The Fasting Worldview
Today, especially in affluent societies, St. Augustine’s warning is more timely than ever: ‘Enter again into yourself.’ Yes, we must enter again into ourselves, if we want to find ourselves. Not only our spiritual life is at stake, but indeed, our personal, family and social equilibrium, itself. One of the meanings of penitential fasting is to help us recover an interior life. [Pope John Paul II].
We all have views on the nature of existence, or worldview. Our perception of reality forms our ideas of who we are, where we are heading and how to get there. It provides a simple explanation of the world, and offers us moral values to distinguish right from wrong.
Unfortunately, fiction and truth are increasingly being blurred. The hypnotic digital images that daily entertain our mind can also manipulate our emotions and provide their own worldview.
Left to our own devices, we appear to live in different worlds, each of us enjoying a different reality, one with angels and spirits, another with quarks and dark matter, another with aliens and vampires, and so on.
The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism. These have led to a general sense of disorientation, especially in the periods of adolescence and young adulthood which are so vulnerable to change. [Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel, 64].
Reflection of Truth
Our worldview consists of the material content of the natural world around us, and of the intellectual content of our mind, including psychological dimensions of the spiritual world.
Obstructing our worldview is a subconscious barrier that limits and distorts everything we see. It consists of accumulated processes of education, traditions and beliefs. We need them to focus on the reality most immediate to us, but they severely reduce the scope of our vision.
We must try to roll back the results of the total worldview which considers material-energy, shaped by chance, as the final reality. We must realize that this view will with inevitable certainty always bring forth results which are not only relativistic, and not only wrong, but which will be inhuman, not only for other people, but for our children and grandchildren, and our spiritual children. It will always bring forth what is inhuman, for with its false view of total reality it not only does not have a basis for the uniqueness and dignity of the individual person, but it is totally ignorant as to what, and who Man is. [Francis Schaeffer].
We regularly change our answers to life’s questions from true to false, or from “B” to “C” or to “all of the above.” Our worldview wanders from firm convictions to doubtful relativity to total ignorance. Our guesses about heaven and earth may reflect profound introspection or what we ate for dinner.
The pure heart is the best mirror for the reflection of Truth. So all these disciplines are for the purification of the heart. As soon as it is pure, all truths flash upon it in a minute. [Sri Sathya Sai Baba].
When we examine our worldview, we may conclude that it is all in our mind. We may think that our thoughts perceive reality, therefore, elevating our thoughts provides a better, broader, view.
A different approach is to bow, to surrender our thought process. By adopting a timeless perspective, one outside our intellect, we bring our field of vision into the Divine Reality. This is the perspective of revealed Scripture, of inspired understanding, of wisdom breathed into our heart, the window to eternity.
If we knew how to greet each moment as the manifestation of the divine will we could find in it all the heart could desire. Nor what indeed is more reasonable, more perfect, more divine, than the will of God? Can its infinite value be increased by Can its infinite value be increased by the paltry difference of time, place, or circumstance? Were you given the secret of finding it at all times and in all places, you would possess a gift most precious, most worthy of your desires. [Jean Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment: Or, Absolute Surrender to Divine Providence, pp. 79-80].
Window to the Unseen
The perspective of the faith differs from that of disbelief. The reality of God is beyond our understanding, outside our perception. Nevertheless, we can approach it from an inner window through which even disbelief can glimpse.
How can fasting change our worldview? Fasting can be considered a spiritual workout, an exercise that helps us gain strength to take back control of our lifestyle. Through fasting, the spirit can overcome physical appetites and then gain strength to dominate our rebellious intellect.
… when exercised with a pure heart and a right motive, fasting may provide us with a key to unlock doors where other keys have failed; a window opening up new horizons in the unseen world; a spiritual weapon of God’s provision, mighty, to the pulling down of strongholds. [Arthur Wallis, God’s Chosen Fast, p. 9].
Seeing beyond Ourselves
The physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions of our personality interact in a seemingly harmonious relationship. This inner relationship determines our overall perspective from which we see and interpret life and the universe around us.
Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony—sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on. And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance. Keep down the waves of inordinate desires. Repel the tempest of evil thoughts. Preserve the bark; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot. But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things. [St. Chrysostom: Select Homilies].
However, despite their apparent cooperation, a constant struggle exists between our body, mind and spirit. A dominant or superior perspective usually succeeds in establishing control of our deeper thoughts. This dominant point of view determines our primary behavioral patterns — our worldview — and this worldview ultimately governs our intentions, actions and aspirations.
We overcome ourselves when we fast. Without this desire to go beyond ourselves, to reach for something beyond the ordinary, we would remain stuck in the realm of banality, never understanding beauty, wisdom, and the purity of things. We may have enough to live on, but much too little to live for. “The purification of the heart through fasting” is therefore seen as an important aspect of the quest for the meaning of life. It helps us to grasp something of our origin, which is greater than ourselves. [Peter Seewald, Wisdom from the Monastery: A Program of Spiritual Healing].
A lifestyle whose primary purpose is Divine service alters our perception of reality. Having exercised control of our physical and intellectual faculties, our soul turns toward a Divine Reality that encompasses our noblest character and loftiest worldview.
O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of God with all the consciousness that is due to Him, and do not allow death to overtake you ere you have surrendered yourselves unto Him. [Quran 3:102].