WHAT PRAYERS KNOCKS FOR UPON THE DOOR, FASTING SUCCESSFULLY BEGS AND MERCY RECEIVES
(A READING FROM THE SERMONS OF ST. PETER CHRYSOLOGUS [380-450])
There are three things, brethren, three, through which faith stands firm, devotion abides, and virtue endures: prayer, fasting, and mercy. What prayer knocks for upon a door, fasting successfully begs and mercy receives. Prayer, fasting, and mercy: these three are a unit. They give life to one another. For, fasting is the soul of prayer; and mercy is the life of fasting.
Let no one cut these three apart; they are inseparable. If a man has only one of them, or if he does not have them all simultaneously, he has nothing. Therefore, he who prays whould also fast; and he who fasts should also be merciful. He who wants to be heard when he petitions should hear another who petitions him. He who does not close his own ear to a suppliant open God’s ear to himself. The fasting man should realize what fasting is. If anyone wants God to perceive that he is hungry, he should himself take notice of the liturgy. If he hopes for mercy, he should show mercy himself. If the desires fatherly kindness, he should display it first. He who wishes someone to make an offering to him should make an offering himself. He is unworthy petitioner who demands for himself what he refuses to another.
Have this as your norm of showing mercy. Do you yourself show mercy to others in the same manner, amount, and readiness with which you desire it to be shown to yourself.
Therefore, let prayer, mercy, and fasting be one petition before God. Let them be one legal aid in our behalf. Let them be a threefold prayer for us.
Therefore, let us seek by fasting what we have lost by our contempt. Let us immolate our souls by fasting, because we can offer nothing better to God. The prophet proves this when he says; ‘A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humble heart God does not despise.’
Offer your soul to God; offer the oblation of fasting. Do this to make your soul a pure victim, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, which remains yours while it is given to God. The man who fails to offer this gift to God will have no excuse, for he who will give himself is unable to suffer want.
But, to make those gifts acceptable, follow them up with mercy. Fasting does not germinate unless watered by mercy. When mercy dries up, fasting suffers drought, for mercy is to fasting what rains is to the earth, cleanse his flesh, weed out his vices, and sow virtues. Nevertheless, if he does not sprinkle his plants with streams of mercy, he does not gather his harvest. O you who fast, when your mercy fasts your field fasts, too. O you who fast, what you pour in mercy comes back as storage in your barn.
Consequently, lest you lose by saving, gather in by dispensing. Give to yourself by giving to the poor man. For you yourself shall not possess what you would not leave to another.
Short Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, please remind me always that prayer, fasting, and mercy are actually ONE. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Taken from THE DIVINE OFFICE II – LENT AND EASTERTIDE – The Office of Reading – The Second Reading, pages 154-156.
A Christian Pilgrim