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Light Through A Window
Several times throughout the liturgical year, Catholics are called upon to fast, but it’s important to ask why. So, why do we fast?
To answer this, let’s first start with a metaphor. Saint John of the Cross likens the soul to a glass window with a ray of sunlight shining on it. If the window is smudged and dirty, “the ray cannot illuminate it, nor transform it completely into its light; its illumination will be in proportion to its clearness. If, on the other hand, it is absolutely clean and spotless, it will be illuminated and transformed in such a way as to appear to be the luminous ray itself, and to give the same light.”
Our souls get dirty and smudged. Occasionally, they need a good cleaning. Fasting helps us to clean the window, to purify our soul, thus allowing the Divine Light to more brilliantly shine in us, through us, and to those around us.
But, how does denying our bodies food impact our souls?
Well, we all have desires for food, drink, sex, etc. These are natural desires, but sometimes they become disordered. We need to rightly order them, to put them in their place.
Fasting allows us to detach from our earthly desires to more firmly embrace our heavenly one. We choose to leave our bodily hunger unsatisfied, and instead, turn toward God who can satisfy our infinite hunger. We let our bodies go hungry, choosing to nourish our souls with prayer.
It’s this coupling of prayer and fasting that’s a powerful tool in the spiritual life. Jesus Himself spent days, nights, and even weeks in prayer and fasting.
Maybe, just maybe, he was on to something.