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The Role of Fasting in the Spiritual Life

All strife against sin and its desires is to be preceded by ‎fasting, especially if one is combating inward sin…Fasting is the ‎strengthening of all virtues, the beginning of the struggle, the ‎beauty of virginity and sanctity, the preservation of chastity, the ‎beginning of the way of Christianity, the father of prayer…, for as ‎soon as man begins to fast his mind will be desirous of intercourse ‎with God. Fasting is a storehouse of all virtues, and he that ‎despises it makes all virtues totter. . .‎As the first commandment imposed upon our nature in the ‎beginning was against the tasting of the food, and in this point the ‎head of our race fell, therefore those who strive for the fear of God ‎begin the building where the first injury originated…Also our ‎Savior began from this point…He fasted forty days and forty ‎nights, and all those who follow His steps base the beginning of ‎their struggle upon this action. That weapon was polished by God, ‎who should despise it without being blameworthy? ‎

-St. Isaac the Syrian When the body is weak by fasting and mortification, the ‎soul is spiritually strong through prayer. ‎

-St. Isaac the Syrian

A full stomach shrinks from examining spiritual ‎questions…A mind full of the world cannot approach the ‎investigation of divine service. Fire cannot burn fresh wood; the ‎love of God cannot be kindled in a heart that loves comfort.‎

-St. Isaac the Syrian ‎

Just as the most bitter medicine drives out poisonous ‎creatures, so prayer and fasting drives away evil thoughts.‎

-St. Syncletica ‎

He who prays and fasts is more disposed for almsgiving. ‎He who fasts is light and winged, and prays with wakefulness, and ‎quenches his wicked lusts, and propitiates God, and humbles his ‎soul when lifted up.‎

-St. John Chrysostom ‎ ‎

We seek solitude and submit to fastings, vigils, toils, ‎reading and all other virtue: that through them we may be enabled ‎to prepare our heart and to keep it unharmed by evil passions; and ‎resting on these steps to mount to the perfection of charity which is ‎purity of heart.‎

-St. John Cassian ‎ ‎

For what advantage shall we gain by abstinence from ‎meats, if we do not also expel the evil habits of the soul? Behold, ‎we have spent all of this day fasting; and in the evening we shall ‎spread a table, not such as we did last night, but in a different and ‎more solemn way. ‎

Can any one of us then say that he has changed his life ‎today; that he has changed his bad habit as well as his food? I do ‎not think so! What is the purpose then for our fasting? Why do I ‎exhort and I will not cease to exhort, that undertaking each precept ‎separately, you should spend two or three days in the attainment of ‎it; and just as there are some who rival one another in fasting, and ‎show a marvelous emulation in it; (some indeed who spend two ‎whole days without food; and others who, rejecting from their ‎tables not only the use of wine, and of oil, but of every dish, and ‎taking only bread and water, persevere in this practice during the ‎whole of Lent); so, indeed, let us also contend mutually with one ‎another in abolishing the frequency of oaths. For this is more ‎useful than any fasting; this is more profitable than any strictness. ‎

And this same care which we display in abstaining from ‎food, let us exhibit with respect to abstinence from oaths; since we ‎shall be chargeable with the reproach of extreme folly, while we ‎regard not things that are forbidden, and expend all our care upon ‎things indifferent; for to eat is not forbidden, but to swear is ‎forbidden; we, however, abstaining from those things that are ‎permitted, daringly venture upon those things that are forbidden! ‎

On this account I beseech your Charity to make some ‎change, and to let the beginning of it be visible from today. For ‎if we spend all of this present fast with such zeal, having in this ‎week attained the practice of not swearing at all; and in the ‎following having extinguished wrath; and in that which succeeds ‎it, having pulled up evil-speaking by the roots; and after that, ‎having amended what yet remains; thus going forward in our ‎course, we shall come by little and little to the very summit of ‎virtue; and we shall escape the present danger; and shall make God ‎propitious; and the multitude will come back again to our city; and ‎we shall teach the fugitives that we are to place our hopes of safety ‎neither in security of place, nor in flight and retirement; but in ‎piety of soul, and in virtue of manners. And thus shall we obtain ‎the good things of this and of the future life; which, God grant! we ‎my all be found worthy of, by the grace and loving-kindness of our ‎Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom be glory to the ‎Fr., together with the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and ever. ‎Amen.

-St. John Chrysostom


Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

April 9, 2009