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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

Your question sounds as if you think these things to be of no use. Yes, the Christian of my time is acquainted with fasting; the vigil is largely the part of the priest and particularly the monk. If I may presume upon your ignorance, I shall attempt to enlighten you.

It is not, as you surmise, that we consider the body to be evil. It is simply of this world, and must be transformed to be eternal. Indeed, as God made the body and pronounced it good, we should not see fit to disagree. But surely you will also agree it can be a source of difficulty.

As such, it must be subdued. There are various methods for this; the fast is one. Our general practice is to fast from sunrise to sunset. As we seldom eat after sunset, this would become a complete day. For someone such as myself, living on a manor where food is abundant, this is an exercise in discipline. But my view is that life is to be lived, the body to be tamed, and all subject to Christ.

The monk holds to a different view. In that view the body must be denied. Not all are called to be monk or priest, though the occupation is held in high honor. One reason is this: those who fast but once or twice a year know the difficulty. We can imagine the trials of those who fast twice a week.

Can you not see that the difference is the calling of God? Some are called to be priests and bishops, others monks. The others are called to be as I am. You should therefore know that God, having called, will bless in accordance with his call. Neither monk nor manor has the advantage, for there is no favoritism with God.

Indeed, I would argue the matter makes no difference. For if you are a monk and despise this life, considering it all vanity, then you set your eyes on the things to come. But if you love this life, then what could please you more than to have it continue forever? Either way, your eyes should be upon the prize: eternal life. All else is insignificant.

So then, be you monk or merry, Christ is the goal. Some will share his joys; some will share his afflictions some little way; others will share them to the fullest. He is faithful and just; he will reward us all accordingly. In his hands are the keys of hell and death. If you wish entrance into the holy city, you must know the doorkeeper.

Regarding you in joy and sorrow, I remain,

Isaac the alchemist

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