Every year, the Church unites herself with the mystery of Jesus in the desert through the celebration of Lent. Just as Christ wished to fast and overcome the temptations of the demon during forty days, in a similar manner, during lent, Catholics have a particularly favorable period of time geared toward the spiritual exercises and works of piety and charity. All of this is oriented toward Easter and makes us relive the sorrowful moments of the Passion of the Lord, while at the same time strengthening our hope within the perspective of the Resurrection. It is, therefore, a time of conversion whereby the faithful are exhorted to transform their way of living in conformity with the Gospel, through the liturgy, and utilizing the ‘arms of the Christians’: prayer, fasting and alms.
Even though the Muslims have a manner of prayer, fasting and alms during the month of Ramadan, their objectives have nothing in common with Lent, since they do not take into consideration the value of the precious Blood of Christ, which is indispensable in order to make the sacrifices of mankind agreeable to God. Consequently, though some people attempt to put the two celebrations on equal footing, one may easily conclude that Ramadan is really just a caricature of Lent…
What should we think, then, of a Christian who congratulates those who celebrate Ramadan? Perhaps, the same that we would think of one who congratulates another for have made useless efforts…that is, not considering that their ‘prayers’ are an offense to Christ, that their alms are only meant to aid their co-religionaries and that their fasting is has nothing to do with curbing sensuality.
Happy Feast to you all! (Message to the Muslims at the end of Ramadan, August 2, 2013)
Enter in the various parts of our study
II – Is it possible to receive spiritual fruits from a practice outside of the grace of Christ?
III – What is the value of religious Christian feasts? Are these values also found in pagan festivities?
IV – The true essence of prayer, alms and fasting
V– Fasting and alms according to the Koran
IMPORTANT clarification on the true nature of Islamic fasts
I – May the Catholics rejoice with the feasts of the infidels?
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? So what am I saying? That meat sacrificed to idols is anything? Or that an idol is anything? No, I mean that what they sacrifice, (they sacrifice) to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. (1Cor 10:16 – 21)
Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What accord has Christ with Beliar? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: ‘I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. Therefore, come forth from them and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.’ (2Cor 6:14 – 18)
On the other hand, the rites of other unbelievers, which are neither truthful nor profitable are by no means to be tolerated, except perchance in order to avoid an evil, e.g. the scandal or disturbance that might ensue, or some hindrance to the salvation of those who if they were unmolested might gradually be converted to the faith. For this reason the Church, at times, has tolerated the rites even of heretics and pagans, when unbelievers were very numerous. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II-II, q. 10, a. 11)
With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death. On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but ‘after the first and second admonition,’ as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. For Jerome commenting on Galatians 5:9, ‘A little leaven,’ says: ‘Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house, the whole paste, the whole body, the whole flock, burn, perish, rot, die.’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II-II, q. 11, a. 3)
And it is also fitting for you to examine how you live, and how you take advantage of the faith that you have, so that God does not chastise allowing you to fall into some error through which you lose it, for you have heard with your own ears of how many people have been lost by the heresies of the perverse Martin Luther; and there are others who have denied Christ in the land of the Moors, for having lived according to the bestial law of Mohammed (fleeing from the reform promoted by the great Cardinal Cisneros, many religious went to Africa and denied the faith). In which you will observe fulfilled what Saint Paul said (1Tim 1:19): ‘Some, by rejecting conscience, have made a shipwreck of their faith’; now may it be, as we stated above, when we had spoken of the motives to believe, because the same evil conscience little by little blinds the understanding so that it seeks a doctrine that does not contradict its wickedness; now because the Sovereign Judge, in chastisement of sins, permits a heretic to fall; by one or the other, it is something to fear, to be careful to avoid. (Saint John of Avila. Audi, filia — Listen, o daughter, Ch. 49)
A common joy, truly supernatural, a gift of the Spirit of unity and love, which is not possible in truth except where the preaching of the faith is accepted in its entirety, according to the apostolic norm. […] The joy of being Christian, of being united with the Church, of being ‘in Christ’, and in the state of grace with God, is truly able to fill the human heart. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Gaudete in Domino, no. 68. 72, May 9, 1975)
It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth Itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and the Rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members. […] and by divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptism […] This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church. (Leo XII. Encyclical Ubi primum, no. 14, May 5, 1824)
For, the most benign God both excites the erring by His grace and aids them so that they can ‘come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1Tim 2:4), and also confirms in His grace those whom ‘He has called out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (1Pet 2:9), so that they may persevere in this same light, not deserting if He be not deserted. Wherefore, not at all equal is the condition of those, who, through the heavenly gift of faith, have adhered to the Catholic truth, and of those, who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3014. Vatican Council I, Dogmatic constitution Dei Filius, Ch. 3, April 24, 1870)
Some men, indeed do not attack the truth wilfully, but work in heedless disregard of it. They act as though God had given us intellects for some purpose other than the pursuit and attainment of truth. This mistaken sort of action leads directly to that absurd proposition: one religion is just as good as another, for there is no distinction here between truth and falsehood. ‘This attitude,’ to quote Pope Leo again, ‘is directed to the destruction of all religions, but particularly the Catholic faith, which cannot be placed on a level with other religions without serious injustice, since it alone is true’ (Humanum genus (1884)). (John XXIII. Encyclical Ad Petri cathedram, no. 17, June 29, 1959)
II – Is it possible to receive spiritual fruits from a practice outside of the grace of Christ?
