Day 4 of Lent had found me already in serious need of motivation to keep up—or rather, start again—my Lenten fast and practices. God in His goodness and patience presented me with the following reflection by Father Andre Louf, O.C.S.O., late Cistercian monastic abbot, author, and spiritual director, on fasting and its spiritual fruit of prayer in the Friday, February 24th mediation of the day entitled “The Grace of Fasting” in the February 2012 edition of the Magnificat. I plan to keep this mentally handy for the next five weeks of fasting:
This technique of fasting has to be completely subsumed within a spiritual dynamism if it is to succeed in bearing a fruit which only the Holy Spirit can give: namely, prayer. Of course, Christian fasting is not primarily a sort of dieting that functions to the benefit of someone’s physical or psychological equilibrium. That is hardly adequate. The physical hunger must point directly to hunger of a different kind: for God. Bodily and spiritual hunger are harmoniously conjoined in a fasting which is undergone in the Spirit and only then can make any claim to being a technique of prayer…
Before fasting passes into prayer, and the one can no longer do without the other, it will have to burrow out new depths in a person’s heart. Fasting affects him in one of his most vital rhythms: the dual rhythm of nourishment, occurring alternately as need and as satisfaction. From the very first moments of his existence outside the womb, man’s being is structured by the sequence of these two factors. In this way he is able to stay alive and is gradually enabled to locate himself vis-à-vis everything around him. The newborn child feels hungry or is sated. Want and satisfaction, hunger and satiety, each with its characteristic aspect of pain and pleasure, are constantly alternating.
The more the adult person develops toward the ground of his existence, the deeper the need becomes and the less he is in fact satisfied by the material sustenance served up to him. The day comes when a hunger and thirst for the living God are born within him and, over and above all earthly sustenance, are engraved into his body.