When we would come to visit family here in the Valley, we never went home without a trip to the cheese shop. My Mom is a huge lover of cheese and she would sample all the different flavors that were for sale. She could identify the different types of cheese from across the room by its color and appearance and then confirm the identity by its aroma. Sampling for taste was unnecessary but she would indulge herself anyway, after all, my Mom loves cheese.
Cheese is a food derived from milk that is produced in a wide range of flavors and textures. It contains proteins and fat, and is usually made from the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep. Cheese contains: Vitamin A, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, and Magnesium which are necessary vitamins and nutrients for our health.
We Orthodox enjoy cheese as well, but maybe not as much as my mother. However during our fasting times, we abstain from consuming this animal by-product. We fast in order to gain control of those things that we have allowed to get out of control. This practice is a discipline of the body. Any time something is limited in its freedoms, it becomes subject to whatever force is limiting it. So, when I make my body do what I need instead of what it wants, I become its master. In other words, if I tell my feet to walk and where to go, or if I tell my hands to work and what to do, or if I tell my brain to solve a problem and which one—I gain control over this incredible gift of God called my body. Our fasting must be undertaken willingly and not by compulsion. After all, God doesn’t need our fasting. And as the Apostle Matthew wrote: “And whenever ye are fasting, cease being as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they artificially disfigure their faces”. [Mt. 6:16]
Earlier this week, we heard at bible study: “For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev 11:44). We, whom love God, should want to imitate Him! There is a process to be holy, we call this discipline Theosis. It is man’s union with God, wherein we take part in the uncreated energies of the Trinity. We do not become what God is in his essence, but we are invited to participate in his energies. This is the purpose and goal for which we were created. Theosis can only be attained in Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit, as we freely cooperate with the Father’s unmerited grace. The nutritional path to Theosis involves participation in the sacraments, involvement in the ascetic struggle, and concludes in the vision of the uncreated light of God.
The Orthodox faith exists to help us find our way to holiness. Just as Swiss cheese can be identified by its holes, may we too be identified as holy by our choices in life, our aroma of love and in our taste of humbleness!
Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-8 15