Last week I went to Mass, as most Catholics did, on the special occasion of Ash Wednesday to begin a new Lenten season.
As cradle Catholic, my forehead has been well-seasoned with ashes over the past 25 years, assuming my parents did as those I saw: bringing their little ones forward, who were entirely confused about why their parents had black smudges on their faces & wondering why they were getting them too. Over the years, the routine becomes familiar and the smudges aren’t a cause for confusion anymore.
But immediately after we received our ashes, Father said a prayer that, at first, left me as confused as those babies. He prayed…
Grant us, Lord, the grace to begin the Christian’s war of defense with holy fasts: that, as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Defending against evil via self-denial? What kind of battle plan is that?! It’s hard to imagine denying anything when you’re going to war; it could cost you your life! Not to mention, I’m the one that needs the help fasting! I’m admittedly the worst at personal accountability… especially when it comes to Oreos, doughnuts, and binge surfing Pinterest.
The Devil is smart. He knows our attachments to this world, including that which makes us feel good, what makes us feel secure and comfortable, what we enjoy and struggle to fast from.
But Christ is smarter. He teaches us that by denying ourselves, we deny the devil his weapons which keep our faith lukewarm.
So this prayer for our self-denial to be the weapon which wards off evil; it led me to a sort of epiphany. Although I feel so weak, having to lean on Christ for all the strength I can muster to deny myself the things of this world which I love… I can find true security knowing that I’m not only strengthening the control I have over my will to serve God first, but that also my fasting is actually doing good in fighting the good fight.
SHAKAH! Hope that one hurts, Satan! No TV for 40 days – that’ll show ya.
POW! Ooh, you’re gettin’ burned, demons! No drinkin’ & no smokin’… and you’re gonna get it!
Get your weaponry ready, fellow Catholics. Because this 40-day battle of fasting is on!