Great Lent - Christian folk tale
Here is a Syriac folk tale from Tur Abdin:
There was once a king who, whilst out hunting one day, came across an elderly peasant who had been ploughing his field since dawn. The king invited the peasant to dine with him. However, the peasant replied:
"Forgive me, o king, but I have already been invited to a feast
which is much tastier than yours, and by a King who is much greater
than you. God has summoned me to the Great Fast of Lent."
Annoyed, the king gave the peasant a sharp look, saying:
"You're going to fast even on such a long and hot day as this?"
"I fast because I am in fear of an even longer and much hotter
day than this," the peasant replied.
"Well," advised the king, "Today you can eat, and tomorrow
you can fast."
To which the peasant answered:
"O king, can you guarantee me that I will be alive tomorrow?"
The king sighed and sadly shook his head.
"No," he replied. "I cannot even guarantee myself that I will
still be alive one hour from now."
The end of the tale may seem typically cliched, however, not for nothing did the Desert Fathers and the Fathers of the Philokalia constantly remind us that the remembrance of our mortality is of key importance in sharpening our mind to spiritual realities, forcing us to live a life in accordance with Christ before "the thief in the night" snatches us away.
Of equal importance in this story is the peasant's remark that the Fast of Lent is far tastier than any banquet. It is a remark like this that provides much food for contemplation and then prayer.