Great Lent i now upon us. It began for those of us in the Coptic Orthodox Church on Monday, 7th March this year. Over the next weeks I hope to produce a series of reflections based on the Scripture readings set for each day. But I also want to consider the meaning and practice of our fasting. If we do not know why we are fasting then we will be just like an athlete who has no idea why his coach is urging him to make efforts in training in the wind and rain and so is not easily able to persevere. Or we will become proud at our success in going round and round the track and forget that all of our training is for a different race altogether.
I don’t usually use alliteration but on this occasion I will begin to consider Seven Secrets of a Successful Lent.
I am sure that most of these points are well known already. But over the next few days I will write a little about them in these short blog posts just to remind us.
The first of these secrets for success is that the season of Great Lent is not all about you! It’s not all about me either. Indeed the focus of this time of intensified spirituality can often be misdirected to ourselves rather than having that direction toward God which is it’s proper aim.
We start thinking constantly about what we should be eating. We become convinced that we might as well abandon the Fast because we have broken the rules we have set ourselves almost every day. We swell with pride when we see someone else eating something forbidden when we have resisted. For seven weeks we become the centre of our attention. We grow anxious that we have missed something or we start to convince ourselves that the fasting rules can be bent to accommodate our special circumstances.
We make it a period of the year when it is all about us. But the secret of success is to remember that it is not about us at all. It is all about God.
From the first moments of the 7th of March to the last moments before the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday eve it is God alone who must be the focus of our spirituality. And therefore prayer must be the basis of our efforts. Constant prayer directed towards God and in the presence of God so that we might receive the grace to fast properly and fruitfully. If we fast in our own strength then we will end up so filled with self attention that we will be filled with pride or filled with despair.
If we fast in the strength of the divine grace that is given to those who set their hearts on God before all else then we will neither wander from the narrow path to the right or the left. It is not about us. It is all about God.