Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Inebriation of Soberness

It's only the fifth day of the Nativity Fast (for Orthodox Christians) and as I continue to struggle to embrace it as the spiritual blessing it's meant to be, rather than as strange rules that ruin the festive spirit of the pre-Christmas season, I'm thankful to read these words by St. Ambrose of Milan:

"If you offer fasting with humility and with mercy, your bones, as Isaiah said, shall be fat, and you shall be like a well-watered garden (Isaiah 58:11). So then, your soul shall grow fat and its virtues also by the spiritual richness of fasting, and your fruit shall be multiplied by the fertility of your mind, so that there may be in you the inebriation of soberness, like that cup of which the Prophet says: 'Your cup which inebriates, how excellent it is' (Ps. 23)!"

The inebriation of soberness.
I want that. Maybe that's what it feels like to have a fat soul and a fertile mind. And into the mix, I wouldn't mind having a skinny body. Some of the saints write that heavy bodies weigh down our souls, making it more difficult for us to soar to heaven. I think that's true in my case, because I just feel more lazy and down-trodden when I'm overweight. And in the past, during certain Lenten Fasts when I've been able, by God's grace, to keep the fast a little more obediently, I do remember feeling "lighter" ... not only in my body but in my heart. More alert to God, and to the people around me. I wonder if having "fat bones" means stronger bones, which will help my osteoarthritis? St. Ambrose was not only a bishop, but also had the gift of wonder working, and healed many. You can read more about him here.

The trick, I think, is not to approach the Fast as a "diet"... not to have weight loss or lack of physical pain as my goals, but rather to desire to have good fruits. And if, along with those good fruits, I am perchance also granted the inebriation of soberness, that would be, as the Psalmist says, most excellent.

1 comment:

Ali said...

What a beautiful post, Susan! So much wisdom is here. I really, really struggle with fasting from certain foods. However, I do welcome the fasting seasons as a time for increased prayer and repentance.

What I have noticed in the past several days is how sad I feel at the suffering in the world. I almost made a major gaffe in the grocery store the other day, which would have hurt someone I didn't know. By the grace of God, the moment passed, and I did not open my mouth. However, it was all I could do to keep it together until I got to my car. Then I broke down in tears and drove home crying, feeling convicted by the sadness and suffering I see in this world. I am an emotional person in general who cries easily, but I do feel some sadness in my soul for myself and others right now.