He devoured fasting as a man devours food…
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” ( Matthew 6: 16-18)
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;” ( Joel 2:12)
Lord, Hanging as a vine upon the Wood, O Christ our Savior, You have made the ends of the earth to drink from the wine of resolve. Therefore do I cry aloud: I am darkened always by the vicious drunkenness of sin; Give me to drink from the sweet wine of true faith, and grant me now the strength, O Savior, to fast from sensual pleasures, for Your are good and love mankind. Amen. Ora Pro Nobis.
It is a decidedly good thing to be hungry when you are writing about fasting. The old adage of writing about what you know then hopefully becomes meaningful. But Chesterton, as anyone has seen from his photographs (and he often joked about himself) was known for his roundness rather than his reediness. He was hardly a man given to the asceticism most often associated with fasting. Yet it is this opposite that allows Chesterton, who did enjoy his food, to understand how Francis could enjoy his fasting and to get the point behind why God encourages us to fast, especially during Lent and more importantly during times of crisis such as that we are undergoing in our day. Chesterton once observed that he did not believe in coincidences, that “coincidences were spiritual puns“. If so, it would seem that a pandemic coming during Lent while so many are fasting and praying is no coincidence.
“The whole point about St. Francis of Assisi is that he certainly was ascetical and he certainly was not gloomy. As soon as ever he had been unhorsed by the glorious humiliation of his vision of dependence on the divine love, he flung himself into fasting and vigil exactly as he had flung himself furiously into battle. He had wheeled his charger clean round, but there was no halt or check in the thundering impetuosity of his charge. There was nothing negative about it; it was not a regimen or a stoical simplicity of life. It was not self-denial merely in the sense of self-control. It was as positive as a passion; it had all the air of being as positive as a pleasure. He devoured fasting as a man devours food. He plunged after poverty as men have dug madly for gold.” – G. K. Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi, 1923