Having been anointed with holy ashes, we now fix our gaze upon the cross of the Son of God, and guided by the light of the paschal fire, we begin our preparation for the Resurrection of the Savior of the World. As we considered on Monday, no one will reach the hoped-for day of the Resurrection, who has not first willingly entered into the tomb. If you seek to rise with Christ, you must first die with Him.
But how are we to accomplish this spiritual death? The answer is simple, and yet so hard for our fallen nature: we must die to our own human desires; we must renounce the enticement of the body, that having willingly accepted the death which our first parents dealt to all of mankind, we may begin to live the life of God.
This is why the Lenten fast is so important. Throughout the year we condition ourselves to follow the demands of the flesh: we eat when we are hungry, we sleep when we are tired, and we may curse when we are angry. This constant assent to the demands of the body has a spiritual effect. Instead of the soul (intellect and will) ruling our lower passions, we become enslaved to the tyranny of the flesh. Far from being able to choose rightly about the good things God has given to us, we become like animals, going after everything that gives us pleasure. For this reason, our Holy Mother Church sets before us the forty day journey of Lent. In this season we seek to become masters of our lives once again, taking control of our lower passions so that we may focus upon higher goods. How difficult it is! As anyone who has taken the fast with all seriousness knows, to deny the body its most basic urges exposes the real war between the body and the soul. This war is the war of the cross, and we will either win or we will lose; there can be no in-between. Either we will have mastered our desires, after the forty days of Lent, in such a way as to willingly accept death upon the cross of Christ and burial with Him in the tomb, or we will renounce him as the Savior, and turn instead to the worship of the body. Therefore, over the next few weeks, let us turn our attention to the spiritual life, turn our thoughts to the wise men of the Church, and prepare our souls for the Resurrection of God.