0 Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; give us grace to use such abstinence, that our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
The expression in this Collect, who ” for our sake” didst fast forty days and forty nights, is not more applicable in abstaining from food, than in any other act of the Saviour’s life; all, everything He did was for our sake. His abstaining from food for so unnatural, so long a time as forty days and forty nights, was no doubt to pass through and experience the complete weakness and dependence of corruptible man.
For the same reason, when he suffered the agony of being deserted by the Divine nature, in order to bear the full weight of God’s wrath, and feeling the deadly consequence of sin in being cut off from divine life, the want of which is death. For man to profess to fast forty days and forty nights is hypocrisy, or to make a distinction of food for forty days and forty nights, abstaining from meat, and eating to the full of fish, and various other delicacies, is gross hypocrisy, and decided perversion of the Gospel. Our Lord, foreseeing this great and distinguished evil, amongst a thousand others, explains to us the true meaning of fasting.
“ Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.Verily I say unto you. They have their reward. But thou when thou fastest, anoint thine head and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:16)
Reflections on the Collects of the Church of England, Thomas Henry Lane Fox, 1854.