This is my speech from a debate we had at Church titled “Fasting Food makes you strong” – I was on the Affirmative team and our team line was “Fasting food makes you strong like Christ”
Some parts of this have been omitted or edited to make it suitable for my blog 🙂
Also, it will be aired on CYC (www.cycnow.com) – not sure when but I might add it to this blog when it’s posted on YouTube.
Fasting food makes you strong like Christ
Good morning Fathers (priests,) Adjudicator, Timekeeper, opposing team and fellow youth. I will be speaking about how God created us in His image and His likeness and how we accomplish this through fasting. And because of this, we are strong.
Fasting food makes you strong like Christ – if you acquire His image and likeness
In Genesis chapter 1 verse 26 we read; ‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;’
HH Pope Shenouda reinstates this point by saying “God’s children should be strong because they were created in His image and likeness; and God is powerful. We say about Him; “Holy is the Lord God Almighty”; therefore, they should be strong like Him.”
Furthermore, the scholar Origen says “So that while the possibility of attaining perfection was given to him in the beginning through the honour of the “image,” he should in the end through the accomplishment of these works obtain for himself the perfect “likeness.””
This means, quite simply in St. Gregory of Nyssa’s words: “We possess the one by creation; we acquire the other by free will.” So His image is implanted in us, but we must struggle in our lives to become like Him. To be like Him, is to be strong.
In saying this, I would like to ask you all; how then do we acquire God’s likeness?
It is through fasting and prayer. Prayer is always implied whenever we talk about fasting in the Coptic Orthodox Church. In the gospels we see many times that fasting always associated with prayer. One of many examples include the verse in the book of Matthew chapter 17 verse 21 – “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” – as HH Pope Shenouda puts it – “such is the power of fasting, in terrorizing devils” – How can we say therefore that fasting and fasting food does NOT make you strong and powerful? How can we even think that true fasting does not give us divine strength to conquer demons?
Fasting food makes you strong like Christ if you struggle and have faith like the saints who became Christ-like
As mentioned in the 5th Doxology for Lent we sing in our Church during vespers and matins, it is evident to see the saints’ struggles with fasting and prayer. For example, through fasting and prayer – the three saintly youths Sedrach, Meshach and Abednego were saved, Joseph was raised, ruled over Egypt and was saved from the adulteress… We sing also, that through fasting and prayer, God lifted His wrath from the people of Nineveh and forgave them their sins. It is inevitable to note here, that indeed – we have to struggle through fasting and prayer to see miracles happen in our lives. And when they happen in our lives we see the divine strength empowered in us from above. Also in the 5th Doxology for Lent is mentions that “Fasting and prayer, are the weapons of victory, by which the Christians abide, through this life” – The words used “`n;w`ou pe `phoplon `mpi[ro” in Coptic; “weapons of victory” are very deep words which imply a strong and powerful nature acquired through prayer and fasting.
Fasting food makes you strong like Christ and does not make you weak
HH Pope Shenouda in his book “The Spirituality of Fasting” raises the question – Can a person fast but at the same time not consencrate his fast to God? He answered in a very humble way saying “Yes, many people fast, but God has no share in their fasting. For instance, someone may fast while they are far from God. He fasts, yet he does not change, and remains in his weakness.” I would like to highlight that HH mentioned that one who does not fast properly and does not change, stays in their weakness. This brings me back to my initial point – that fasting makes you strong LIKE Christ and to become LIKE Christ, we must have a spiritual life. As we have His image, we must work for His likeness.
Fasting food makes us strong like Christ through self control.
Food Is just a small portion of fasting, we are taught in the Coptic Orthodox Church that fasting should acquire all our senses for example our eyes – that we do not watch bad movies, or our ears – that we do not listen to bad music. Because, a person may abstain from food for a while and at the same time indulging in worldly desires which he cannot abstain from, does not mean his fast is acceptable to God. While we fast, yes, with fasting food, we must also fast with our other senses. We must restore the image of God within us.
(HH Pope Shenouda’s Sermon- ‘Spirituality of fasting’) “Fasting is not a mere bodily deed. Rather it is a communion with God. A fast that does not have God in it is not a fast at all. We eat and we fast for God.” HH mentions that; “we eat for God so that our body may gain strength to serve God and perform our duties and responsibilities towards others. It is also for God that we hunger, to subdue the body lest it sin against God, to control and not be controlled bodily desires and lusts so that they may not control our actions. We behave in accordance with the spirit, not the body, for the sake of our love of God and the fellowship with His Divine Spirit. God rejects fasting for any other reason.”
If fasting made us weak, do you think our Church would promote it and encourage this practice?
Contemplation from Pope Shenouda’s book “Return to God:”
One ought to pray “I lost my strength when I went far away from You. Give me some of Your strength. Please give me the divine assistance to help me to return to You.”