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The Purging

The best things, when corrupted, become the worst, as the Latin adage goes.

All that is known is known through the senses. Even though we humans are keen on symbolic, abstract, and spiritual realities, we rely on our experiences—as rational animals, souls incarnate—to reach these higher things.

Because of this, many of the most profound and transformative experiences man can have will occur simultaneously with a special union between the heart and the mind. These experiences—such as romantic intimacy, companionship and alcohol, music and drama—encapsulate our entire being, uniting our mind, will, memory, heart, and senses into a singular and seamless whole. They evoke and integrate the parts of us that sin, suffering, and the world have fragmented and compartmentalized. They are uniquely human; neither the beasts nor the angels may feel the salvific resonance of spiritual goods upon their very flesh. These experiences are experiences of totality. For the sake of our conversation, I will refer to them as totalities of wholeness.

These totalities of wholeness are only wholesome inasmuch as they are pursued and felt within their proper context. Romantic intimacy outside of the permanent and consented commitment of marriage will become mutual usage rather than mutual love; alcohol and companionship with the wrong intentions will degrade into drunkenness and debauchery; perversions of music and drama have historically led to licentiousness, brutality, and even revolution.

The best things, when corrupted, become the worst, as the Latin adage goes. These creative and transformative acts, when severed from God and sought in sin, become the cause of unspeakable destruction, wickedness, and alienation. In this fallen world, and particularly in our times, experience of these tragedies abounds.

What is left for man when sin has corrupted his capacity for these experiences of totality? When the mind, heart, and will become fragmented and disordered, how can we be restored to think rightly, to feel rightly, and to love rightly?

Our faith teaches us a great means for this restoration. When our souls and bodies render themselves incapable of wholeness through sin, we must turn to another experience: that of emptiness, an emptiness that is not abstract or conceptual but felt in our very bodies. Fasting is the totality of emptiness. When rightly undertaken, it purifies the mind, heart, and body of sin and sin’s desires, just as fragments of metal are drawn and united from ore in the crucible. In fasting, we experience a physical sign of our own weakness, and we present ourselves, broken and vulnerable, before the God who is able to save.

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