Wednesday, March 25, 2015

40th Friday - End of Great Lent

After 40 days of Fast Jesus being Tempted by Satan
The 40 days of fasting of the Great Lent ends on the Friday before Palm Sunday (or the 40th Friday). The following week is the Passion week and as we practice fasting and abstinence during that week, the Great Lent is also called as the 50 day lent.
The 40 day fast ends with Holy Qurbana and we read about Jesus' temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), one of the most riveting episodes in the Bible. How dare Satan do that, not once, but three times! It is very telling that after the 40 days of fast, when you are tired and ready to do anything to get a piece of bread, that is when Satan approaches you, in your weakness.

Read below an excerpt from St. John Chrysostom's (Golden Tongue) commentary on the temptation of the Christ by Satan

Having then fasted forty days and as many nights,

He was afterwards an hungered;  affording him a point to lay hold of and approach, that by actual conflict He might show how to prevail and be victorious. Just so do wrestlers also: when teaching their pupils how to prevail and overcome, they voluntarily in the lists engage with others, to afford these in the persons of their antagonists the means of seeing and learning the mode of conquest. Which same thing then also took place. For it being His will to draw him on so far, He both made His hunger known to him, and awaited his approach, and as He waited for him, so He dashed him to earth, once, twice, and three times, with such ease as became Him.

3. But that we may not, by hurrying over these victories, mar your profit, let us begin from the first assault, and examine each with exact care.
Thus, after He was an hungered, it is said, The tempter came, and said unto Him, If Thou be Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Matthew 4:3

For, because he had heard a voice borne from above, and saying, This is My beloved Son; and had heard also John bearing so large witness concerning Him, and after that saw Him an hungered; he was thenceforth in perplexity, and neither could believe that He was a mere man, because of the things spoken concerning Him; nor on the other hand receive it that He was Son of God, seeing Him as he did in hunger. Whence being m perplexity he utters ambiguous sounds. And much as when coming to Adam at the beginning, he feigns things that are not, that he may learn the things that are; even so here also, not knowing clearly the unutterable mystery of the Economy, and who He may be that has come, he attempts to weave other nets, whereby he thought to know that which was hidden and obscure. And what says he? If Thou be Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. He said not, because you are an hungered, but, if Thou be Son of God; thinking to cheat Him with his compliments. Wherefore also he was silent touching the hunger, that he might not seem to be alleging it, and upbraiding Him. For not knowing the greatness of the Economy which was going on, he supposed this to be a reproach to Him. Wherefore flattering Him craftily, he makes mention of His dignity only.

What then says Christ? To put down his pride, and to signify that there was nothing shameful in what had happened, nor unbecoming His wisdom; that which the other had passed over in silence to flatter Him, He brings forward and sets it forth, saying, Man shall not live by bread alone. Matthew 4:4

So that He begins with the necessity of the belly. But mark, I pray you, the craft of that wicked demon, and whence he begins his wrestlings, and how he does not forget his proper art. For by what means he cast out also the first man, and encompassed him with thousands of other evils, with the same means here likewise he weaves his deceit; I mean, with incontinence of the belly. So too even now one may hear many foolish ones say their bad words by thousands because of the belly. But Christ, to show that the virtuous man is not compelled even by this tyranny to do anything that is unseemly, first hungers, then submits not to what is enjoined Him; teaching us to obey the devil in nothing. Thus, because the first man did hereby both offend God, and transgress the law, as much and more does He teach you:— though it be no transgression which he commands, not even so to obey.

And why say I, transgression? Why, even though something expedient be suggested by the devils, do not thou, says He, even so give heed unto them. Thus, for instance, He stopped the mouths of those devils also, proclaiming Him Son of God. And Paul too again Acts 16:18 rebuked them, crying this self-same thing; and yet what they said was profitable; but he more abundantly dishonoring them, and obstructing their plot against us, drove them away even when doctrines of salvation were preached by them, closing up their mouths, and bidding them be silent.

And therefore neither in this instance did He consent to what was said. But what says He? Man shall not live by bread alone. Now His meaning is like this: God is able even by a word to nourish the hungry man; bringing him a testimony out of the ancient Scripture, and teaching us, though we hunger, yea, whatever we suffer, never to fall away from our Lord.

But if a man say, still He should have displayed Himself; I would ask him, with what intent, and for what reason? For not at all that he might believe did the other so speak, but that he might, as he thought, over-argue Him into unbelief. Since the first of mankind were in this way beguiled and over-argued by him, not putting earnest faith in God. For the contrary of what God had said he promised them, and puffed them up with vain hopes, and brought them to unbelief, and so cast them out of the blessings they actually possessed. But Christ signifies Himself not to have consented, either to him then or afterwards to the Jews his partisans, in their demand of signs: invariably instructing us, whatever we may have power to do, yet to do nothing vainly and at random; nor even when want urges to obey the devil.

