Lent: Fasting, Abstinence, and Prayer

Our tradition of fasting, abstinence and prayer for a definite season goes back to the example of Our Lord Himself, who fasted for forty days in the wilderness. He prophesied that when He was taken away from us, we would fast (Luke 5:35). Those days have come, but He has left us this holy tradition by which we can imitate, even in a small way, His example.
Fasting is restricting our intake of food and drink, either completely or in part. But it does not stand alone from prayer, the search for holiness, and leading a good life. Rather, it gives more meaning, more power to these.
Abstinence, for us, is refraining from eating meat and dairy, that is, exercising will- power to decide what I will and will not eat.
We fast to do penance for our sins, to acquire will-power (to do what is good and avoid what is evil), to link or thoughts and emotions to a good and virtuous life, to make our religion a part of our every-day life, and to help us see ourselves and how attached we are to our bellies, and to certain types of food. The purpose of fasting is to grow in holiness.
Whenever we fast, we should remember that we seek holiness. Then, whether we are feeling hungry, desiring food or a drink which we cannot have, preparing our food, or even just thinking about our fast, we should make an intentional connection with the fast.
If we use the fast, and everything which follows from it, to remind us that we fast in order to seek holiness, then we shall grow in holiness, because food and drink are so fundamental to our lives that we will have endless reminders.

Fasting helps us come to holiness because it is a form of penance, and it develops strength of will and self-understanding. But holiness never comes automatically. We need a complete Christian discipline for life; and fasting is an important part of that. Fasting can have no supernatural results unless it is undertaken in a spirit of prayer. It is often found by those who pray and fast, that God works small miracles for them. The person who fasts diligently and conscientiously can exercise an unprecedented control over his carnal appetites and desires. It is also essential that we fast for ourselves alone, and not compare ourselves with others who are not fasting. The great temptation of those who fast is pride.

Fasting is a powerful means of mortification (i.e. disciplining our body for our sins). When one fasts and prays, one feels in one’s very body that one has struggled to make sincere atonement. When people feel that they have not done enough penance for a sin, let them fast 24, 36 or 48 hours, and they will know that they have performed their penance.
Second, fasting strengthens the will. Our Lord said that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41). Fasting helps the spirit to exercise its will over the flesh. It helps if the decision to fast is made a day or two before the fast commences.
Third, fasting facilitates self- examination, because under the influence of the fast we see ourselves quite differently. Our sense of ourselves is related to feeling our ordinary selves, to eating and drinking like our ordinary selves. Changing our intake of food and drink immediately upsets the established patterns of our reactions: we are no longer our ordinary selves. We acquire new perceptions and feelings through the unaccustomed impressions of depriving ourselves of food and flavoured drink.
Being prepared to discipline ourselves, we are often able to make better confessions.

Fasting can bring a welcome sense of freedom, not only physically, but in the feeling and the mind, too. Our appetites enslave us more than we know, and being able to do without food helps us break this slavery. We often find, when we fast, that we don’t need as much food as we thought we did.
What we really crave is often not so much the food as the experience of satisfying our desire. Being a little hungry is not as bad as we might imagine: but the anticipation of eating something delightful can make fasting seem intolerable. Fasting shows us what a large part eating and even drooling over the prospect of eating play in our lives. When consumption is put into its proper place, there is more room in our minds and hearts for the spiritual life.
It should also be noted that the traditional understanding of the Church is that fasting from meat and dairy products is of help in overcoming the lust of the flesh. Further, substantial health benefits accrue from fasting, as long as one does not binge afterwards. Looking after our health is good and legitimate, after all, our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
St Maximos the Confessor tells us that: “Food was created for nourishment and healing. Those who eat food for purposes other than these two are therefore to be condemned as self- indulgent, because they misuse the gifts God has given us for our use. In all things, misuse is a sin.” This is worth pondering, especially today as modern culture has tried to sensualise food and eating, and has, to a significant extent, succeeded for many people.
If food is fresh, nourishing and natural, then it will be satisfying to the taste as well. In fact, part of God’s providence.
The law of abstinence bind all Catholics from the age of seven to 59, and the laws of fasting from the age of fourteen to 59. But judgment is needed, and if you are older, you can always keep those rules.

This was written by a Maronite priest. Of your mercy, please pray for those souls in Purgatory who have no one else to pray for them, and also pray for that priest.



The Most Reverend Bishops Gregory J. Mansour and A. Elias Zaidan have issued the following Lenten guidelines for the Maronites of the U.S.:

• All Maronites who are physically capable are to abstain from meat on Ash 
Monday (24 February 2020) and all Fridays of Lent.
• Ash 
Monday and the Great Friday of the Crucifixion (10 April 2020) are also days of fasting. Fasting in the Maronite Church involves eating and drinking nothing at all (except water and medicine) from midnight until noon. The rest of the day normal meals can be taken, but without meat. All Maronites who are physically capable are to fast on these two days.

Distribution of Ashes
All parish priests are to bless and distribute ashes on Ash 
Monday during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy as indicated in our liturgical books. This ceremony may not be celebrated on the vigil of Ash Monday (Cana Sunday). For the convenience of some faithful of the Latin Church who may come to Mass at a Maronite Church on their Ash Wednesday, ashes that were blessed on Monday may be given to them after the Mass. However, ashes are not to be blessed again on this day.

