Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Met Georges Khodr on Lent

Arabic original here.

The Fast

You empty yourself of food or of certain foods in order to come to know that you are needy for the bread of God. Abstinence is a symbol of your poverty before Him. It is training the soul in poverty before Him and before others. Therefore tomorrow, the evening when we enter into this training, we ask others for forgiveness in the services of my church because, if they forgive us, they permit us to enter the fast as poor people. This is because if we are hungry, we train ourselves in the fact that we are hungry for God's mercy.

The fast has no meaning unless you practice it by admitting to your sin. This admission is the beginning of your being justified, until God clothes you in Himself. You hunger for God, not for food. All of our practices are training until we are clothed in God by His grace. That is, until He accepts us. You do not acquire God through fasting. He acquires you by His love. He has always been the initiator and the faith for you to accept.

This Sunday evening, each one of us will kneel before those who attend vespers and ask for their forgiveness in clear words, embracing them so that we may enter the fast in love. Abstinence is what is desired. Your repenting to him and together to God makes you worthy of abstinence. Without a god returning to you, you are just doing another diet. Without a face that you love, you are not fasting. Without a face that you love, you have no pascha. Without a face that you love, you are nothing.
For you to abstain this coming Monday from food is for you to abstain from sin, because sin was your food. For you to be abstinent does not mean anything unless after that you desire to encounter a face that is the face of your Lord because He alone sees you in love.

For or abstinence is nothing, however we hope that if we abstain in the love of God, we will encounter Him because in this season we refrain from the food of the body in order to approach the Lord existentially. If Pascha is joy, then fasting is preparation for joy, just as the prayers of betrothal are for us preparation for marriage. We are not against the body. We are for training it. How can we be against the body when Christ clothed Himself in it? We are against wearing the body out with sin because sin is against our love for God.

Those who fast believe in training the body. They are not against it, nor can they be because the Lord clothed Himself in a body. Neither eating nor abstaining is anything. Everything is for you to love God and for us the fast is a means in which we are instructed in this love. It was explained to us at the very beginning of Christianity that you fast in order to give to the poor the price of the food from which you abstained. If you ignore the poor, then you are not fasting.

The Frenchman Pascal, a great man in Christianity, said, "I have loved poverty because Christ loved it." You deprive yourself in order to love. Anything apart from that is just outward form. We are not against pleasure. We are against pleasure-seeking. We are not against the body, but we are against the mad pursuit of the body.

Here the faithful must pay heed to what is truly sought during this season.  It is not merely abstinence. What is sought is the face of God. You train yourself to seek it because it is the first thing that was abandoned. Therefore, we must remind yourselves that our first exercise is not abstinence, but rather reading the word of God. We do not hunger for food.  We are instructed in it. We hunger for the word of God. Therefore we must understand that we abstain from foods in order to eat the word of God. God, God and nothing else. So it pains me when someone abstains from foods but does not listen to the word of God and read it. It is only by this reading that you will repay your hunger.
There is no practice in Christianity that is not for the sake of love, love of God and of others. Everything else is a decoration. Love until there are no more words that must be translated into deeds, including fasting. It is true that the goal of fasting is for God. However, in its implementation it is for our brothers, for giving.

The body, detached from the heart, does not concern us. For us to love God and not to translate this into giving to our brothers is generally a delusion. If you do not love your brother whom you see, how can you love God whom you do not see? You are with the other in the presence of God. If you have banished the other from your love, then you have no god. Take the other with you and go to God. Until you arrive.

The superficial Christian thinks that he will arrive through practices. This is the summit of delusions. You arrive through love because it is the end and the means together. However, do not forget that love does not remain only in the mind. It is embodied by turning to others. If you do not go out from your own room to others, you do not love. This is why Jesus demanded that those who love Him to leave their father and mother-- that is, to shed the material things that keep them from God. You must always leave things and people in order to encounter Christ. You must always strip away in order to see God. If anything of the world is attached to you, you have no vision of God.

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