St Gabriel Windows

St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reflections on Esther


In today's reading, Esther and her handmaids lay prostrate on the ground morning until evening....calling to God for assistance. Further on in the book of Esther, my Ignatius RSV bible, chapter 4, verses 16, 17, state..."and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day...."..."I and my maids will also fast as you do"; even further along we read how Esther puts on the "garments of distress and mourning", covered herself with ashes and dung and prayed, prayed, prayed, fasting and mortifying herself for the next three days..... Quite seriously, she was preparing for a mission, that which Esther is well known for - overcoming her fear and approaching the king in order to save her people. And the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob answers this intensely sincere request.

While, I don't expect to see many people in ashes and dung these days -- nor fasting for up through three days, I do think there is much to learn from such examples. While the "missions" in my life aren't anywhere near as challenging as that of Esther, still, they are uniquely my own that God has given me and have oftentimes required getting over a fear, asking the Holy Spirit for "just the right words" and asking for a special grace to fulfill what is necessary. There are missions in my life that I will fast, mortify and pray in earnest for; I'm sure I'm not alone.

Here are some thoughts from Fr. Francis Fernandez (In Conversation with God, Lenten volume) with more scriptural references in regard to fasting:

"....Fasting .....one more sign of the spirit of penance that God asks of man. In the Old Testament we can find gradually developing with ever increasing richness, the religious sense of penance, as a personal religious act, which has as its end love for and abandoment in God. [Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution, Paenitemini, 17 Feb, 1966] When it is accompanied by prayer it can be used to manifest humility before God. [Lev 16:29-31) The man who fasts turns toward God in an attitude of total dependence and abandonment. In Holy Scripture we see how fasting and other works of penance were performed before the commencement of any difficult task [Jude 20:26, Esther 4:16], to implore forgiveness for sin [1 Kings21:27], to obtain the cessation of a calamity [Jude 4:9-13], to gain the grace needed for the fulfillment of a mission [Acts 13:2], and to prepare oneself to come face to face with God [Ex 34:38, Dan 9:3]."


Lord on the day I called for help, you answered me....(Psalm 138)

4 comments:

scmom said...

Denise,
It is so interesting to me that you journal about this subject today. I am reading the book "Hadassah" which is the story of Esther and I just read the "fasting" scene last night.
Barbara

Denise said...

Hi Barbara,
Esther is one of my favorite bible women and we only have a couple readings from Esther in our liturgical year, but they certainly bring forth insightful thoughts!

I'm interested in your book you've mentioned - I'll have to look into it. Thanks!

Blessings!

scmom said...

The book (http://www.amazon.com/Hadassah-Night-King-Tommy-Tenney/dp/0764229435/sr=8-1/qid=1170349281/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-7726862-1595855?ie=UTF8&s=books) is what the recent movie was based on (http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2005/onenightwiththeking2005.html). I can't wait to finish the book so I can borrow the movie!
The book is sort of along the lines of The Red Tent (the story of Jacob's wives and only daughter). I'm not sure how much is true, but it's very fascinating.
Barbara

Esther said...

Denise, I am going to have to read the Book of Esther. Thank you for posting this!