March 16, 2011 + A Lenten Message
by the Rev. Fr. John Namie
from The Word, March 1968
There is a tendency today in our society to diminish the importance of various aspects of Christian life which is taught by the Orthodox Church. One of these things is fasting. We are surrounded in our society by different types of religions, by atheistic influences, and especially by the great trend towards materialistic living which affects all the preceding.
Materialism has become the battleground in the church whether we wish to accept this or nor. All religions and all groups are directly or indirectly taking shape according to materialistic principles. Even the Roman Catholic Church which had been so traditional in its spirituality has been influenced to the extent that no longer does it deem fasting as a necessary element in the life of her people. This diminishment is definitely a product of materialistic thinking and compromising to the materialistic way.
The Orthodox Church has not reached yet the point that it feels that fasting is not necessary, although many people in the Orthodox Church feel this way. While fasting is not a means that leads us directly to salvation, nevertheless it is necessary in that it helps us to salvation. This may seem like a strong statement. but if we understand fasting and Orthodox spirituality in its real sense, we will find the front line of the battleground against materialism here.
Let's think about fasting and what it is. To do this, let us first think about passions, and this means those carnal desires such as wanting so much material wealth, eating or craving for food, or worldly happiness. Fasting encompasses all this and replaces much of this with prayer. Jesus Christ said that we should deny ourselves and take up His Cross and follow Him, and again, "My Kingdom is not of this world." If we, as Orthodox Christians, would take these two examples seriously and apply them to our life, there would be no room for a compromise with materialism. Fasting is the direct means that we have to show us what passions are and how to overcome them.
Let us not fool ourselves. 'We all are using as our standard for life materialistic concepts. These are reflected in our life in the way we rush to work which is the result of our desire for worldly luxuries, by our lack of effort in prayer, both private and common, by our attempt to reduce the church to a socioreligious organization to meet our standing in the society, by our excuse for not fasting because of the difficulty involved in finding the right foods. My brethren, let's not rationalize excuses. This is not the Christian way. We must face reality and find the real values in life. Fasting can help us to do this. The basic necessity of life is eating and we can begin to control our life by controlling our eating habits.
There is another aspect to fasting. This is a positive one, not a negative taking-away, but an adding-to. We must pray more, both privately and in common with our brothers. We must in our prayer see ourselves as the children of God who desire to return to Him through repentance. Prayer can take the place of the late movie on TV, or the evening card game, etc. Prayer can help us to see ourselves as the sinners we really are, and not the saints that we think we are. Let us all make the great fast this year spiritually profitable, that we can truly say at the Feast of the Resurrection- CHRIST IS RISEN.
Martyr Sabine of Egypt - March 16
Before the ungodly thou didst preach with godliness that the Creator of all took flesh without suffering change: O blessed Sabine, thou didst excel in holy contest, for by meeting death in the river thou didst attain to the Source of incorruption. Therefore we praise thee.
Kontakion of St. Sabine, Tone 2
The sail of the Spirit guided thee into the Water of Life and Goodness, when thou wast cast into the river, O praiseworthy Sabine. By thy prayers thou art raining down upon us the forgiveness of our sins.