t able to give her children a foundation in secure knowledge of God’s love.

    Katherine, I agree. The main thread is that children need to know God’s love. That a secure foundation in God’s love, in Christ’s love means that children don’t see the Bible as scary. If you click through and read the conversation in the comments it is sad how many people have had similar experiences.

    I was aware that Maria Montessori and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd emphasize that you don’t read Old Testament stories to children but focus on the parables and especially the figure of the Good Shepherd. And I understand the rationale and really do agree that young children don’t have the capacity to process those stories. And yet I suppose my Bella is precocious because she asks for them and asks for them, dragging out the Bible story books and having them read to her over and over again. I’ve been pulled about whether to continue or to put them away until she’s older; but they do seem to call to her in some way.

    That said, it is true that the only Bible stories she acts out in play are stories about Jesus and mainly the Nativity and the Easter story but whenever she draws or tells the Easter story she always goes from cross to tomb to resurrection.

    So I suppose Bella is able to deal with the Old Testament stories in part because she has had a deep awareness of God’s love from her earliest days. Prayer time is cuddle time and the cross is a sign of love. We always emphasize love when we talk about Christ’s sacrifice. I guess I have always assumed that talk about sin has no place until a child is old enough to make a confession. Before that age children aren’t really capable of personal sin, though of course they do suffer from the effects of concupiscence and thus do things like hit and disobey. I don’t really get the mindset that those things are sins in children below the age of reason.

  • Melanie, thanks for the link. It is a sad post. I actually used to read that blog a while ago but stopped when she began posting things I did not want to read, not personal, but of a political nature. She was not “pretty agnostic most days” back then. I am sorry things seem to have gotten harder for her. Since this post is clearly a very personal one for her and I have not been reading her blog, I don’t feel I should comment there.

    I would like to say though, that I have struggled with the idea that God loves me for a long time. But I have never doubted His existence. For me, they have always been two very distinct things. So, on the one hand, I am very sympathetic to doubts about God’s love. At the same time, doubts to his existence, I can’t relate to. The sheer thought that God might not exist would cause me to fall into a spiral of agony that life is pointless and not worth it. I don’t go there. Because for all my struggle to believe God loves me, I cannot help but love Him. I do think, even if a mom is having personal struggles on the subject, her children can learn that God is love and loves them through gentle catechesis and their parents’ love for them. I tell my kids that Jesus loves them even more than their daddy or I do. We repeat to them over and over again that God loves them. I don’t want them struggling with that belief the way I have. And while we do have crucifixes up all over the house, none of them have ever had a problem with them.

    You may recall, about a year ago, I posted about having trouble getting Cecilia to want to read Bible stories. She seemed bored with them. From my very limited experience with my kids, I really don’t think little children should just be read from the Bible starting at the beginning and working their way through. I also think a parent has to judge whether they think their kids are ready for certain stories. We read about the sacrifice of Isaac a few weeks ago, but I don’t know that she would have been ready for that one a year ago. I find it a little disturbing her bible group for kids would give all their 5 year olds that story. I have worried about how Felicity would handle the stories I’ve been reading to Cecilia since she is usually nearby but, to the extent she listens at all, I think she regards them as just another tool she can use in her imagination and story-telling. They don’t seem to have that aspect of reality yet for her. Clearly this woman’s 5 year old recognizes the reality of what she is hearing but is not yet ready to be hearing it. I don’t think trying to make God “just a story” is the best approach but rather trying to emphasize how much God loves her and, if you can’t make her forget the stories that haunt her, try to focus on the stories that would help lay that foundation – like the resurrection, the Good Shepherd, Jesus and the little children, etc.

    Sorry this has gotten so long. My kids want breakfast. God Bless †

  • Lots of good stuff here (in both the original post and here in the comments). Melanie, maybe it’s because I think in fragmented mom language, but your post made perfect sense to me. I approach teaching the faith with my little ones much the same way. The crucifix is a necessary “sign,” but for me it’s more a sign of sacrificial love than anything else. I’ve found that Lent offers a wonderful opportunity to pray the Stations of the Cross in kid-sensitive language and to help reveal just what the crucifix ought to mean to us. (I’ve been a slacker, so we missed praying it last Friday.)

    Anyway, I always love reading your thoughts.

    You are lovely! God bless you.