God is the Pinnacle of our reality, yet the Divine Reality is high above our thoughts and beyond our understanding. The arrogant person, intoxicated by pride and self-importance, presumes to encompass the knowledge of God and to understand His Creation. However, the extent of such human delusions reaches only inches into the universe – and that’s on a clear day.
Near to God
We are intoxicated by our existence, by what we eat, what we see and hear, and by what we think of ourselves and of others. This intoxication produces the illusions common to the human mind.
Nevertheless, in His mercy God allows humanity to approach Him and contemplate His Reality. Despite our ignorance and pettiness, God provides tools and mechanisms by which we can climb nearer to Him.
Fasting possesses great power. If practiced with the right intention, it makes one a friend of God. [Tertullian, On Fasting].
The spiritual fast is one of those tools by which we can come closer to God. When we fast, the comical and trivial lose their humor. The nimble jest and the sharp retort become stale and insipid to the mind conscious of God. Arrogance dissolves into humility, and pride collapses under the weight of Divine awareness.
Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. [St. Augustine, Sermon, On Prayer and Fasting, quoted by Aquinas in Summa Theologica].
To fast spiritually is to abstain from intoxicating involvements in material existence. This fasting is the process of negating the predominance of the flesh and exalting that of the spirit.
A truly spiritual fast sobers the thought process. By removing the sediments of indulgence and the remnants of excesses, it blankets the spirit with a solemn cloak of serious introspection. This state of mind becomes the launching platform from which our sobriety returns and our spiritual meditation starts.
Fasting as a religious act increases our sensitivity to that mystery always and everywhere present to us. It is an invitation to awareness, a call to compassion for the needy, a cry of distress, and a song of joy. It is a discipline of self-restraint, a ritual of purification, and a sanctuary for offerings of atonement. It is a wellspring for the spiritually dry, a compass for the spiritually lost, and inner nourishment for the spiritually hungry. [Fr. Thomas Ryan].
As the body diminishes its mortal cravings for trinkets and illusions, our scurrying no longer produces clouds of greed and pride. Our inner vision clears and our tranquil spirit seeks to contemplate the Divine.
There are three principal wines, three principal intoxications: the intoxication of one’s self, the intoxication of one’s occupation, and the third intoxication which is what the senses feel every moment . . . And as a person advances in meditative life he may arrive at that stage where . . . he will become convinced that he can exist without these three intoxications. Verily, this conviction of existing independently of these three wines, which bring man the realization of external life, is the essence of the divine message and of all religions. [Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Way of Illumination, The Alchemy of Happiness].