Lenten Meditation for “Paloo”


All the saints were triumphant in fasting, fasting from sin and not only from bread.
Moses on Mt. Sinai was triumphant, and Elijah also was elevated by it.
Our Savior Jesus, by it conquered death and granted victory to our nature.
And he gave us authority that if it be our desire, we too shall conquer.
Let us confess Him who by His glorious fast made known to us His divinity, to Him be glory!
— Evening Hymn of Paloo

Thus we proclaim in one of our Hymns during the “Paloo” evening prayer service.  The Aramaic name “Paloo” comes from the word “Palga” meaning half, and with half of Lent finished it behooves us to reflect on our fast.  Why have we gone down this road?  Is it a benefit to us?

Why have we gone down this road?  In the Old Testament, fasting is associated with deliverance.  Forty day periods, either of fasting or a symbol for it — such as the forty days of rain during the time of Noah, and the forty years of travel through the desert during the Exodus — are often ended with deliverance into safety, or the promised land, signifying a communion with God, often presented by a covenant with Him.  Moses fasted for forty days while he was with the Lord, and after that period he came forth with the tablets of the Ten Commandments and his face shone because he had talked to God {Ex 34}.

Lord, the love of resplendent fasting, a deed of virtue,
by which Moses was made worthy to receive the the law;
and Elijah was taken up by the fiery chariot;
and Joshua, the son of Nun, who was triumphant,
stopped the course of the sun and made it stand,
with the love and splendor of fasting;
and Daniel closed the mouths of lions,
and the three youths in the furnace quenched the flame;
and because of it, we also entreat you to have mercy on us.
— Morning Hymn of Paloo

This morning hymn offers further OT examples in which fasting led to triumph or deliverance from harm.  It finishes proclaiming our hopes that by fasting, we too will be able to ask the Lord for mercy, which is triumph and deliverance from evil, ultimately salvation.

Why did Jesus Christ, the sinless Man-God, fast?  In the Gospels, our Lord gives an example Himself, being led by the Spirit into the desert, fasted forty days, after which He was tempted by the Deceiver.  When the devil had been frustrated and left Him, suddenly holy angels came and waited on Him {Mt 4:11}.

The hymn states that by fasting, Christ conquered death and granted us the authority to conquer it as well.  It also  rightly associates His fast with the knowledge of His divinity.  During His fast, the devil was confounded, and the greater glory revealed: to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, not to put Him to the test, and to worship and serve Him alone.  Christ would start His ministry proclaiming: “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” {Mt 4:17}  It was not only to set an example for us, or in accordance with OT expectations of Him that he fasted, but rather to conquer sin and lead us to salvation; it is so that we can acknowledge and praise the Glory of God.  Our Lord came out of the desert as the New Law, the living Decalogue, the Icon of God that would proclaim by His life, deeds, and sayings, the commandment to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our soul and all our mind,” and “our neighbor as our self.” {Mt 22:37-39}

Why do we fast, and is it of benefit to us?  We hope that — by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ — having defeated the Evil one and resisted his temptations through fasting during this time of Lent, we may be worthy of dying and being reborn into Christ at Easter, and in so doing be delivered into our safety, the kingdom of God.  This is the benefit for us.  This is why during this time of Lent, we keep looking to the Cross, praying the Way of the Cross, knowing full well that by sharing in His death, we too shall share in His resurrection.

To defeat the Deceiver is no trivial task.  During this time of lent, let us meditate and reflect: have we given enough thought to the words, “rend your hearts and not your clothing” {Jl 2:13}, and do we truly believe that God will not spurn a “broken and contrite heart” {Ps 51:17}.  Throughout the Lenten period, many daily hymns and prayers, like the evening hymn from Paloo above, emphasize that fasting is from sin and not only from food.  In our culture fasting from meats and other external Lenten forms are all too readily practiced, but we must remember to the internal deeds required of us, meditation and prayer.  Let us concentrate, not just on fasting, but alms-giving, helping those in need, praying, and prayerful reading of the teaching of the Church and her saints and, especially, the Bible.  Only with internal reflection and prayer, can we be lead to true compunction and contrition, leading us to entreat the Lord, our Savior:

Clean me with the tears of my repentance, Lord,

and by your mercy and grace give me forgiveness of sins,

and because of my remorse absolve my transgressions,

my savior of great mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

– Morning Hymn of Paloo

One Response to “Lenten Meditation for “Paloo””

  1. aboriente Says:

    PS. I just wanted to point out the universality of the Church in her witness. Even in the West {as we in the Church of the East tradition call everyone else 🙂 … } we see the same themes and hymns, as we see in this one attributed to Pope Gregory the Great

    For Christ, by whom all things were made, Himself has fasted and has prayed.
    Alone and fasting Moses saw the loving God who gave the law;
    And to Elijah, fasting, came the steeds and chariots of flame.
    So Daniel trained his mystic sight, delivered from the lion’s might;
    And John, the Bridegroom’s friend, became the herald of Messiah’s name.
    Then grant us, Lord, like them to be full oft in fast and prayer with Thee;
    Our spirits strengthen with Thy grace, and give us joy to see Thy face.
    — Pope Gregory the Great

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