9th February 2016
This time of year we often face that inconvenient confusion about fasting. By and large we are relieved of it all by a culture that says that it is far better to be positive, take something up, rather than deny ourselves what is good or lovely or essential and, quite frankly, be a bit of a misery.
I wonder if this helps? Imagine you are in need of car and I just happen to have a spare one so offer it to you. You could receive it with joy and use it happily, carefully and gratefully making it known that you are have received this gift from a good and generous person. There is nothing wrong with that at all, in fact it is all as it should be. But now add this into the scenario: you offer the car back to me in generosity, saying that you would love me to be able to use it too; you don’t wish to hang on to it as your own; you recognise that you are entirely entitled to use it as your own for that is how I have given it to but you would love to share it. The car then becomes a means of deepening our relationship.
In life we recognise that all that is, all things, are there by the love and grace of God and we may receive them. We can receive the things we need with joy; we can receive the things that simply give us pleasure with joy. We can use things with care and love, we can cherish all creation. But how about if we relinquish our hold on them and return them in love to God whether they are essential or for pleasure. Of course God does not need them in the way we do, but the act of returning them in this way then makes the thing itself a means of a deepening relationship between us in the same way as that useful car was between us. Then the fast becomes something generous, beautiful and creative. I can begin to understand the joy of the desert fathers and mothers and the Celtic saints when I look at simplicity (the way of living with open hands) and fasting in this light.
May this Lent be a time of great joy and healing.
Penny Warren – UK Guardian, Community of Aidan and Hilda
(Reprinted with permission)