December 2012 letter
Truly “The Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad” (Ps 126: 3), when the heaven announced the selection of Pope Tawadros II to be Pope 118 on the throne of St. Mark the Apostle. Yet we need to raise our hearts in prayer every mass when the deacon calls the people, saying: “Pray for our high priest Pope Abba Tawadros …”, and ask God to grant him aid, strength and wisdom to shepherd the Church of Christ purchased by His blood.
As we celebrate this month the start of the Nativity fast, we found it suitable to review some of the sayings of our beloved Pope Shenouda III about fasting:
“We would like to consider together how to enter into the spiritual meaning of the divine commandment rather than the literal meaning, as God meant it rather than just its appearance. The Pharisees used to cling to the letter as they did with the Lord for example in the commandment of the Sabbath. When He granted sight to the born blind and that was on Saturday they said: “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (Jn 9: 16). Also as Christ healed the sick man at Bethesda after his illness 38 years, the scriptures say that the Jews were seeking to kill him because he did so on Saturday (Jn 5: 16). It is the literality that kills because it indicates a lack of understanding of the spiritual meaning of the commandment.
“For the commandment of fasting, many fast and think that fasting is only by eating vegetarian food and trying to prepare very tasty food, wondering about the margarine and vegetarian cheese and non-dairy milk, and forget the words of Daniel the prophet for his fast: “I was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all” (Dan 10: 2-3).
“And I would like to focus here on the phrase “I ate no pleasant food” because if someone eats pleasant food during his fast how can he control the desires of the flesh while giving it the food it desire? Isn’t the value of fasting in its spirit and not literal, to humiliate the body and win over the lust for food? Aren’t we acting literal when we consider fasting as just vegetarian food without abstaining, preventing the body from what it desires?
Therefore many fast and do not benefit spiritually, for they fast literally focusing just on its outer appearance, and without entering into the spirituality of fasting and its Divine intent”.
Please remember the church, the priests, the servants and their services always in your prayers, and may the blessings of St. Mary and St. Mercurius and the blessing of the Nativity fast be with us always, Amen.
Belleville, December 1, 2012