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Preface IV of Lent
In Preface III of Lent we reflect on abstinence, which in Lent usually translates into fish instead of meat. In this Preface we meditate not only on quality, but on quantity: in Lent that means a few days where you don’t eat at all.
The fruits of fasting
If abstinence is a trial for our taste buds, fasting makes our stomachs growl. We give up the things we enjoy altogether. In Lent that means a few days where we eat less. It is perennial wisdom that moderation is the wiser choice in life, and that is because moderation helps us grow in virtue instead of vice. Through fasting we liberate ourselves from our appetites and achieve the self-mastery for which we were meant.
“For through bodily fasting you restrain our faults, raise up our minds, and bestow both virtue and its rewards, through Christ our Lord.”
In Eden it was eating the forbidden fruit that caused a great mess. Material realities got us into this mess, and so it’s fitting that material realities help get us out of it, which is why we have the sacraments. The forbidden fruit may have condemned us, but Baptism rescued us. With fasting we take away the fuel for vice’s fire; overindulging ourselves stokes the fires of our passions and forms the bad habits we call vices. Everyone knows that bad habits are hard to break. When we overindulge, we enslave ourselves to some baser part of our nature that is fallen and wounded by sin.
What’s worse, vices slowly start to distort our outlook on things, eventually convincing us that there is no way to overcome them. Anyone in the throes of compulsion or addiction will tell you they see no way out of their situation; that’s because vice has blinded them to the possibility of regaining control of their life again.
Fasting, whether from food, drink, Internet, gossip, or anything, helps us regain self-mastery and puts us on the path back to virtue. We use our freedom well. Virtues are good habits that come with repetition and practice and displace vices. They shape our outlook on things too, but in a good way. Anyone who has turned from vice to virtue will gladly tell you they never imagined they could be so happy, just as they realize how ugly the vices enslaving them truly were.
Lent only prescribes two days of fasting, but fasting is one of the cornerstones of Lenten observance. What’s enslaving you while convincing you it is indispensable for your happiness?
We normally fast in Lent, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do in other times of the year. The liberation starts with you.