1) No meat
2) No eating until nightfall (or at least until "the seventh hour," i.e. noon).
|Carolus Magnus "Charlemagne"|
St. Josemariá makes a powerful, and to many today perhaps surprising, observation on the spiritual life, "unless you mortify yourself you'll never be a prayerful soul." (The Way, 172). Why, we might be tempted to ask. St. Josemariá answers, "no ideal becomes a reality without sacrifice. Deny yourself. It is so beautiful to be a victim!" (The Way, 175). This truth is a meditation on the very teaching of Christ, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Lk 9:23) Which leads St. Josemariá to remark, "don't complain if you suffer . It is the prized and valued stone that is polished." (Furrow, 235). Why is self imposed suffering, i.e. mortification, so aidful to the Christian faithful? Because it is the most effective way of battling what St. Paul called "sarx" (the flesh). "The body must be given a little less than it needs. Otherwise it will turn traitor." (The Way, 196).
Don't allow your body to "turn traitor," to be a Judas. Discipline it. Bring it firmly under the control of your spirit. Remember, the three things that war against us are the devil, the world, and the flesh. Fasting is one of the primary ways of battling the last of these. It is a way of taking charge of our bodies, bodies that once were completely docile to the spirit, but, thanks to the stain of original sin, are now all too frequently in rebellion against it. Purity, which is at the heart of holiness (which itself is the reason for which we exist) is something that primarily concerns man deep in his "heart" (cf. Matt 5:8). Man, however, being a psychosomatic (body-soul) unity (contra the gnostics and their Cartesian and "new age" modern followers), can only achieve inner-purity, inner holiness, by taming the passions that afflict his body. St. John Paul the Great made clear the absolute importance of being interiorly pure,
It is the purity of the "man of concupiscence," who is nevertheless inspired by the word of the Gospel and open to "life according to the Spirit" (in conformity with St. Paul's words), that is, by the "redemption of the body" achieved by Christ. This is precisely why we find in the words of the Sermon on the Mount the appeal to the "heart," that is, to the inner man. The inner man must open himself to life according to the Spirit, in order to share in evangelical purity of heart: in order to find again and realize the value of the body, freed by redemption from the bonds of concupiscence. (General Audience, April 1, 1981)
This inner "evangelical purity of heart" can be achieved only when we decide to war against the natural, postlapsarian, tendency to allow the servant (i.e. the body) control the master (i.e. the spirit). Fasting, as our Medieval ancestors, St. Josemaría, and St. John Paul the Great all well knew is one way to right this situation.
With that encouragement, I invite you to begin today to venture with us this week in mastering ourselves with our Charlemagne inspired fast.