Ashes to Ashes

So it’s Ash Wednesday, one of my morbidly favourite Christian festivals of all. So, I thought I’d write something short on fasting. (Yes, I know my blogposts are never short, but let me lie to myself.)

“Moreover, do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites. For they fast on the second and fifth day of the week, but you fast on the fourth and preparation day.” – The Didache

So I really couldn’t find out much about this verse, Google has failed me, and it seems strangley random to fast on specifically a Wednesday and Friday. So my theory is that Jesus was actually crucified on a Wednesday, so early Christians fasted to joing him in suffering, and since Friday is the day before his Resurrection, on Saturday night, they fasted to prepare themselves for victory. It really does shed light on what fasting is and how it teaches us to live differently. We fast to join God in his suffering, to suffer with him, and we fast to mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for when he moves through his chosen people. This is essentially what prayer is too, we are always either praying out of empathy and sympathy for someone’s sufferings, or to prepare ourselves for God to change things up. You can see why the two go together. We remember how God feels, we remember how the poor feel, and we remember the immense strength in both, which can totally blow us away.

Traditionally, in the Medieval era, Christians fasted what is now called the Black Fast, here are the only rules:

  • No more than one meal per day is permitted
  • Flesh meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk are forbidden
  • The meal was not allowed until after sunset
  • Alcohol is forbidden
  • During Holy Week, the meal consists exclusively of bread, salt, herbs, and water

Yea, enjoy! As a student that snacked a ridiculous amount, this isn’t easy for me too. We have a lot of weird hipster fasts in our modern Christianity. I think the most familiar one of all would be the Daniel fast. Just a quick response on why that one is flat out made up: Prophet Daniel only ate vegetables because the Babylonian king served unclean meats like pork and prawns. If modern Christians really wanted to fast like Prophet Daniel, they would just eat Kosher. Real and historical fasting is a whole different game. It is the kind of commitment that changes a person for life… every year.

Lent is a season of repentance, we are called to encourage each other to get out lives together. We are made of dust and to dust we shall return, everything inbetween matters. I’ve heard many Christians talk about how “You shouldn’t focus on sin, because you are not that powerful that your sins can really matter”. Well, let me introduce you to the butterfly effect: a butterfly flaps its wings and the wind gains speed until it becomes a tornado on the other side of the planet. Do one evil thing and it spawns another more powerful evil thing. Give someone an annoyed look, they feel invalidated, they vent their insecurity on three other people, two of those three gets paranoid for the rest of the day, and lashes out at a total of 5 people… keep going and you’ll realise you have, by the smallest of sins, have irreparable changed the world for the worse. The hope and victory is not that God is powerful and that you are not, because you are actually immensely powerful in ways you do not see; it is that your sin is strong, but true redemption is stronger. God has been here before the earth began, and he will be here with us when the earth has long been destroyed; we don’t see how we are hurting the world, and therefore cannot stop, but God knows all things, and if given the chance, he will reveal it to us, so we can stop serving death, with our knowledge of good and evil, and serve life instead. When he does, you will then do things that irreparably change the world for good.

God’s power on earth is that it only takes one person to redeem his people forever; no one but Christ could do that. Redemption is a reversal of the butterfly effect of sin, it is one good deed that spawns another and another, until it has changed the world, no small good deed is unimportant. We have this idea in Christianity that evil comes from the sin nature of our own hearts, not from desire, like the Buddhists believe, or from temptation, like the Muslimin believe. How God changes the world is by first changing us, one by one. That is why one person standing in the gap is enough, that is how one man’s death of a Roman Cross changed the Roman Empire from the inside out, a man who never did anything to permanantly change the world for the worse. Lent is when you open up yourself to be used by God, you deny yourself to focus on the needs of both God and others and meditate on the power of God and his image on you.

Lent is THE time to take your life back from sin. It is the time to grow into the hero you were made to be, to walk in Christ’s footsteps and join him in the victory of the Resurrection. Every good thing you do, think or feel moves the world one step closer to everlasting life; every bad thing you do, think or feel moves the world one step closer to eternal damnation and death. Choose carefully.

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