Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fasting for humility

So the Lenten fast is almost over. I didn't do all that well-- next year I think instead of trying several things to modify my behavior, I'll just pick one thing that I can easily remember and stick to that. But anyway, on the subject of fasting, I came across an interesting concept in the Office of Readings a little while ago. I've heard of fasting for self-denial, to develop discipline, to have solidarity with the poor, to offer a sacrifice to God, to remove distraction in order to pray better, to remind oneself of the superiority of spiritual and eternal things over earthly desires... but I had never before seen this idea of fasting to develop humility:

Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. Let us offer our souls in sacrifice by means of fasting. There is nothing more pleasing that we can offer to God, as the psalmist said in prophecy: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God does not despise a bruised and humbled heart.

The whole thing is here. Now that I read it, it makes perfect sense. It also reminds me of something St. Patrick wrote in his Confessions, how when he was a slave tending sheep in Ireland he was often cold and hungry, and that made him humble. I've always lived in physical comfort, but I think I can see how suffering from hunger would help you remember that you're not as awesome as you think you are.


Pam H. said...

I'd always understood fasting for humility as accepting all the insulting or demeaning things others say or do to one as a mortification of one's pride, not physical fasting from food.

Generally, in physical fasting, I get terrific urges to be nasty to others and not a direct sense of humility. (unless it's from seeing my own nastiness....)

Rachel Gray said...

Yeah, I've never felt that my fasting led directly to humility, but I have an idea that if I did it with the conscious motive of repairing for past sins of pride, or if I fasted more extensively so that I really suffered from hunger and didn't just feel hungry for an hour, then maybe there would be more connection between the two...