O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God. [Quran 2:183]
Consciousness of God
An element of voluntary self-deprivation is often helpful in enhancing our faith. By restraining worldly appetites, we offer a modest sacrifice seeking to strengthen our spirit. By leaving secular pursuits and transient desires behind, we hope to make the Divine Presence our primary focus.
And it is chiefly, as it is an help to prayer, that it [fasting] has so frequently been found a means, in the hand of God, of confirming and increasing, not one virtue, not chastity only . . . but also seriousness of spirit, earnestness, sensibility and tenderness of conscience, deadness to the world, and consequently the love of God, and every holy and heavenly affection. [Sermons of John Wesley, #27, Upon Our Lord’s Sermon On The Mount: Discourse Seven]
Fasting is a state of body and mind that optimizes consciousness of God. It generates an inherent process that dispels opposition to sacredness. Fasting prepares us to recognize the presence of God, purifying our soul for awareness of the holy.
Purification of the Soul
Fasting is only a preliminary ceremony, to be accompanied by prayer, worship and spiritual exercises. These continue the purification of the soul, inducing humility, prompting sober thoughts and generating submission. The body, rendered weak and vulnerable, cries for its Lord. The floundering mind acknowledges its incomprehension of reality and its limited capacity to understand fully. It too cries for its Lord.
Restrain thyself along with those who cry unto their Lord at morn and evening, seeking His Countenance; and let not thine eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, who followeth his own lust and whose case hath been abandoned. [Quran 18:8].
The fasting slave is now nourished by remembrance of the Divine, an ineffable mixture of visions and awareness — an ecstatic taste of something intangible, a fragrance that permeates the senses.
This is nothing that the body or mind can control, for the ability, energy and strength of both have been abandoned. Now, they cannot describe, define or measure. God alone is the measure, and His Presence can only be described as His Presence, there is nothing comparable unto Him.
The Touch of God
The touch of God can be slight, a feathery grace – less that a breeze, lower than a whisper – that leaves the entire soul fulfilled, satiated, for as long as the touch is remembered. Yet, when the body and mind awake and the senses resume control, the touch becomes as a dream. The more it is sought, the more thought and reasoning interfere.Yet, the memory returns when our efforts quiet. Strange condition this, that cannot be attained by our intellect or prowess. Our perception, accustomed to exertion of body and mind, struggles in this state, where God provides all, and only submission is effective.
There is little left of the individual ego. The helpless slave submits, ready to do whatever the Lord commands. The only hope and wish being to serve.
A person who has given up all desires for sense gratification, who lives free from desires, who has given up all sense of proprietorship and is devoid of false ego—he alone can attain real peace. [Bhagavad Gita 2:71].
May God allow us to enter into the Divine Presence. May He grant us the willpower to discard selfish impediments hindering and obstructing our awareness. May He guide us from our secular sobriety into sacred ecstasy. May the reality of God’s Presence be made manifested in the works of our hands, the words of our mouth and the thoughts of our mind.