Temptation and Lent

The great fast of Lent is upon us, 40 days and 40 nights of no meat, no dairy and nothing that we as humans indulge in when it comes to the ways of the world. This should be our mentality all year though, shouldn’t it? Why do we concentrate on this sacred time of year to renew ourselves and sacrifice these desires?

fasting2As a tight church community I believe we are very much influenced by the words and actions of those around us. We witness and hear what our friends are doing or those who you look up to as a strong spiritual figure and feel ok now it’s my time to do the same. But when does it actually come from within us? When does someone truly feel that need to cut out certain foods and certain worldly indulgences to renew themselves spiritually? Fasting is something I have always personally struggled with, the idea of not eating meat for over the month was something I found baffling and pointless. I didn’t see the need in changing what I eat in order to be deemed ‘a good Christian’. Well, not until now. I had never taken the time to actually research and let myself be taught about Lent, my main focus was always what was to follow and the celebration of Easter after these gruelling days were over. I’ve come to the realisation that our actions and thoughts don’t define us as ‘good Christians’; it is through fasting that we come into communion with Christ.  Through my own spiritual journey and desire to want to know God more, I have found myself being more and more curious about certain things I once found trivial. I wanted to know what the actual point of fasting is and why this particular fast was so much longer and ‘stricter’ than the other fasts of the year. I feel this question has been answered to me in so many different ways. God has provided me with talks, friends and even coincidental bible verses these last few weeks that have really helped me understand what this fast is all about.

When the word fast is said out loud the first thought that comes into my head is food, I instantly think about what I could replace in my diet that would be ‘siyami’. This has been my biggest mistake. Fasting isn’t a time where God is looking down on you and analysing what’s on your plate or whether you’re having soy milk in your coffee instead of full fat, it is a time for us to focus on the inside and reconnect with him spiritually and remember what he did for us while he was on this earth. Lent is a time to really connect with God as it is something He experienced himself also. In Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 we read about how Jesus himself was tempted and ridiculed by the devil. Jesus was hungry and the devil said to him “If you are the son of God, tell this stone to become bread” and Jesus answered him saying “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. That one line is it; it is the answer to the question why do we fast. Humans are programmed to live in the world and let the body lead their life. When we are hungry we eat, when we are thirsty we drink, when we are tired we sleep, all of our lives revolve around what our physical state needs. Jesus is trying to tell us “man shall not live by bread alone”, yes it is important to eat in order to survive, but in order to live we need something much deeper. The devil then tested Jesus’s authority as the son of God and ordered him to throw himself off a high cliff for his angels to catch him, Jesus responded with “Do not put the Lord you God to the test”. His final temptation was offered to him in the form of all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour to which Jesus said “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”. Jesus endured all these different temptations in solitude away from the world in a desert to show us that through his strength and love we too as his followers can overcome any temptation the devil throws our way. That is why this fast is so important; it is the concept of humanity. Jesus came to this earth as a human and went through all these struggles for us, he showed us that through communication with Him and constant efforts to be in his presence, he will give us the strength to overcome what seems to be impossible. Jesus has given us this time of solitude to sacrifice what is not important in this world and to reconnect with him on a deeper spiritual level. Through fasting and prayer we achieve this. 

St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in London is one of the oldest Coptic churches in the lands of the immigration, and one of the first to be supported and cared for by our beloved patriarch, HH the late Pope Shenouda III.

  • St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church
    Allen Street, Kensington
    London W8 6UX