Asceticism and holiness

In my last post, I claimed that holiness is nothing more and nothing less than abandoning your life to God. It’s not just giving yourself to Him, it’s giving yourself so completely that you are no longer your own. Your cares and worries are no longer yours to deal with. Your time, your talents, your possessions, are not yours anymore. Your will belongs to Him (though it is actually more perfectly yours in this free gift).

So what’s the point of lent then? Why bother with fasting, prayer and almsgiving? Aren’t these an attempt at making ourselves holy? Or even at saving ourselves?

They can be, if we do them incorrectly. But done right, they are precisely the training we need in self-abandonment.

We fast in order to remove the ways we rely on ourselves. We make food and other material things – things we can control – into our happiness, our comfort, and our source of strength. When we remove this, we are forced to look elsewhere.

When we pray, we are then filling that void in the way it was designed to be fulfilled. We place ourselves in God’s hands, where we belong, for Him to be our joy, our security and our strength. If we fast but don’t pray, we will certainly find another false god to fill the void. We will make ourselves a golden calf, because we can control idols.

Finally, we give alms, because we are no longer concerned for ourselves, and are now concerned with giving ourselves to God, who loves and lives in our brothers and sisters. His love is being made the source of our lives, and so we must give ourselves up to this love ever more fully. If we refuse, we refuse to be His. If we fast and pray, but don’t give alms, we are deluding ourselves. If we fast and pray but don’t give alms, the God we pray to is imaginary. He is just an idol in our heads.

Lent is a time of dying to self, and learning to belong to God. Our lenten practices earn us nothing. They accomplish nothing. But they are that death to self that gains God Himself.

God bless you!

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