Suffering and subduing

Lord Christ, our eternal Redeemer, grant us such fellowship in your sufferings, that, filled with your Holy Spirit, we may subdue the flesh to the spirit, and the spirit to you, and at the last attain to the glory of your resurrection; who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today is Friday and Fridays are traditionally fasting days. When I was a girl, I remember that our school lunches on Fridays in the spring time were always fish sticks. This was a bit of a mystery to me, as I lived in a pretty rural community and until I was in at least middle if not high school, we did not have any Roman Catholic families in our public school system at that time. But our lunch ladies always served up fish sticks on Fridays, and I had no idea why until I was an adult and learned about fasting on Fridays. The Baptists and Methodists who made up the bulk of our religious folks in my area did not do Lent or fasting (or Advent or church on Christmas Eve .... but I digress).

So our collect today mentions subduing our flesh to the spirit, and that's a reminder about the bodily discipline of fasting on Fridays.

But the collect also introduces new themes. The collect is addressed to Jesus our Redeemer and asks that he grant us "fellowship in [his] sufferings." Suffering with Christ, of course, is specifically found in the first Letter of Peter, but also alluded to by Paul. And while the suffering that we experience from fasting is nothing like the suffering of Jesus, Paul reminds us (in his letter to the Romans) that suffering produces endurance (which produces character which produces hope). 

So we might translate this collect thus:

Jesus, you live in eternity and have redeemed and will redeem us (that is, you will take our sins and our failures and our death into yourself so that we are no longer brought down by them). We ask that you be with us as we try to live as you lived, which includes sometimes denying ourselves so as to make room for the Spirit to fill our empty places because it is through the Spirit that we can live with your integrity. So for this season we are trying to subdue our filling up our bodies in order to deepen our spiritual connection to the Divine. Help us see that the suffering that comes from trying to be like you in a world that is actually pretty hostile to you will be returned to us as redemption, and raise us up with you in the resurrection. Amen.