Bahai News -- The Daily News - Empty of food, but filled with His Spirit Saturday, March 01, 2003

Empty of food, but filled with His Spirit

By Staff

Starting at sundown today, Baha'is who are 15 and older all around the world will begin a 19-day fast, as prescribed by Baha'u'llah, founder of our faith.

This fast is similar to that observed by Muslims during Ramadan -- no food or drink from sunrise to sunset. (Those following the fast can eat after sunset.)

Excepted from the practice are pregnant and nursing women, the ill and infirm, Baha'is over age 70, and those who perform heavy physical labor.

Baha'i members look at the fast as a season of restraint, which leads "to the cleansing of the soul from all selfish desires, the acquisition of spiritual attributes, attraction to the breezes of the All-Merciful, and enkindlement with the fire of divine love."

This will be my fifth fast as a Baha'i. I've tried to approach each fast by following Christ's guidance in Matthew 6:16: "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites -- anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men, but by your Father who is in secret."

I've discovered that by taking this approach, I grow in intimacy with God, since He and I are sharing a secret nobody else knows about. I walk around smiling --- empty of food, but filled with His Spirit, and comforted by His presence.

(I guess the secret is out now!)

My first year, I had one really tough day. At work, I felt weak and nauseous. I considered my condition prayerfully, and decided to have some chocolate milk to settle my stomach.

This made more sense than "going home sick." Besides, Baha'u'llah stresses the importance of work, and also the use of common sense and wisdom along the spiritual path.

Rather than being a failure on my part, that chocolate milk turned out to be a mercy from Him.

Last year was the first time I got an illness during the fast. At first I felt guilty about needing to eat and take extra fluids, but when I referred to the Baha'i writings, I was reminded, "In clear cases of weakness, illness, or injury the law of the Fast is not binding." Again, I experienced God's mercy and wisdom.

Once I got to feeling better, I was able to finish the last few days of the fast as usual. When I explain the Baha'i fast to others, many have a difficult time reconciling the spiritual benefits with the physical discomfort.

I tell them I've come to embrace the fast as an annual opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation. Through prayer and meditation during this time, a person strives to rediscover "the spiritual forces latent in his soul."

The fast is broken at dusk on March 20th, at the Baha'i New Year, called Naw Ruz. Baha'is come together to celebrate with prayer, scriptures, fellowship, and of course, food and drink!

Baha'u'llah says, "Even though outwardly the Fast is difficult and toilsome, yet inwardly it is bounty and tranquillity." I am thankful for the this special time to contemplate God's mysteries and enter into a deeper communion with Him.

©Copyright 2003, The Daily News (Longview, WA, USA)

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