If anyone shall say that divine grace through Christ Jesus is given for this only, that man may more easily be able to live justly and merit eternal life, as if by free will without grace he were able to do both, though with difficulty and hardship: let him be anathema […] If anyone shall say that men are justified without the justice of Christ by which He merited for us, or that by that justice itself they are formally just: let him be anathema. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1552.1560. Council of Trent, Canons on justification, January 13, 1547)
Christ is the one Savior of all, the only one able to reveal God and lead to God. […] No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s one, universal mediation, far from being an obstacle on the journey toward God, is the way established by God himself, a fact of which Christ is fully aware. Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value only from Christ’s own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 5, December 7, 1990)
It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart ‘into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Mt 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1351. Council of Florence, Bull Cantate Domino, February 4, 1442)
For the Father has indignation when the Only-begotten Son is set at nought. For it is grievous to a king that merely his soldier should be dishonoured; and when one of his nobler officers or friends is dishonoured, then his anger is greatly increased: but if any should do despite to the king’s only-begotten son himself, who shall appease the father’s indignation on behalf of his only-begotten son? If, therefore, any one wishes to show piety towards God, let him worship the Son, since otherwise the Father accepts not his service. (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 10, In one Lord Jesus Christ, no. 1 – 2)
And with the same yearning Our soul goes out to those whom the foul breath of irreligion has not entirely corrupted, and who at least seek to have the true God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, as their Father. Let such as these take counsel with themselves, and realize that they can in no wise be counted among the children of God, unless they take Christ Jesus as their Brother, and at the same time the Church as their mother. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Satis cognitum, no. 16, June 29, 1896)
III – What is the value of religious Christian feasts? Are these values also found in pagan festivities?
Popular piety, according to the Magisterium, is a living reality in and of the Church. Its source is the constant presence of the Spirit of God in the ecclesial community; the mystery of Christ Our Saviour is its reference point, the glory of God and the salvation of man its object, its historical moment ‘the joyous encounter of the work of evangelisation and culture’ (John Paul II, Homily given at the shrine of the Virgin Mary of ‘Zapopang’, 2). On several occasions, the Magisterium has expressed its esteem for popular piety and its various manifestations, admonishing those who ignore it, or overlook it, or even distain it, to adopt a more positive attitude towards it, taking due note of its many values. Indeed, the Magisterium sees popular piety as ‘a true treasure of the People of God’ (Homily given at the Celebration of the Word in La Serena, Chile). (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Directory on popular piety and the liturgy, no. 61, May 13, 2002)
Popular piety has an innate sense of the sacred and the transcendent […] The documents of the Magisterium highlight certain interior dispositions and virtues particularly consonant with popular piety and which, in turn, are prompted and nourished by it: patience and ‘Christian resignation in the face of irremediable situations’; trusting abandonment to God; the capacity to bear sufferings and to perceive ‘the cross in every-day life’; a genuine desire to please the Lord and to do reparation and penance for the offences offered to Him; detachment from material things; solidarity with, and openness to, others; “a sense of friendliness, charity and family unity (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Directory on popular piety and the liturgy, no. 61, May 13, 2002)
Authentic forms of popular piety are also fruits of the Holy Spirit and must always be regarded as expressions of the Church’s piety. They are used by the faithful who are in communion with the Church, accept her faith and who are docile to her discipline of worship. Indeed, many forms popular piety have been approved and recommended by the Church herself. (Congregation for Divine Worship and the discipline of the Sacraments, no. 83, May 13, 2002)
The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, (Cf. Council of Nicaea II: DS 601; 603; Council of Trent: DS 1822) etc. These expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church, but do not replace it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1674 – 1675)
At its core the piety of the people is a storehouse of values that offers answers of Christian wisdom to the great questions of life. the Catholic wisdom of the people is capable of fashioning a vital synthesis…It creatively combines the divine and the human, Christ and Mary, spirit and body, communion and institution, person and community, faith and homeland, intelligence and emotion. This wisdom is a Christian humanism that radically affirms the dignity of every person as a child of God, establishes a basic fraternity, teaches people to encounter nature and understand work, provides reasons for joy and humor even in the midst of a very hard life. (John Paul II. Document of the Third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, CELAM, Puebla, February 13, 1979, Final Document # 448)
The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned, which will be lost and entirely destroyed, unless their interests are carefully and assiduously kept in mind. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 11, January 6, 1928)
To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, understand that differing modes of divine worship involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Immortale Dei, no. 31, November 1, 1885)
Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God. One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments. Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors (cf. 1Cor 10:20 – 21), constitute an obstacle to salvation. With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30 – 31). This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism ‘characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another’ (John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, 36). If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus no. 21 – 22)
