Patriarch Daniel urges believers to intensify fasting efforts: Turn physical hunger and thirst into hunger and thirst for God

In words following the proclamation of the Gospel reading on Sunday, Patriarch Daniel highlighted the need to intensify the fasting efforts during Lent, noting that this law established in paradise reflects a hunger and thirst for God.

‘To intensify our fasting efforts means to turn our physical hunger and thirst into hunger and thirst for God, for God’s love,’ the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church said March 29.

From the chapel of the Patriarchal Residence, the Patriarch said that we could intensify our fasting efforts by giving up food and material pleasures. We do this ‘to enrich ourselves spiritually, to nurture with God’s word, the Church’s prayer, personal prayer, and deeds oriented to helping our fellow people.’

The Gospel, a response to pandemic

Patriarch Daniel celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the fourth Sunday of Great Lent. He prayed for all coronavirus patients, but also for doctors and nurses who are trying to overcome the pandemic.

The Patriarch of Romania said that the Gospel reading that relates the healing of the boy with an evil spirit offers a response to the pandemic the world faces today.

“This gospel has a special significance for the situation of the world today,” the Patriarch said.

“Almost the whole world suffers from this pandemic caused by an unseen virus, a mute and deaf spirit that does not show itself, doesn’t speak or make noise. However, it shows us its work of tormenting people, through fear, panic, suffering, and often through death, it causes to those with the weakened immune system.”

Faith and prayer play an essential role in the spiritual fight that we must carry against this plague that affects the contemporary society, the Patriarch said.

“So, today’s Gospel shows us how to fight this virus, this mute and deaf spirit. We fight first by strengthening our faith, by becoming steadfast in prayer, by intensifying our prayer, through fasting, which means a more intense search for the love of God and more intense practice of love for our neighbours,” His Beatitude underscored.

Unclean spirits fear humility and love

Patriarch Daniel pointed out that “unclean spirits are not afraid of human words. They fear the humility and merciful love of the One who drives them out.”

‘Why? Because evil spirits are generally proud and wicked. Only humble and merciful prayer can drive them away.’

They are afraid of humility, the Patriarch went on saying, “because they are proud and humility overwhelms them because they are evil. Humility and kindness can drive away unclean, proud and wicked spirits.”

In this sense, His Beatitude noted that prayer and fasting give “a sanctifying and healing power.”

“They give us the humble and sanctifying love of Christ (…) Through fasting, we humble ourselves, and through prayer, we enlighten and fill ourselves with the humble prayer of the Saviour.”

Humility casts out selfishness

Patriarch Daniel spoke about the virtues of humility and love from the perspective of Saint John Climacus, an ascetic remembered on the fourth Sunday of Lent, calling him “a teacher of prayer and fasting, of the fight against selfish passions and a teacher of the acquisition of virtues through spiritual feats.”

The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church explained that St. John Climacus presents these two virtues as very important, “because, through humility, man empties himself of his selfishness and is filled with the humble and merciful love. And through love, he becomes like God, the lover of humankind.”

Photography courtesy of the Archive / Raluca Ene

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