Preparing ourselves for the Great Fast

With lent approaching we should be asking ourselves, what can I do more in my life to be closer to God.  Consider giving to charity, volunteering, helping others, taking up more prayer, taking time to go to nature and pray.

Lent is about reflecting on ourselves and choosing to improve our spiritual well-being and ourselves as Christians. Lent shouldn’t be about depriving ourselves from food, and become drained and weak, but rather it is to help distance ourselves from gluttony and other sins. Saint John Chrysostom has a great homily on fasting, he speaks about how to approach this season. He likens fasting to medicine, through fasting we can heal our soul. He goes on to explain that our fasting should be shown through our works.

“Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.”

While it is still important to think about fasting from food, it should not be the only focus during lent. In the Maronite tradition and something I was lucky enough to experience since early as 10 we fast from meat and dairy. My dad would fast the whole 50 days from meat and dairy and until midday. He would encourage us as children to do this the first and last week and Wednesdays and Friday. It helped by allowing me to learn to abstain at a young age, to learn to say no to things I loved, such as chocolate. Dad would also encourage us to take up something new to better ourselves, one year he would buy us books and encourage us to read during our spare time as an alternative to praying.

“neither that the fast take place for the simple sake of fasting, neither is its aim that we remain with empty stomachs, but that we fast to offer our entire selves to the dedication of spiritual things, having distanced ourselves from secular things.”

This lent, take the challenge as a family, encourage your children to fast even if it is for selected days depending on their age. Take up praying the rosary daily as a family in the evening instead of watching TV. Find a charity that interests you, volunteer your time or donate to their cause. Attend a weekday mass in addition to the usual Sunday mass. Speak to your children about loving one another, no matter what race, culture, religion, or beliefs that may divide us. Show them that they should love others even if they disagree with the person or their beliefs. This lent work on making yourself a better person.

Tips on preparing yourself for the great fast.

  1. Reflection

List your daily routine and ask yourself, “Is God at the centre of my life?” if not, try to change this. Suggestions are to go for a walk daily, on your walk notice nature and thank God for the beauty we take for granted. Insert prayer into your daily life, by praying when you wake, during your lunch break, or even when you are busy doing things like preparing dinner or cleaning.

  1. Eliminate Temptation

Notice what dominates your time, e.g. phone, television, PlayStation … and either eliminate it or restrict yourself to one hour a day. You will find that you have much more free time to spend with family, go into nature, read, clean and even for prayer.

  1. Give to or volunteer

Seek a charity that you feel strongly about, such as funding for retired priests, widow charities, or children charities. Otherwise volunteer your time by helping charities such as St Vincent De Paul, Heaven on Earth (both at Our Lady of Lebanon in Australia).

  1. Challenge yourself

Don’t stick to the usual way you fast, challenge yourself further this Lent. Try fasting from meat and dairy for the entire 50 days, or praying an extra rosary a day.

“Great is the gift which is set down before our blind eyes:
for even though we all have a pair of eyes each,
few are those who have perceived that gift, who are aware of what it is and from whom it comes.
Have mercy, Lord, on the blind, for all they can see is gold!

(Treasure-house of Mysteries, Sebastian Brock, 258)

Christina Maksisi