Wednesday 8 March 2023

Fasting - a Weapon in the Spiritual Armoury?

Another insight appropriate to this Lenten season from the late Daphne Pochin Mould's 1956 work The Celtic Saints: Our Heritage.  Here she is examining the way in which fasting was regarded by the Irish saints as an essential part of the Christian's armoury in the battle against sin and the devil:

The ideas linked in the mind of the Celtic Church with that of penance were those of the Christian soldier and of martyrdom; of action positive and adventurous, of struggle with our own sins and with the devil. It is the attitude of mind reflected in the prayer in the Roman Missal after the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, which refers to the fast begun that day as the defences of the Christian army - we who are going to fight against spiritual wickedness are to be strengthened by self-denial. Or to quote an Irish source, there is the Second Vision of Adamnan, which seems to date from the 11th century, and was written to command the people of Ireland to fast to avert a pestilence which it was feared might come upon the country. It says that: - 

"It is through fasting and prayer that the kindreds of men have been brought from the devil's power, after Christ had been forty days and nights, drinkless, foodless, fighting with the devil on behalf of Adam's children. And it is out of compassion that Christ did that, so that fasting and prayer should be every human being's chief harbour against every distress that may come to them from heaven or earth."

Fasting, says the Vision, is always an indestructible rampart against destruction, a straight path to heaven, a renewal of friendship with God and an increase of penitence and charity in the heart. Small wonder that Columbanus said that we ought to fast each day just as we pray daily; the soldier is not going to lay aside one of his most effective weapons in the heat of the battle. 

Daphne D.C. Pochin Mould, The Celtic Saints: Our Heritage (Dublin, 1956) 118-119.

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