“For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is (a matter) of the heart, in the Spirit and not in the letter. His praise is not from men but from God. Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way! To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the messages (τὰ λόγια) of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every man be false, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you judge.’” (Rom 2: 28 - 3: 4)
Today we begin the refreshing, beginning-of-summer Apostles’ Fast, according to our Tradition, that we might refresh ourselves with the “wellness program” of spiritual-and-physical fasting, after a long period of “feasting” between Pascha and Pentecost. As we do so, the words of St. Paul (quoted above, from our Church’s reading for today), help me put the great “advantage” and “value” of being blessed, nay, “entrusted,” with a beautiful Church-Tradition in the proper perspective; in the perspective of humble and grateful faith.
Just as the Jews in the Old Testament were ever-“entrusted” by an ever-trusting and faithful God with certain instructions and traditions, for the sake of their spiritual and physical well-being, – regardless of their fallings-short of God’s faith in them, – so are we ever-“entrusted,” in the Era of the Church, with the salvific Word and Works of our Lord, made accessible to us through the various branches and practices of our Tradition, that we may daily maintain our health and sanity. And this is true, regardless of our occasional reluctance to pick up the helpful tools of Tradition, like the nurturing Word of God, and like the Church-calendar’s invigorating rhythm of feasting and fasting, which brings order and meaning into our everyday lives.
As I enter into the Apostles’ Fast today, let me approach it as “a matter of the heart,” and “in the Spirit” of humility and gratitude. However “good” or “bad” I might be at this whole business of fasting, in this particular fasting-season, let me say, Thank You, Lord, for ever-“entrusting” us with the helpful tools of Tradition.