Friday After Ash Wednesday
Isaiah 58:1-9a; Matthew 9:14-15
The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.Genesis 3:6
The original harmony in the garden of Eden disintegrated following the movement of disordered desires. Bewitching the senses and the mind, the seductive fruit of the forbidden tree ensnared the first couple.
Paradisal indivisibility suffered a triple collapse as self, God, and others externalized as estranged entities.
Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are prescribed as medicine for wayfarers to remedy the triple disharmony. Fasting disciplines the whole person with regard to appetite. Prayer finds God once again in the hidden recesses of the heart. Almsgiving restores fraternal charity and communion.
After the first deception, everything and anything outside of Eden can be turned into a mirage, including religious observances. The prophet Isaiah warns his people not to turn fasting into an end in itself or use it for display.
Is this the manner of fasting I would choose,Isaiah 58:5
a day to afflict oneself?
To bow one’s head like a reed,
and lie upon sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Authentic fasting is hidden and bears fruit in charity to our neighbors.
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:Isaiah 58:6
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?
Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are as inseparable as person, God, and neighbor. We need all three for healing:
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,Isaiah 58:8a
and your wound shall quickly be healed.
Love of God and neighbor wells like a fountain from the center of the deified person.
And you shall be like a watered garden,Isaiah 58:11b
like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.
At the eschatological wedding feast, no one will fast because “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
The Bridegroom celebrated the brief span of life allotted to him on earth to be with his Bride in the flesh, giving us a glimpse of the divine mirth and affection:
Then the disciples of John approached him and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast [much], but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.Matthew 9:14-15
Cracks in the cosmos caused
By crunching of the fruit
Requires a triple cure
To cleanse the heart’s core root.
Fasting heals the person;
Prayer finds God within.
Almsgiving loves neighbors,
Quashing the power of sin.
Person, God and neighbor—
Cosmos in Trinity—
Cured by consuming Christ,