There really isn’t any point in fasting, praying, nor almsgiving during Great Lent and Holy Week if you are not trying to grow spiritually from the experience. During this time of renewal, I ran across one of the spurious letters of St. Ignatius to the Philippians that made me take a second look at the tempting of Christ in the desert (Matthew 4). Satan attempts to persuade Jesus into three frames of mind that would lead him into sin.
First, is ignorance of the word of God. In the previous chapter, our Lord was baptized, had the Holy Spirit descend on Him, and had been announced by the Heavenly Father as the Son. Jesus needed no other proof as to who He was. Thus, Satan’s challenge (if you are the Son of God) fell on deaf ears as our Lord chose not to be ignorant, but to pay attention to the word of God rather than obey the legitimate cravings of his flesh.
The second dangerous frame of mind is a vainglorious relationship with God. Here, Satan was careful to use scriptures to give Jesus a sense of assurance of safety if He would cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. But, rather than fall for the seemingly legitimate bait of scripture, our Lord stood on the more humble command not to put God to the test.
The final mentality that Satan used to tempt Christ was direct rebellion against God for the sake of the world. No doubt, the splendors of the ancient world’s kingdoms were great. Yet, Jesus knew there was a much greater and everlasting kingdom that was not built by human conquest and construction. Our Lord felt that this place was so great that He commanded the devil to leave him for even offering up such a choice.
Considering my own struggles and temptations, I can see where every sin is linked to one of these three frames of mind. For the sake of satisfying legitimate cravings we ignore the truth God indisputably revealed to us. We say and act as we wish because we have adjusted the scriptures to fit our bidding rather than to submit to what the scriptures say believing we have God’s approval. For the sake of what we can gain in the world, we gladly serve the devil himself in direct defiance that God has something greater for us if we are faithful and patient.
Pascha (Easter) is a few days away. I anticipate enjoying every form of meat and dairy product that my palate chooses and wallet can afford. But, I pray that I will spend times meditating on these lessons from my first Lenten Fast as an Orthodox Christian. Rely on the word of God and forsake the flesh. Walk with God in humility and not vainglory. Serve God only and reject this world as it calls us to serve Satan.
A Blessed Holy Week and Pascha to all.