I am overweight. My physical body has ingested too many carbs, too many complex sugars, and too many deserts! The only exercise I am getting is pushing the buttons on the remote control and turning the steering wheel to the right and left! I seem to only find time for my definition of survival in this world. But worse than that, I am suffering from another weight problem that is different than my love-handles! I am weighted down with sin!
It only makes sense if you recognize that my failure to maintain my body as a temple carries over to my failure for my mind to pursue holiness! I am glad that I am an Orthodox in progress! Years ago when I entered the Holy Church, I could not fast! My body convinced me that it could not live without Wendy’s or steak, and eggs, and bacon and…. My sugar level would swing and my grumpy face would overcome my ability to smile and my ability to appreciate God’s creation! Now during the fast, peanut butter and jelly becomes a tiresome norm for lunch and snack and trail-mix packed full of nuts and berries remedies my body’s dips in energy. The fast creates a change in diet but if we prepare, we can be successful. But is also important to recognize that our bodies all have chemical differences and some may need to choose other areas of their lives to fast from. Apostle Paul echoes this in his letter to the church in Rome in chapter 14 verses 1-4: Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
I love to unwind by playing computer games. During the fast, I refrain from the computer games. And they’re other areas of your lives that you can make a conscience decision to abstain from. It is important for us to reshape our behaviors during fasting times. Calling on our minds to make conscience decisions to do without, strengthens our ability to consciously say no to sin! Sin is heavy baggage that prevents us from reaping all of God’s rewards!
St Theophan the Recluse says: (The Path to Salvation, pg 129) “that our soul is covered with layers of habits and inclinations that imprison a person in sin. The first layer is self-deception, insensitivity, and carelessness. This is the layer that blinds a person to the danger of his condition and reduces his will from wanting to change. The outer layer consists of instruments that magnify and support our sinful condition. This layer consists of absent-mindedness and much-caring and worry. The body burdens the soul with scattered thoughts and concerns. So we must apply ascetic practices such as restricting indulgences, decreasing the usual amount of food, or lengthening our time in vigil or prayer”.
Now remember, not all are called to be monastic, I repeat, we are not all called to be monastic, but we are all called to overcome our sinful fallen nature and this requires re-training our mind and body to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. The saints did not reach sainthood overnight so we too must be patient and yet diligent as we surrender our will and become stronger in the faith.
But know thou this, that in the last days difficult times shall set in; for men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, incontinent, savage, not lovers of the good, traitors, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of piety, but denying the power of it. Turn thyself away from these. [2 Tim. 3:1-5]
As Oliver Cle’ment wrote in his book titled The Roots of Christian Mysticism: “The purpose of ascesis (effort/exercise) is thus to divest oneself of surplus weight, of spiritual fat. It is to dissolve in the waters of baptism, in the water of tears, all the hardness of the heart, so that it may become an antenna of infinite sensitivity, infinitely vulnerable to the beauty of the world and to its sufferings of human beings, and to God who is love, and who has conquered by the wood of the cross.” Let us take this upcoming fasting time to reshape our priorities and reconnect with the Orthodox weight loss program.
Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-2009