9 September 2015

Eat the Fat and Drink the Sweet

The Ember Days of the old (Tridentine and Prayer Book) liturgies began life as pagan Roman Harvest Festivals, celebrating the gathering-in of the corn, the wine, and the oil. The Church of Rome christianised them; pointed out in her lections that the Torah refers to analogous agricultural festivals; and turned them into fasts so as to eliminate the excesses of pagan celebration.

The September Ember season is, in my view, the most fun, because the down-to-earth agricultural liturgical texts have not been overladen with themes of Advent, Lent, or Pentecost, as those of the other three Embertides have been. So let's wallow in the Harvest Festival joy of this week's liturgies, and let's enjoy it all the more by doing it with the Tudor English texts in your English Missal ... go and blow the dust off it! ... Sing we merrily unto God our Strength, make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob ... behold, the days come when the plowman shall overcome the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed: and the mountains shall drop sweet wine ... and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof ... eat the fat and drink the sweet [sounds like a gastronomic reworking of Fr Zed's motto, doesn't it?] ...

But these Ember Days were  fast days! Look at the Collects: 'O Lord, who sufferest us to offer unto thee this solemn fast: we beseech thee, that thou wouldest likewise bestow upon us the succour of thy pardon'. And the Gospels are concerned with healings, because healing and exorcism were linked with fasting. The Church became supremely potent to heal and to cast out demons, through her sacred ministers, because she had humbled and purified herself before the Lord with fasting. And at these times the Church besought God to send down the Holy Spirit for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God by the imposition of the Bishop's hands, having prepared herself by communal fasting (cf Acts 13:1-3). S John Paul II used to prepare himself to administer Holy Orders with fasting and discipline.

I wonder if the disappearance of Fasting is one of the reasons why the Devil has so much power over members of the modern Church. And ... by the way ... the disappearance of fasting in the Western Church is not an area in which we can heap all the blame on Paul VI. As so often, it was Pius XII who got there first.

1 comment:

Grumpy Beggar said...

“ ‘eat the fat and drink the sweet’ [sounds like a gastronomic reworking of Fr Zed's motto, doesn't it?] ...”
LOL

“I wonder if the disappearance of Fasting is one of the reasons why the Devil has so much power over members of the modern Church. And ... by the way ... the disappearance of fasting in the Western Church is not an area in which we can heap all the blame on Paul VI. As so often, it was Pius XII who got there first.”

In general, I would certainly concur Padre that the disappearance of fasting is not only one of the reasons, but one of the major reasons : Fasting binds Satan , and prayer and fasting can suspend the laws of nature. Father Gabriele Amorth – exorcist for the diocese of Rome, and one of the world’s foremost in this area of expertise, adds a third weapon to the arsenal, which goes along with prayer and fasting – faith.

“The Lord gave them (the Apostles) an answer that also for us exorcists is very important. He said that overcoming this type of demon, you need much faith, much prayer and much fasting. Faith, prayer and fasting.
“Especially faith, you need so much faith. Many times also in the healings, Jesus does not say in the Gospel it is me who has healed you. He says, you are healed thanks to your faith. He wants faith in the people, a strong and absolute faith. Without faith you can do nothing.”


Yet we aslo have exceptions. St. Therese of Lisieux was not permitted to fast because of her frail health and she still managed to became a Doctor of the Church (although in her case it could surely be argued that being forbidden to fast was an even greater sacrifice for St Therese than fasting would have been because she so dearly desired to fast).

Whether the devil has so much power over us or other members of the Church is a difficult subject to isolate, to keep separate from other influences in analysis, since there are areas where we find intertwining or interplay of dynamics from different sources. St. John of the Cross delineates the three main enemies of our souls- the world, the Devil, and the self :

"The world is the enemy least difficult to conquer; the devil is the hardest to understand; but the flesh is the most tenacious, and its attacks continue as long as the old self lasts."

Fasting is one weapon which works particularly well against any and all of these enemies of our souls.