Devotion of Lenten Fridays
All parish priests are to celebrate the Benediction with the Cross every 
Friday of Lent except for the Great Friday of the Crucifixion. This service may be preceded by Evening Prayer (Ramsho), Stations of the Cross, or even the Divine Liturgy. Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament should not take place on the Fridays of Lent.

Personal Observance
Great Lent and Passion Week, beginning on Ash 
Monday and ending at 12:00 (noon) on Saturday of the Light, is a season of penitence. In our Maronite Church each day of this season is considered to be a day of fasting and abstinence from meat and dairy products, (with the exception of Sundays and Holy Days). Although highly encouraged, this fast is not obligatory in this Eparchy. However, it is obligatory to abstain from meat on Ash Monday and all Fridays of Lent, and to fast on Ash Monday and Great Friday, as long as one is physically able to do so.


Ladies Retreat Weekend in April

Thirsting For More… and need some time to get away, rest and pray? We invite young adult ladies (ages 18-35) to join us for a retreat weekend of rejuvenation, inspiring talks, nature walks, prayer and fellowship during the weekend of April 24-26, 2020. The suggested donation is $100 to help with meals and accommodation. Register by April 13, 2020. To register for the weekend or to find out more information please contact Sr. Therese Maria at srtherese2010@gmail.com. The retreat will be hosted by the Maronite Servant Sisters at their Mother of the Light Convent, 856 Tucker Rd Dartmouth MA 02747. Visit their website www.maroniteservants.org 


Saint Maron - His Life and Disciples

By the Maronite Monks of Adoration, Petersham MA

Saint Maron
IT IS A TYPICAL NEW ENGLAND, winter day: overcast skies and temperatures hovering above freezing. Inside, our well-heated monastery makes for a cozy home, taking most of the effects of winter off our minds as we live another day of contemplative, monastic life near the Blessed Sacrament.

Given the comforts of modern living, even within amonastery, it is easy to forget that our Maronite monastic roots began, not only with the inconveniences of living in the deserts of ancient Syria during the fourth and fifth centuries, but the added choice of spending much of that time exposed to the elements.

Our father in faith, St Maron, and a number of his early disciples, both men and women, lived as open-air hermits, a unique form of monasticism even in its day. As our Maronite Calendar takes us through their feasts, beginning with that of St Maron on February 9, and going through several of his immediate disciples in the following weeks (curiously enough, during some of the least pleasant days of the year), we can reflect on their lives and the relevance they have for us today.

Nearly all we know about St Maron comes from scarcely a single page written about him by Bishop Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393–466AD). READ MORE 


Maronite Young Adults at the March for Life- Washington DC

by Hana Chemaly, MYA from Cincinnati OH 

This year marked yet another fruitful March for Life. Running consecutively for 47 years, this year’s peaceful protest was record breaking. The crowd roared in support when President Donald Trump took the stage as the first President of the United States to deliver a speech at the March for Life in person. Accompanied by his family, he inspired the crowd reminding them, “When we see the image of a baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of God’s creation. When we hold a newborn in our arms, we know the endless love that each child brings to a family.” It was televised and heard across the record breaking crowd of 500,000 people. Families, students, religiously affiliated groups and friends came to march together. Surveys show that the youth made up half of the crowd. Proving yet again that they are the Pro-Life Generation. 
Pro-Life state of Lousiana representative, Katrina Jackson, also spoke, bridging the political gap. Her passion shone through her words, “We know as believers that God does not conform to man’s law,” she continued, “At the end of the day, it is up to each of us to pray and stand in the gap in prayer for those who need our help and see things change for the better.” “In addition to being pro-life, let us also be pro-love,” she challenged.“  As Christians, we are not called to judge one another but help the least among us.” 
Being Pro-Life is not to shame those who have gone through or been affected by an abortion. It is to prevent that choice from being made in the first place. Powerful messages on signs resonated with us, such as, “I regret my abortion”. A sizable group of Maronites marched with the crowd, including Bishop Gregory Mansour, the Maronite Seminarians, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light, members from the Maronite Young Adults and the Maronite Youth Organization. 
We broke our own personal record as MYA, having had seven National Maronite Young Adult Board members attend. They included, Director Sr. Therese Maria, President Sami Shaia, Vice President Hana Chemaly, and honorary board members, Maya Khoury, Mira Aoun, Sandy Risha, Julie Lattouf, and Antony Harb. Overall MYA members from eight states attended: NC, FL, OH, VA, MI, NJ, NY. 
A session with Bishop Gregory was held following dinner sponsored by the Maronite Seminary. It was an interactive discussion on the difference between Palliative Care and Euthanasia, including professional insights and experiences from several attendees. This discussion ended with a short and informative presentation on Natural Family Planning by Marise Frangie. 
It’s always an act of courage to witness and partake in the March for Life. We pray for the souls of all the lives lost at the hands of abortion, and for healing and peace among all those who are affected. You are loved, forgiven, and surely not alone.