IV – The true essence of prayer, alms and fasting
The efficacy of our fasting is based on the faith of Christ. For us, the objective of our fasts is on our path. What is our path and where are we going? This is what we should consider. For the pagans also fast at times, but they do not know of the homeland to which we direct ourselves. The Jews also fast every now and then, and they also have not taken the path on which we journey. This is the same as a rider who rides his horse with which he strays. The heretics fast; I observe how they journey and I ask: Where are you going? You fast to please who? God, they respond. Do you believe that He receives your offering? Pay attention before to what was said: ‘Leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift’ (Mt 5:24). Do you rightly govern your members, you who rend the members of Christ (cf. 1Cor 6: 11)? Your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, says the Prophet, striking with wicked claw. On your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive your laborers. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! (Is 58: 4 – 5). So your fast will be reproved when you show yourself to be severe and without pity for your servant, and will your fasting be approved when you do not recognize your brother? I do not ask of what nourishment you abstain from, but rather, what nourishment you love. Tell me what nourishment you love so that I approve that you abstain from it. Do you love justice? I love it passionately, you respond. Then may your justice be seen. Because I believe that it is just that the you serve the greater so that the lesser serves you. In effect, we are speaking of the flesh, that is less than the spirit, and that when it is dominated and governed it is submissive. Work with it in the way that it obeys you, and you control nourishment because you wish it to be subject to you. Recognize who is greater, recognize who is superior, so that the inferior obeys you justly. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. De utilitate ieiunii, On the usefulness of fasting, V, 7)
The men of faith, separated cordially from the band of infidels, and rising toward God, to whom they say: Lift you heart! Carriers of another hope (cf. Rom 8: 23-24), and conscious that we are pilgrims in this world (cf. 2Cor 5: 6-7), occupy an intermediate place: there is nothing to compare them with nor with those who think of nothing other than enjoying earthly delights (cf. Ps 31:9; Ps 48: 21), nor even with the superior habitants of heaven, whose delights are the Bread itself, that has been their Creator. The first, as men inclined to the earth, that only claim for the flesh food and joy, similar to beasts, very distant from the angels by their condition and costumes: for their condition, because they are mortal; by their customs, because they are sensual. […] Therefore, we should regulate our fasting. It is not, as has been said, an obligation of the angels, and less the fulfillment of those who serve their stomachs. (cf. Phil 3: 19); It is a half-term in which we live far from the infidels, desiring to be united to the angels. […] Therefore, if the flesh, inclining itself toward the earth, is a weight for the soul and obstacle that troubles its flight, the more one delights with the superior life, the lighter the earthly burden of his life becomes. And this is what we do when fasting. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. On the usefulness of fasting, 2)
An act is virtuous through being directed by reason to some virtuous [honestum] (cf. q. 145, a. 1) good. Now this is consistent with fasting, because fasting is practiced for a threefold purpose. First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says (2Cor 6:5, 6): ‘In fasting, in chastity,’ since fasting is the guardian of chastity. For, according to Jerome (Contra Jov. II) ‘Venus is cold when Ceres and Bacchus are not there,’ that is to say, lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and drink. Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related (Dan 10) of Daniel that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks. Thirdly, in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written (Joel 2:12): ‘Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning.’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, II, q. 147, a. 1)
Spiritual tradition teaches us that the main works of the Lenten season are three: prayer, alms and fasting. Prayer calls us to a more intense relationship with God. Almsgiving signifies a more generous attention to our needy brothers. Fasting represents a firm purpose of moral discipline and interior purification. These are evidently essential aspects of Christian life and, as such, necessary at all times. There are, however, ‘strong’ times, that the evolvement of the liturgical year presents: moments that exhort us to a more intense commitment and, with this objective, the rites and sacred texts offer us greater light and more abundant grace. (John Paul II. General audience, no. 4, February 12, 1986)
In Holy Scripture and according to the evangelical categories, ‘alms’ means in the first place an interior gift. It means the attitude of opening ‘to the other’. Precisely this attitude is an indispensable factor of metanoia, that is, conversion, just as prayer and fasting are also indispensable. […] The Gospel draws this picture clearly when it speaks to us of repentance, of metanoia. Only with a total attitude, in his relationship with God, with himself and with his neighbour, does man reach conversion and remain in the state of conversion. ‘Alms’ understood in this way has a meaning which is in a certain sense decisive for this conversion. (John Paul II. General audience, no. 3 – 4, March 28, 1979)
V – ‘Fasting’ and ‘alms’ according to the Koran
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may fear God. (Koran, Surah 2:183)
Permitted for you is intercourse with your wives on the night of the fast. They are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them. Allah knows that you used to betray yourselves, but He turned to you and pardoned you. So approach them now, and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the white streak of dawn can be distinguished from the black streak [night]. Then complete the fast until nightfall. But do not approach them while you are in retreat at the mosques. These are the limits of Allah, so do not come near them. Allah thus clarifies His revelations to the people, that they may attain piety. (Koran 2:187)
Whatever charity you give, or a pledge you fulfill, Allah knows it. The wrongdoers (infiels) have no helpers. (Koran, Surah 2:270)
IMPORTANT: Even with fasting, Islam systematically violates the natural and divine law, and on the days of fasts still opposes worship to God.[/su_tab] [/su_tabs]