As the season of Lent comes to a close and we get set for the “big day” of fasting this Friday, TOB expert Christopher West offers this beautiful explanation of how this fast can prepare us for the great feast of Easter:
Fasting allows us to feel our hunger. And feeling our physical hunger can, if we allow it, lead us to feel our spiritual hunger, that is, our hunger for God. Think of the woman at the well: she came there physically thirsty and left with the promise of living water flowing from the well of salvation.
If feeling our hunger can awaken our spiritual senses, never feeling hunger can dull them. Furthermore, when we always satisfy our hunger, we can become enslaved by the pleasures of this world. Fasting and abstinence “help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart” (CCC 2043). And this kind of freedom is especially important for people like me who love to eat.
Oh, do I ever! In fact, at the end of a meal I often feel a pointed (and even poignant) sadness…Something in me screams: No! I want this to last forever…
And there it is – my yearning for the infinite … my yearning for God. The sadness I feel at the end of a meal can either lead to gluttony (the idolatry of food) or I can accept the “pain” of my desire and allow it to open me to the living hope of the eternal banquet. Fasting, properly practiced, is a wide open door precisely to this hope.
God desires to feed us – and not just from any po’ boys menu, but with “juicy, rich food, and pure, choice wines” (Is 25:6), with “bread come down from heaven” (Jn 6:41). Scripture describes heaven itself as a feast – a wedding feast (see Rev 19:9). And let us not forget Christ’s first miracle: at the end of the party when the wedding guests had already finished the wine, Christ provides gallons and gallons of the finest wine imaginable. As the glory of Pentecost indicates, we are all called to get “drunk” on this new wine (see Acts 2:13).
This kind of “holy intoxication” is a favorite theme of the mystics. For in the Song of Songs, the King invites his bride into the “wine cellar” (1:4). Teresa of Avila offers this commentary: “The King seems to refuse nothing to the Bride! Well, then, let her drink as much as she desires and get drunk on all these wines in the cellar of God! Let her enjoy these joys, wonder at these great things, and not fear to lose her life through drinking much more than her weak nature enables her to do. Let her die at last in this paradise of delights; blessed death that makes one live in such a way.”