In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
While dining in the house of certain unidentified Pharisee, our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ is inspired to tell the parable of “’a great supper’” (Lk. 14:1). Often in the Gospels our Lord likes to use this imagery of banquets and suppers and dinners to introduce and to teach the Kingdom of God. Indeed, an anonymous guest at table with Jesus even pipes up and proclaims (perhaps unwittingly), “’Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God’” (Lk. 14:15) to which our Lord then offers His parable of “’a great supper.’” Indeed, the anonymous soul spoke the truth: to sit at the Table of God in His Kingdom and to partake of the Bread He offers will, in fact, be a blessing – a beatitudinal experience par excellence!
One would wonder who would ever want to miss eating with God? Indeed, eating God in the Bread of the Kingdom! Who would ever be so foolish as to turn down an invitation to eat and to drink with God in His Kingdom, to sit at His Table and to enjoy divine plenitude, which is say, the fullness of Holy Communion – God with man and man with God; God in man and man in God? For, without doubt, beloved brethren, this is our destiny in Jesus Christ Who has come among us and Who has ascended to the Father’s right hand in Glory after suffering, dying, and rising again, taking us with Himself, glorifying our mortal flesh with His divinity so that our “life is hidden with Christ in God,” St. Paul says (Co. 3:1-3). And, “when Christ Who is our life appears,” says the Apostle, “then [we] also will appear with Him in Glory,” that is, if we are blessed to break Bread with God in His Kingdom.
As noted, Jesus oftentimes associates the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven with a festal feast. In the Kingdom of God there is festivity and feasting, a veritable Liturgy of liturgies, if we rightly understand the vision of St. John the Theologian in his Book of Revelation, where the Lamb of God is both Sacrifice and Priest, the One Who is offered and the One Who offers, to use words from our own Divine Liturgy.
And, lo and behold, here we are fasting! What gives? We fast because the Bridegroom has been taken from us, even as our Lord has said elsewhere: “’But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then they shall fast’” (Mt. 9:15; Mk. 2:20; Lk. 5:35). We fast in these 40 days of Advent because we await with great expectation and hope the prophesied Desire of all the nations Who shall come and fill this House – the House of God – with Glory (Hg. 2:7). We fast with our minds and hearts set firmly on the Kingdom of God, where our Crucified and Risen Jesus is, and from which He will come again in Glory, with all His holy angels at the appointed time set by the Father. We fast because fasting feeds our longing for the divine festival for which we are destined if we love and keep the invitation of our God to eat the Holy Supper in His Kingdom. Fasting helps our souls to remain oriented to the Orient from on High, to seek heavenly things and Him especially Who is the King of Heaven! “For you died [in Baptism],” Paul says to us, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Co. 3:1-3). We fast because our Jesus is everything to us. Christ God is our all “and in all.” We are wrapped up in Him and He in us. This is the truth and the reality of the Incarnation of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ for which we are preparing to celebrate! God in the flesh Who gives to us His own Body and Blood in the Meal of the Kingdom of God.
‘Verily, verily I say unto you, unless ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no Life in you. . . . For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood dwelleth in Me, and I in him’ (Jn. 6:53, 55-56).
Indeed, “’Blessed [are all who] shall eat Bread in the Kingdom of God’” (Lk. 14:15)!
We fast to increase our hunger and our appetites for God Who alone can satisfy because we were created for Him and by Him (St. Augustine). This is the witness of the Church and her Scriptures. We fast from food and drink in anticipation of eating and drinking the Holy Eucharist as a sign and a witness. But, moreso, we fast from sin and its allurements because our Lord and Master of the House is coming and we have been baptized (Co. 3:4-11). We mortify or put to death (Rm. 6:15-23; 8:13), which is to say, we strip off, we deprive, we starve, we evict, we neglect, we wear down, and we give no quarter to our sin and its many passions by confessing our sins and receiving the absolution of God from the priest, by repentance, fasting, prayer and the pursuit of virtues. For the appetites we have for sin and its passions tempt us and arouse in us many desires to disregard God and to deem Him and His Church as non-essential, just like those in the parable who blew off the invitation of the master of the house in order to pursue what they believed to be “better” things – things better and more essential than God Himself!
Can we even dare to imagine? To be sure, none of what they went after can be deemed unworthy of time and interest; none was evil. But, that’s how the devil works. Re-read the Garden encounter with the ancient serpent (Gn. 3:1-24)! Those things cited by our Lord in the parable displaced God in the minds and hearts of those whom He had invited to sit at Table with Him in His Kingdom. They became uppermost in their hearts and minds, becoming larger than life to the point that they became idols. They did not seek those things above, where Christ is, but rather the things of this life and of this world that so easily snag us (Hb. 12:1-2). They were not prepared to enter into the joy of their Lord and to celebrate with Him (Mt. 25:21, 23, 34)!
Are we? Are we prepared? Are we ready? Are we seeking those things above where our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ is? Are we fasting from sin and its passions and are we pursuing the beauty of Jesus Christ Himself – feasting on Him as God’s beloved elect – as those invited into the Kingdom to sit at the Table of God? Are we putting on the beauty of God’s Kingdom? Is the Kingdom of God and His Glory our food and drink: “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, [and] long-suffering”? Are we “bearing with one another”? This isn’t the same as “putting up with” or “tolerating”. It’s rather the shouldering of each other’s crosses and burdens, of making them lighter by joining with our brother or sister, helping them to hold up under the pressures and strains of life – all out of love for Jesus Christ and in His love that alone can heal us. Are we “forgiving one another, . . ., even as Christ [our God and Master] forgave [us]”? “But above all these things,” are we “[putting] on love, which is the bond of perfection” and allowing “the peace of God [to] rule in [our] hearts, to which [we] were called” in the one Body of Jesus Christ which is the Church and Bride of God? And, are we thankful, that is, are we making eucharist, which is at the heart of God’s Kingdom (Co. 3:12-15)?
Sadly, tragically, but not surprisingly, there are those who ignore the invitation of the Master of the House and who deem Him, His salvation, and His Church as non-essential for life in this world. Jesus warns, they shall not taste of His Supper. Advent – Nativity Fast – is God’s appointed time to get us turned around and re-acclimated to Jesus Christ. Do not waste this fast, beloved, but instead hear what St. Peter instructs us:
Therefore brethren, give diligence all the more to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things ye shall never fall. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pe. 1:10-11).
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!