During Great Lent in the Holy Orthodox Church we read the Prophet Isaiah and the book of Proverbs instead of the Epistle and Gospel on weekdays. It’s a kind of fasting. “Fast from the Gospel?” You might ask. Yes. Sometimes it is good to shift our focus a little, to look at where we have come from and to look at the dark side of our experience as Christians. In Christ, all of the promises of God are yes and amen; but the problem is that most of us seldom and only briefly ever actualize this yes and amen while we are still in the body. The Fathers of the Church tell us that this is because we have let ourselves become crusted over, or heavily tarnished, by the cares and passions of this life.
We find salvation by trusting in God, by trusting that God cares for us and our loved ones much more and better than we are able to. This is called faith. By faith we believe that God will care for what we entrust to Him. By faith we call on the Name of Jesus, knowing that it is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. By faith we relax a little the tight grip we have on everything and everyone around us; and to our great joy, in return for letting go a little, we experience a little peace.
And we find salvation through fasting, but it’s not the fasting from foods that is most important. What is important is that we fast from desires, fast from envy, fast from self-absorption, fast from anxieties, fast from all that revolves around me, myself and I. In fact, food is really only the symbol or sign of fasting. The real fast, to quote Isaiah, is to
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
cease to do evil
learn to do good
relieve the oppressed
defend the orphan
plead for the widow