4. What then does this accursed one? Overcome, and unable to persuade Him to do his bidding, and that when pressed by such violent hunger, he proceeds to another thing, saying,

If Thou be Son of God, cast Yourself down; for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning You, and in their hands they shall bear You up. Matthew 4:6

What can the reason be, that at each temptation He adds this, If Thou be Son of God? Much the same as he did in that former case, he does also at this time. That is, as he then slandered God, saying, In the day you eat, your eyes shall be opened; Genesis 3:5 thereby intending to signify, that they were beguiled and overreached, and had received no benefit; even so in this case also he insinuates this same thing, saying, in vain God has called You Son, and has beguiled You by His gift; for, if this be not so, afford us some clear proof that You are of that power. Then, because Christ had reasoned with him from Scripture, he also brings in a testimony of the prophet.

How then does Christ? He is not indignant, nor provoked, but with that extreme gentleness He reasons with him again from the Scriptures, saying, You shall not tempt the Lord your God: Matthew 4:7 teaching us that we must overcome the devil, not by miracles, but by forbearance and long-suffering, and that we should do nothing at all for display and vainglory.

But mark his folly, even by the very testimony which he produced. For while the testimonies cited by the Lord were both of them spoken with exceeding fitness: his, on the other hand, were chance and random sayings, neither did he bring forward on his part that which applied to the matter in hand. For that it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning You, this surely is not advice to dash and toss one's self down headlong; and moreover, this was not so much as spoken concerning the Lord. However, this for the time He did not expose, although there was both insult in his manner of speech, and great inconsistency. For of God's Son no man requires these things: but to cast one's self down is the part of the devil, and of demons. Whereas God's part is to raise up even them that are down. And if He ought to have displayed His own power, it would not have been by casting and tossing Himself down at random, but by saving others. But to cast ourselves down precipices, and into pits, pertains properly to his troop. Thus, for example, the juggler among them does everywhere.

But Christ, even when these things are said, does not yet reveal Himself, but as man for a while discourses with him. For the sayings, Man shall not live by bread alone; and, You shall not tempt the Lord your God, suited one not greatly revealing Himself, but representing Himself as one of the many.

But marvel not, if he in reasoning with Christ oftentimes turn himself about. For as pugilists, when they have received deadly blows, reel about, drenched in much blood, and blinded; even so he too, darkened by the first and the second blow, speaks at random what comes uppermost: and proceeds to his third assault.

5. And he leads Him up into a high mountain, and shows Him all the kingdoms, and says, All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me. Then says He, Get behind me, Satan, for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. Matthew 4:8-10

For since he was now come to sinning against the Father, saying, that all that is the Father's was his, and was endeavoring to make himself out to be God, as artificer of the universe; He then rebuked him: but not even then with vehemence, but simply, Get you hence, Satan; which itself had in it something of command rather than of rebuke. For as soon as He had said to him, Get you hence, He caused him to take to flight; since he brought not against Him any other temptations.

And how says Luke, that he ended all temptation. To me it seems that in mentioning the chief of the temptations, he had spoken of all, as though the rest too were included in these. For the things that form the substance of innumerable evils are these: to be a slave to the belly, to do anything for vainglory, to be in subjection to the madness of riches. Which accordingly that accursed one considering, set last the most powerful of all, I mean the desire of more: and though originally, and from the beginning, he was travailing to come to this, yet he kept it for the last, as being of more force than the rest. For in fact this is the manner of his wrestling, to apply those things last, which seem more likely to overthrow. And this sort of thing he did with respect to Job likewise. Wherefore in this instance too, having begun with the motives which seem to be viler and weaker, he goes on to the more prevailing.

How then are we to get the better of him? In the way which Christ that taught us, by fleeing to God for refuge; and neither to be depressed in famine, as believing in God who is able to feed even with a word; nor amidst whatever good things we may receive to tempt Him who gave them, but to be content with the glory which is from above, making no account of that which is of men, and on every occasion to despise what is beyond our need. For nothing does so make us fall under the power of the devil, as longing for more, and loving covetousness. And this we may see even by what is done now. For now also there are those who say, All these things will we give you, if you will fall down and worship; who are indeed men by nature, but have become his instruments. Since at that time too he approached Him, not by himself only, but also by others. Which Luke also was declaring, when he said, that he departed from Him for a season; showing that hereafter he approached Him by his proper instruments.

And, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him. Matthew 4:11 For when the assault was going on, He suffered them not to appear, that He might not thereby drive away the prey; but after He had convicted him in all points, and caused him to take to flight, then they appear: that you also may learn, that after your victories which are copied from His, angels will receive you also, applauding you, and waiting as guards on you in all things. Thus, for example, angels take Lazarus Luke 16:22 away with them, after the furnace of poverty and of famine and of all distress. For as I have already said, Christ on this occasion exhibits many things, which we ourselves are to enjoy.

6. For as much then as all these things have been done for you, emulate and imitate His victory. And should any one approach you of those who are that evil spirit's servants, and savor the things that be of him, upbraiding you and saying, If you are marvelous and great, remove the mountain; be not troubled, nor confounded, but answer with meekness, and say some such thing as you have heard your Lord say: You shall not tempt the Lord your God.

[Source:Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers]

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