Fasting: A War Against Ourselves

Reflection of the Wednesday of Ba'utha

During Ba’utha, we pray and fast with the rest of the Church in supplication to God. When we fast, we are at a sort of war with ourselves, giving to God freely what we enjoy so that by our fasting we may express our deep love and gratitude to Him. Yet as we fast, we often realize just how weak we are: we wait anxiously until Noon to eat, and when we are able to eat we complain about what we can eat. In today’s Ba’utha meditations (Wednesday of Ba’utha), our Liturgy points this out sharply. In the Second Qiryana/Reading, this weakness is expressed:

If he is poor, he is sad, begets complaining; if he is rich, he puts on pride and arrogance. If he is good, he looks down on the human race; and if he sins, he is made weak and gives up hope. If he is wise, he forgets the clay within him; and if he prides, he is a beast without a mind.

In these short verses, the human complexity is shown: if we are poor, we complain, if rich then we are arrogant. When we are good, we take pride in ourselves and look with shame upon humanity, and when we sin, we despair. It is hard even to understand which is the greater evil. Another verse reads pointedly:“In great and in small, his sufferings increase and grow…He is between neediness and bad excesses.”What, then, is the medicine to this contradiction within man? How can we be good without the consequence of pride? or suffer evil without the consequence of despair? Should avoid becoming rich so as not to become arrogant? Are the poor left to a life of sadness and complaining? Our Liturgy answers, in the same Qiryana:

The King and People of Nineveh RepentingSo difficult it is for mankind to live well, and righteousness is not made easy for the flesh. Flesh – he is flesh, as much as he desires spirit, though that desire is not his, but an Other One’s. An Other dwells in him, as in temple of clay…

Who is this Other who dwells in man as in a temple? This is the Word become flesh (John 1:14), the Son of God. Christ, in assuming a human nature, assumed all the difficulties of our humanity and made it His own. Our Lord conquered all these difficulties; indeed, He conquered the whole world (John 16:33). This same God-man dwells in those who believe in Him, acting in them and conquering their weaknesses. We are so united to Christ that St. Paul can say: “It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.”  If we are good, it is Christ who is good in us and makes us good, so that our goodness doesn’t lead to pride. If we suffer evil, it is Christ who suffers evil in us and makes us sharers in his sufferings for us, so that our suffering doesn’t lead to sadness and complaints, but to joy. During this Ba’utha season, we can say with great delight: “It is no longer I who fast, but Christ who fasts within me.”

For more information on Ba’utha as well as obtaining the text and audio of the prayer services, visit the following:

Ba’utha – Supplication of the Ninevites – Prayers and Audio

What is Ba’utha in the Chaldean Church?

Ba’utha Reflection 2014 – Day 1

Ba’utha Reflection 2014 – Day 2

Ba’utha Reflection 2014 – Day 3