The sacred books which the Holy Spirit has dictated are only the beginnings of divine guidance for us. Everything that happens is a continuation of the scriptures, expounding for us what has not been written. Faith explains the one through the other, in which souls can discover the key to all its mysteries…. How delightful the peace one enjoys when one has learned by faith to see God in this way: through all creatures as through a transparent veil. [Jean Pierre de Caussade, quoted in Conversion: The Spiritual Journey of a Twentieth Century Pilgrim, by Malcolm Muggeridge].
Spiritual consciousness translates material existence into spiritual reality. It renders ineffable mysteries capable of being expressed, and provides a Divine lens through which we comprehend life.
Daily immersion in worldly activities produces the illusion that physical reality is the source of all pleasure and pain. Our common tendency is to relate our state of being to actions and experiences that are observable and comprehensible.
For most of us, the Divine is not actively involved in our mundane efforts to exist. Our hectic lifestyle makes it difficult to keep thoughts of God constantly within reach. Petty distractions overwhelm us, often saturating our mind with anxiety and confusion.
Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles. If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation. He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust. [Alexander MacLaren].
We often formulate spiritual consciousness from knowledge of sacred texts. They provide Divine guidance for us. However, this canonical consciousness must extend into our daily activities. Our mind must stay immersed in Divine thoughts, bringing sanctity into experiences of everyday life.
. . . Fasting is useful as atoning for and preventing sin, and as raising the mind to spiritual things. And everyone is bound by the natural dictate of reason to practice fasting as far as it is necessary for these purposes. [Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica].
Deflating the Ego
Fasting helps us discard arrogance and self-love. Unwittingly, we are constantly accumulating vanity, conceit and other misconceptions of ourselves that inflate our ego. Self-examination is useless because we are too immersed in worldly desires to see ourselves clearly. Our pride conceals the illusions clogging our consciousness.
. . . God-consciousness is the one impelling cause of those moral struggles, sacrifices and purifications, those costing and heroic activities, to which all greatly spiritual souls find themselves drawn. We note that these souls experience it even when it conflicts with their philosophy: for a real religious intuition is always accepted by the self that has it as taking priority of thought, and carrying with it so to speak its own guarantees. [Evelyn Underhill, Life of the Spirit and the Life of To-day].
When we fast, we become aware of the heaps of spiritual imperfections accumulated by our soul. We feel their weight pressing against our depleted senses. Our awaken conscience recognizes them, and we begin the journey toward repentance.
As bodily food fattens the body, so fasting strengthens the soul. Imparting it an easy flight, it makes it able to ascend on high, to contemplate lofty things, and to put the heavenly higher than the pleasant and pleasurable things of life. [St. John Chrysostom].
Spiritual consciousness is stimulated by a contrite heart. Shallow pleasures lose their appeal. Serious thoughts prevail. Spiritually sober, we abandon our excesses, discard our comforts, and come rushing back to the Forgiver, the Merciful.
O mankind! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. [Quran 49:13].
Our thoughts cannot accurately measure the Divine Reality. We underestimate the all-inclusive nature of Divinity, and overestimate of the scope of human cognition.
Our hectic material existence clutters our thinking. Constantly interrupted by recurring worldly desires, our mind can consider only blurred fragments of reality.
… God-consciousness is the necessary presupposition and condition of morality, and the character and degree of the morality is consequently also conditioned on the character and degree of the God-consciousness … Hence true morality is only there possible where there is a true God-consciousness, that is, where God is not conceived of as in some manner limited, but as the infinite Spirit in the fullest sense of the word. [Adolf Wuttke, Christian Ethics. Volume II.—Pure Ethics, LXXI].
Our limited sensory perception requires that we focus on small pieces reality at a time. We need tools that take us beyond our intellect, tools that can tell us who we are and direct us to an ultimate destination.
On Yom Kippur the Torah commands us to “afflict ourselves” by not eating. To not eat is to suffer. G-d gives us this day to try and wake us up, to shake us out of our slumber, to sensitize us to the truth of reality, to the deeper places within ourselves, to our need for Him. [Rabbi Ilan Weinberg].
Fasting redirects our secular perspective and points us toward the Divine. It is faith’s preeminent tool for sobering our intellect and promoting spiritual awareness.
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].