“You’re fasting during Lent?! What are you, a closet Catholic?” Alas, these all-too-common accusations are born of great ignorance of Christian history (including Anglicans and Protestants), not to mention ignorance of the Scriptures. This penitential season is a time, among other things, of fasting. It simply is a part of the season; to omit fasting is to ignore everything that the Church announces, in her liturgy, on Ash Wednesday.
And this fasting is glorious!
Consider this 6th century hymn that has adorned Anglican hymnals for a while:
The glory of these forty days
We celebrate with songs of praise;
For Christ, by whom all things were made,
Himself has fasted and has prayed.
Alone and fasting, Moses saw
The loving God who gave the law;
And to Elijah, fasting, came
The steeds and chariots of flame.
So Daniel trained his mystic sight,
Delivered from the lions’ might;
And John, the Bridegroom’s friend, became
The herald of Messiah’s name.
Then grant us, Lord, like them, to be
Full oft in fast and pray’r with thee;
Our spirits strengthen with thy grace,
And give us joy to see thy face.
O Father, Son, and Spirit, blest,
To thee be ev’ry pray’r addressed,
Who art in threefold name adored,
From age to age, the only Lord. Amen.
What a glorious thing it is to observe a holy Lent! Fasting so often comes with negative baggage; disciplines of self-denial are so easily looked down upon with disdain today. Yet songs like this capture the glorious end of self-denial such as fasting: strengthening in God’s grace, similitude with great saints of old like Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and John the Baptizer, not to mention our Lord Jesus himself. It is a curious thing for a Christian to imagine that he or she could aspire to holiness without utilizing even the most basic of tools championed by the great cloud of witnesses that have come before us.
Let hymns like this encourage you and build you up, this Lenten season. Yes we have great sins to bewail and repent of, but we also have much to celebrate in the healing- and strengthening-power of God!