The calendar that the Church Fathers set out for us in their holy wisdom, reminds us. Go to confession. Come to vigil. Remember the saints. Prepare for the feast. Bring your baskets (Pascha), bring your first fruits (Holy Transfiguration), remember your oil (Pascha), your salt, your candles (Presentation of Jesus at the Temple), your jars of water (Theophany), and bless your herbs and flowers (Dormition). Bless your house (between Theophany and Cheesefare Sunday), bless your many wheeled things (Holy Prophet Elijah), bless your herds, and bless your neighbors and the poor (the feast of St. Phanourious). Remember to fast. Repent! Prepare for the Feast!
I saw a comment on Facebook this week that seem to poo-poo the idea of fasting as a legalism, possibly as something archaic, a superstition. I'm certain that this was stated in all piety. I don't know the faith of the individual who drew this conclusion. I thought about this comment and wished that I spent more time with the Scriptures, more time in my prayer corner, more time in front of the icons, more time in Church, more time repenting the junk yard of sins that I manage to rack up against my salvation. Despite my wishing, there is no plan to make these things happen, there is just poor, pitiful me, scatterbrained and running like hell to thing to thing to thing. And so for this reason I like the fast.
During the seasons of fasts, I do stop. I do plan. I search the calendar (both parish and Church) for ways to participate more fully. I make a greater effort to find a way into confession, to vespers, and to Great Vigil. I am more free and able to say no to parties, activities, and extra school functions. During the fasts, I find peace in not only the simplified routine, but in simple obedience. In that obedience we find our salvation.
Does this make sense?
God did not make me a crusader. He did not make me a pillar among women. He did not give me great authority or terrible wisdom. He made me a a fitful, funny thing that grows best with extra support, like a great untrained tomato plant with heavy fruit. The Lord knows what a mess I am so He does not leave me to my own devices. Were He to abandon me any fruit I managed to bear would rot or drop off prematurely. So He has staked out my boundaries and trained me how I should grow and for this I give thanks.
Make ready, O Bethlehem: let the manger he prepared, let the cave show its welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away. Born of a virgin, God has appeared to men, formed as we are and making godlike the garment He has put on. Therefore Adam is renewed with Eve and they call out, "Your good pleasure has appeared on earth to save our kind."
-St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem