Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


82 Entries

People have to answer greatly for not keeping the rules of the Church with respect to the fasts. People justify themselves by saying that they never considered it a sin to eat dairy products during the fasts. They repent and consider themselves sinners in every other respect, but they do not think to repent about not keeping the fasts. Meanwhile, they are transgressing the commandment of our holy Mother, the Church, and according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, they are as the heathen and publicans because of their disobedience. REF:St. Ambrose of Optina (+1891)

Fasting is an exceptional virtue; it represses bodily impulses and gives strength to the soul to fight against the poisoning of the heart through the senses, and provides it with a remedy against any past poisoning. Fasting causes the mind to be cleansed constantly. It whithers up every evil thought and brings healthy, godly thoughts -- -holy thoughts that enlighten the mind and kindle it with more zeal and spiritual fervor. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

'This fasting,' saith he, 'if the commandments of the Lord are kept, is very good. This, then, is the way that thou shalt keep the fast. First of all, keep thyself from every evil word and every evil device, and purify thy heart from all the vanities of this world. If thou keep these things, thy fast shall be perfect for thee. And thus shalt thou do. Having fulfilled what is written, on that day on which thou fastest, thou shalt taste nothing but bread and water; and from my meals which thou wouldest have eaten, thou shalt reckon up the amount of that day's expenditure, which thou wouldest have incurred, and shalt give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to one in want, and so shalt thou humble thy soul, that he that received from thy humiliation may satisfy his own soul, and may pray for thee to the Lord. If then thou shalt so accomplish this fast, as I have commanded thee, thy sacrifice shall be acceptable in the sight of God, and this fasting shall be recorded; and the service ! so performed is beautiful and joyous, and acceptable to the Lord.' The Shepherd of Hermas

A Constitution Concerning the Great Passover Week

Do you therefore fast on the days of the passover, beginning from the second day of the week until the preparation, and the Sabbath, six days, making use of only bread, and salt, and herbs, and water for your drink. But do you abstain on these days from wine and flesh, for they are days of lamentation and not of feasting. Do you who are able fast the day of the preparation and the Sabbath day entirely, tasting nothing till the cock-crowing of the night. But if any one is not able to join them both together, at least let him observe the Sabbath day. For the Lord says somewhere, speaking of Himself: "When the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, in those days shall they fast." In these days, therefore, He was taken from us by the Jews, falsely so named, and fastened to the cross, and "was numbered among the transgressors." Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 5, Section 3, Article 18

A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering that person is not a Christian. Bearing one's cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse (of Blessed Memory)

A worker takes the trouble to get hold of the instruments that he requires. He does so not simply to have them and not use them. Nor is there any profit for him in merely possessing the instruments. What he wants is, with their help, to produce the crafted objective for which these are the efficient means.

In the same way, fasting, vigils, scriptural meditation, nakedness and total deprivation do not constitute perfection but are the means to perfection. They are not in themselves the end point of a discipline, but an end is attained to through them. St. John Cassian, Conference One

Abba Isidore said, "If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride; if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and glorify himself." The Desert Fathers

Abba John the Dwarf said, "If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy's city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him. It is the same with the passions of the flesh; if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak." Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 85-89

Abba John the Dwarf said, 'If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy's city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him. It is the same with the passions of the flesh: if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak.' The Desert Christian, Benedicta Ward

According to St. Gregory the Sinaite there are three degrees in eating: ;temperance, sufficiency, and satiety. Temperance is when someone wants to eat some more food but abstains, rising from the table still somewhat hungry. Sufficiency is when someone eats what is needed and sufficient for normal nourishment. Satiety is when someone eats more than enough and is more than satisfied. Now if you cannot keep the first two degrees and you proceed to the third, then, at least, do not become a glutton, remembering the words of the lord: "Woe unto you that are full now, for you shall hunger" (Lk. 6:25). Remember also that rich man who ate in this present life sumptuously every day, but who was deprived of the desired bosom of Abraham in the next life, simply because of this sumptuous eating. St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

According to St. Gregory the Sinaite there are three degrees in eating: temperance, sufficiency, and satiety. Temperance is when someone wants to eat some more food but abstains, rising from the table still somewhat hungry. Sufficiency is when someone eats what is needful and sufficient for normal nourishment., Satiety is when someone eats more than enough and is more than satisfied. Now if you cannot keep the first two degrees and you proceed to the third, then, at least do not become a glutton, remembering the words of the Lord: "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger" (Lk. 6:25). St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

Almsgiving heals the soul's incensive power; fasting withers sensual desire; prayer purifies the intellect and prepares it for contemplation of created beings. For the Lord has given us commandments which correspond to the powers of the soul. St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century on Love no. 79)

An old man was asked, 'How can I find God?' He said, 'In fasting, in watching, in labors, in devotion, and, above all, in discernment. I tell you, many have injured their bodies without discernment and have gone away from us having achieved nothing. Our mouths smell bad through fasting, we know the Scriptures by heart, we recite all the Psalms of David, but we have not that which God seeks: charity and humility.' The Desert Fathers

And just as a ship, after having run through innumerable surges, and having escaped many storms, then in the very mouth of the harbor having been dashed against some rock, loses the whole treasure which is stowed away in her — so truly did this Pharisee, after having undergone the labors of the fasting, and of all the rest of his virtue, since he did not master his tongue, in the very harbor underwent shipwreck of his cargo. For the going home from prayer, whence he ought to have derived gain, having rather been so greatly damaged, is nothing else than undergoing shipwreck in harbor. Chrysostom, Homily concerning lowliness of mind, commentary on Philippians (a reference to the Publican & Pharisee)

BROTHER: Is there any man who fasteth that shall not be redeemed?

OLD MAN: There is one kind of fasting which is from habit, and another from desire, and another from compulsion, and another from sight, and another from the love of vainglory, and another from affliction, and another from repentance, and another from spiritual affection; for although each of these seems to be the same as the other in the mind externally, yet in the word of knowledge they are distinct. Now the way in which each is performed by the body is the same, and the way in which each is to be undertaken is wholly the same by him who travelleth straightly on the path of love, and who beareth his burden with patient endurance spiritually, and who doth not rejoice in his honor. E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984, pp. 263-264

BROTHER: What are fasting and prayer?

OLD MAN: Fasting is the subjugation of the body, prayer is converse with God, vigil is a war against Satan, abstinence is being weaned from meats, humility is the state of the first man, kneeling is the inclining of the body before the Judge, tears are the remembrance of sins, nakedness is our captivity which is caused by the transgression of the command, and service is constant supplication to and praise of God.

BROTHER: Are these able to redeem the soul?

OLD MAN: When internal things agree with external, and manifest humility appears in the hidden works which are from within, verily, a man shall be redeemed from the weight of the body. E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984, pp. 263-264

Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. ‘Loose the bands of wickedness.’ For give your neighbor the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you. Do not ‘fast for strife and debate.’ You do not devour flesh, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but you indulge in outrages. You wait for evening before you take food, but you spend the day in the law courts. Woe to those who are ‘drunken, but not with wine.’ Anger is the intoxication of the soul, and makes it out of its wits like wine. St. Basil, in his homilies on the Holy Spirit

Bodily purity is primarily attained through fasting, and through bodily purity comes spiritual purity. Abstinence from food, according to the words of that son of grace, St. Ephraim the Syrian, means: 'Not to desire or demand much food, either sweet or costly; to eat nothing outside the stated times; not to give oneself over to gratification of the appetite; not to stir up hunger in oneself by looking at good food; and not to desire one or another sort of food. The Prologue from Ochrid - by St. Nikolai Velimirovich (Volume 4, p 338):

Chapter 8- Concerning Fasting and Prayer (The Lord’s Prayer)

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week (meaning Monday and Thursday); but do you fast on the fourth day and the day of Preparation (meaning Wednesday and Friday). Neither pray as the hypocrites; but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, thus pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or evil); for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Thrice in the day thus pray. Didache - The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Concerning the watching all the night of the Great Sabbath, and Concerning the Day of the Resurrection, Article 19

Wherefore we exhort you to fast on those days, as we also fasted till the evening, when He was taken away from us; but on the rest of the days, before the day of the preparation, let every one eat at the ninth hour (3 PM) or the evening, or as every one is able. But from the evening of the fifth day till cock-crowing break your fast when it is daybreak of the first day of the week, which is the Lord’s day (Sunday). From the evening till cock-crowing keep awake, and assemble together in the church. Watch and pray, and entreat God; reading, when you sit up all night, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, until cock-crowing, and baptizing your catechumens, and reading the Gospel with fear and trembling, and speaking to the people such things as tend to their salvation. Put an end to your sorrow, and beseech God that Israel may be converted, and that He will allow them place of repentance, and the remission of their impiety… For this reason do you also, now the Lord is risen, offer your sacrifice, concerning which He made a constitution by us, saying, "Do this for a remembrance of me;" and henceforth leave off your fasting, and rejoice, and keep a festival, because Jesus Christ, the pledge of our resurrection, is risen from the dead.

And let this be an everlasting ordinance till the consummation of the world, until the Lord come. For to Jews the Lord is still dead, but to Christians He is risen: to the former, by their unbelief; to the latter, by their full assurance of faith. For the hope in Him is immortal and eternal life.

After eight days let there be another feast observed with honor, the eighth day itself, on which He gave me Thomas, who was hard of belief, full assurance, by showing me the print of the nails, and the wound made in His side by the spear.

And again, from the first Lord’s day count forty days, from the Lord’s day till the fifth day of the week, and celebrate the feast of the ascension of the Lord, whereon He finished all His dispensation and constitution, and returned to that God and Father that sent Him, and sat down at the right hand of power, and remains there until His enemies are put under His feet; who also will come at the consummation of the world with power and great glory, to judge the quick and the dead, and to recompense to every one according to his works. And then shall they see the beloved Son of God whom they pierced; and when they know Him, they shall mourn for themselves, tribe by tribe, and their wives apart. Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 5, Section 3

Consider well my soul: Dost thou fast? Then despise not thy neighbor. Dost thou abstain from food? Condemn not thy brother. Sunday of Orthodoxy, Matins. - "The Lenten Triodion"

Considering all these things then, and counting the recompense which is given in this case and remembering that to wipe away sins does not entail much labor and zeal, let us pardon those who have wronged us. For that which others scarcely accomplish, I mean the blotting out of their own sins by means of fasting and lamentations, and prayers, and sackcloth, and ashes, this it is possible for us easily to effect without sackcloth and ashes and fasting if only we blot out anger from our heart, and with sincerity forgive those who have wronged us. Chrysostom, Homily to those who have not attended the Assembly

Eat simply, and stop before satiety. What do I mean by this? First eating simply means that one's food preparation should not be of the normal, non-fasting type: sumptuous, fattened, and designed to entice the palate. This only reinforces one's love for food. This does not mean that one's preparation should result in food that is repugnant. Rather it means that it should not inflame one's desire for more, nor incite one (e.g. overly spicy or rich tasting recipes). It should be such that it is simple, meager, and life-sustaining. It is still permissible for the food to be interesting and pleasant to eat (after all it is not a sin to enjoy food in moderation)." Anonymous letter to a new convert,

Fasting appears gloomy until one steps into its arena. But begin and you will see what light it brings after darkness, what freedom from bonds, what release after a burdensome life… Bishop Theophan the Recluse

Fasting is absolutely indispensable for man. From the external aspect, it is a struggle of filial obedience to God, Who has given us the rules of fasting through His Holy Spirit. From the inner aspect, fasting is a struggle of restraint and self-limitation. In this lies the great value and sense of fasting, since a strict observance of fasts tempers one's will and perfects the character of one who is firm in his religious convictions and actions. Let us not forget that Christ Himself fasted, and foretold that His apostles would also fast. Metropolitan Philaret - On God's Law - Missionary Leaflet # E37b - Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church

Fasting is acceptable to God when abstention from food is accompanied by refraining from sins, from envy, from hatred, from calumny, from vainglory, from wordiness, from other evils. He who is fasting the true fast `that is agreeable' to God ought to shun all these things with all his strength and zeal, and remain impregnable and unshakeable against all the attacks of the Evil one that are planned from that quarter. On the other hand, he who practices abstention from food, but does not keep self-control in the face of the aforesaid passions, is like unto one who lays down splendid foundations for a house, yet takes serpents and scorpions and vipers as fellow-dwellers therein. St. Photios the Great, Sermon on Wed. of Cheese Fare Week

Fasting is an ordinance of the Church, obliging the Christian to observe it on specific days. Concerning fasting, our Savior teaches: "When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father, Who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." From what the Savior teaches we learn (a) that fasting is pleasing to God, and (b) that he who fasts for the uplifting of his mind and heart towards God shall be rewarded by God, Who is a most liberal bestower of Divine gifts, for his devotion.

In the New Testament fasting is recommended as a means of preparing the mind and the heart for divine worship, for long prayer, for rising from the earthly, and for spiritualization. "Modern Orthodox Saints, St. Nectarios of Aegina", Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Belmont, Massachusetts., 1981., pp. 154-187

Fasting is the champion of every virtue, the beginning of the struggle, the crown of the abstinent, the beauty of virginity and sanctity, the resplendence of chastity, the commencement of the path of Christianity, the mother of prayer, the well-spring of sobriety and prudence, the teacher of stillness, and the precursor of all good works. Just as the enjoyment of light is coupled with healthy eyes, so desire for prayer accompanies fasting that is practiced with discernment. The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian

Fasting is wonderful, because it tramples our sins like a dirty weed, while it cultivates and raises truth like a flower. St. John Chrysostom

Fasting is wonderful, because it tramples our sins like a dirty weed, while it cultivates and raises truth like a flower. St. John Chrysostomos

Fasting was ordained in Paradise. The first injunction was delivered to Adam, ‘Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.’ ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence." The general argument is rather against excess than in support of ceremonial abstinence. In Paradise there was no wine, no butchery of beasts, no eating of flesh. Wine came in after the flood. Noah became drunk because wine was new to him. So fasting is older than drunkenness. Esau was defiled, and made his brother’s slave, for the sake of a single meal. It was fasting and prayer which gave Samuel to Hannah. Fasting brought forth Samson. Fasting begets prophets, strengthens strong men. Fasting makes lawgivers wise, is the soul’s safeguard, the body’s trusty comrade, the armor of the champion, the training of the athlete. St. Basil, in his homilies on the Holy Spirit

Fasting, neither above nor below your ability, will help you in your vigil. One should not ponder divine matters on a full stomach, say the ascetics. For the well-fed, even the most superficial secrets of the Trinity lie hidden. Christ Himself set the example with His long fast; when He drove out the devil, He had fasted for forty days. Are we better than He? "Behold, angels came and ministered unto him (Matthew 4:11)." They are waiting to minister to you, too.

Fasting tempers loquacity, says St. John Climacus. it is an outlet for compassion and a guard upon obedience; it destroys evil thoughts and roots out the insensibility of the heart. Fasting is a gate to paradise; when the stomach is constricted, the heart is humbled. He who fasts prays with a sober mind, but the mind of the intemperate person is filled with impure fancies and thoughts.

Fasting is an expression of love and devotion, in which one sacrifices earthly satisfaction to attain the heavenly. Altogether too much of one's thoughts are taken up with care for sustenance and the enticements of the palate; one wishes to be free from them. Thus fasting is a step on the road of emancipation and an indispensable support in the struggle against selfish desires. Together with prayer, fasting is one of humanity's greatest gifts, carefully cherished by those who once have participated in it.

During fasting, thankfulness grows toward him who has given humanity the possibility of fasting. Fasting opens the entrance to a territory that you have scarcely glimpsed; the expressions of life and all the events around you and within you get a new illumination, the hastening hours a new, wide-eyed and rich purpose. The vigil of groping thought is replaced by a vigil of clarity; troublesome searching is changed to quiet acceptance in gratitude and humility. Seemingly large, perplexing problems open their centers like the ripe calyces of flowers; with prayer, fasting and vigil in union, we may knock on the door we wish to see opened.

Here we find the reason that fasting is often used as a measuring-stick by the Holy Fathers; he who fasts much is he who loves much, and he who has loved much is forgiven much (Luke 7:47). He who fasts much also receives much.

The Holy Fathers recommend "moderate" fasting; one ought not to allow the body to be weakened too much, for then the soul, too, is harmed. Nor ought one to undertake fasting too suddenly; everything demands practice, and each one should look to his own nature and occupation. To choose among different kinds of food is to be condemned; all food is God-given, but it is advisable to avoid such kinds as add to the body's weight and appetite; strong spices, meat, spirituous drinks and such foods as are solely for the palate's enjoyment. For the rest, one may eat what is cheap and most easily available, they say. But by "moderate" they mean one meal a day, and that one light enough not to fill the stomach to satiety. "Way of the Ascetics," by Tito Colliander (New York: Harper & Row, 1982, pp. 75-77)

Fasts and vigils, the study of Scripture, renouncing possessions and everything worldly are not in themselves perfection, as we have said; they are its tools. For perfection is not to be found in them; it is acquired through them. It is useless, therefore, to boast of our fasting, vigils, poverty, and reading of Scripture when we have not achieved the love of God and our fellow men. Whoever has achieved love has God within himself and his intellect is always with God. St John Cassian

Great infirmity constrains us, dearest brother, from which if we were free, we should seem justly blamable. But since, while we are in this fragile body, we cannot subsist but by subservience to its weaknesses, we ought not to blush for what necessity imposes on us. And so, since physicians all say that to those who suffer from eruption of blood fasts are injurious, we exhort your Fraternity by this present address that, recalling to mind what you have been accustomed to endure from sickness, you by no means impose on yourself the labor of fasting. If, however, by the mercy of God, you know yourself to be so far improved in health as to have sufficient strength, we permit you to fast once or twice in the week. But of this it befits you before all things to take care, that you in no wise subject yourself to any feeling of irritation, so that the sickness, which is believed to be now lighter and as it were suspended, should be experienced afterwards more heavily through exasperation. Gregory the Great, Epistle 40: To Marinianus, Bishop of Ravenna

I know a man who kept no long strict fasts, no vigils, did not sleep on bare earth, imposed on himself no other specially arduous tasks; but, recollecting in memory his sins, understood his worthlessness and, having judged himself, became humble - and for this alone the most compassionate Lord saved him; as the divine David says: 'The Lord is near to them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit' (Ps. 34:18). In short, he trusted the words of the Lord and for his faith the Lord received him." St. Simeon the New Theologian (On Faith, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 143)

I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied. St. John Cassian

I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied. St. John Cassian, On the Eight Vices in The Philokalia, Vol. 1

If a man only theorises about God, then he is helpless, utterly helpless, when confronted by an evil spirit. An evil spirit laughs at feeble worldly theorising. But as soon as a man begins to fast and to pray to God, the evil spirit becomes filled with inexpressible fear. Blessed Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic - sermon on Mk. 9: 29

If you can begrudge the stomach, your mouth will stay closed, because the tongue flourishes where food is abundant. St. John Climacus (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 14:On Gluttony)

In the man who only theorises about faith, there is a great deal of room for the demon. But in the man who gives himself to sincere prayer and fasting, there is only the narrowest space for the demon, and he must flee from such a man. Blessed Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic - sermon on Mk. 9: 29

Inasmuch then as our Master knew that if He carved out only one road for us, many must shrink from it, He carved out divers roads. You can not enter the kingdom it may be by the way of virginity. Enter it then by the way of single marriage. Can you not enter it by one marriage? By chance you may by means of a second marriage. You can not enter by the way of continence: enter then by the way of almsgiving: or you can not enter by the way of almsgiving? Then try the way of fasting. If you can not use this way, take that — or if not that, then take this. Chrysostom- Two Homilies on Eutropios, Article 15

Just as the most bitter medicine drives out poisonous things, so prayer joined to fasting drives evil thoughts away. Amma Syncletica

Keep the body properly slim so that you reduce the burden of the heart's warfare, with full benefit to yourself. Elder Ieronymos of Aegina

Keep the ordained fasts The Holy Fast of Forty Days (tessarakoste - "Great Lent") is the greatest fast, one which every Christian must observe without grumbling. A person who possesses bodily health must not protest about the fast; and he is inexcusable if he does not keep it.

During the forty day period of the fast, a Christian ought to attend church services regularly.

A person must also keep the fast of Wednesday and Friday.

During the great fast of the first fifteen days of August, some persons were black clothes, in order to honor the Theotokos. But if this is not accompanied by fasting and by prayer it is in vain. Modern Orthodox Saints Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos., by Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., 1990., pp. 145-155

Let those of us who have wisely finished the course of fasting And who celebrate with love the beginning of the suffering of the Passion of the Lord, Let us all, my brothers, zealously imitate the purity of self-controlled Joseph; Let us fear the sterility of the fig tree; Let us dry up through almsgiving the sweetness of passion. In order that we may joyously anticipate the Resurrection, Let us procure like myrrh pardon from on high Because the eye that never sleeps observes all things. St Romanos the Melodist - On Joseph II, Prooimion II

Let us love that fasting of the soul which, by the cooperation of the Spirit, doth wither the grievous passions and doth strengthen us to do godly deeds, and doth uplift our mind towards Heaven, and doth obtain our sins' forgiveness, grant unto us by the compassionate God. Triodion, Monday Vespers of the Third Week

Let us present a good fast, well-pleasing to the Lord! A true fast is alienation from the evil one; The holding of one's tongue, the laying aside of all anger, The removal of all sensuality, Of accusation, falsehood and sins of swearing.// The weakening of these will make the fast true and well-pleasing. First week of Lent Tuesday Matins

Many abstain from meat, milk and other food which God has not forbidden and which was even given as a blessing of people who have learned the truth and know how to partake of these things with thanksgiving (I Tim. 4:34). But the same abstemious, devout-living people, give scandal by their action, and spread scandal with their tongue like an incendiary fire. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

O brethren, as ye take up the spiritual fast, speak no deceit with your tongue, neither put a stumbling block in the way of your brother as an occasion for him to fall: but by repentance let us trim the lamp of our soul, that with tears we may cry unto Christ Forgive us our transgressions, since Thou art the Friend of man. Vespers of Wednesday of the Second Week of Great Lent

O ye faithful, let us take upon ourselves great labors in this season of abstinence, that we may obtain great glory, delivered from the flames of Hades through the mercy of our great God and King.

Now that we have passed beyond the middle point in the time of the Fast, let us manifest in ourselves a beginning of divine glory, and let us hasten eagerly towards our journey's end, the life of holiness, that we may receive the joy that grows not old. Stichera from Vespers, Sunday Evening of the Fourth Week of Lent

Of the Great Week, and on what account they enjoin us to fast on Wednesday and Friday

He therefore charged us Himself to fast these six days on account of the impiety and transgression of the Jews, commanding us to bewail over them, and lament for their perdition. For even He Himself "wept over them, because they knew not the time of their visitation." But He commanded us to fast on the fourth and sixth days of the week (Wednesday and Friday); the former on account of His being betrayed, and the latter on account of His passion. But He appointed us to break our fast on the seventh day at the cock-crowing, but to fast on the Sabbath day. Not that the Sabbath day is a day of fasting, being the rest from the creation, but because we ought to fast on this one Sabbath only (Holy Saturday), while on this day the Creator was under the earth. For on their very feast-day (Jewish Passover) they apprehended the Lord, that that oracle might be fulfilled which says: "They placed their signs in the middle of their feast, and knew them not." You ought therefore to bewail over them, because when the Lord came they did not believe on Him, but rejected His doctrine, judging themselves unworthy of salvation. Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 5, Section 3, Article 15

On Feast Days and Fast Days a Catalogue of the Feasts of the Lord which are to be kept, and when each of them ought to be observed

Brethren, observe the festival days. First of all the birthday (of our Lord) which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month (December); after which let the Epiphany be to you the most honored, in which the Lord made to you a display of His own Godhead, and let it take place on the sixth of the tenth month (January); after which the fast of Lent is to be observed by you as containing a memorial of our Lord’s mode of life and legislation. (As we learned last weekend, at first Great Lent was in emulation of our Lord’s fast of 40 days after His baptism, and took place directly after Epiphany, rather than just before Pascha & Holy Week.) But let this solemnity be observed before the fast of the passover, beginning from the second day of the week (Monday), and ending at the day of the preparation (Friday). After which solemnities, breaking off your fast, begin the holy week of the passover, fasting in the same all of you with fear and trembling, praying in them for those that are about to perish. (Passover here is the Greek word Pascha, and refers to the resurrection and not the Jewish passover.) Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 5, Section 3, Article 13

Our virtue, therefore, must not be contaminated with fault, but must be single minded and blameless, and free from all that can bring reproach. For what profit is there in fasting twice in the week, if thy so doing serve only as a pretext for ignorance and vanity, and make thee supercilious and haughty, and selfish? St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke (Reading for Sunday of Publican and Pharisee)

Remember, my dear ones, that as a bird is held up and flies through the air using two wings, so we can spiritually live and strive towards our eternal salvation with fasting and prayer. Prayer leads to fasting, while fasting purifies prayer, makes it more. sincere, more heartfelt and genuine. These two virtues are inseparable: one strengthens the other. We are all people, and as human beings we consist of the body, in which, as in its house, lives the soul. Fasting together with prayer address the needs of the whole man -- his soul and, of course, his body. Metropolitan Vitaly, Paschal Encyclical, 2001 (

Sear your loins by abstaining from food, and prove your heart by controlling your speech, and you will succeed in bringing the desiring and incensive powers of your soul into the service of what is noble and good. Ilias the Presbyter(Gnomic Anthology I no. 55)

Sleep is a particular state of nature, an image of death, inactivity of the senses. Sleep is one, but, like desire, its sources and occasions are many; that is to say, it comes from nature, from food, from demons, or perhaps, sometimes, from extreme and prolonged fasting, through which the flesh is weakened and at last longs for the consolation of sleep. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), Step19: On Sleep, Prayer, and Psalmody With the Brotherhood

Some are convinced that we should eat all foods, at all times, without discretion. THey say that we should cast off all the restrictions of the fast and make wide the road to the belly. However, we have a teaching from the Savior Christ that the demons are not cast out except by prayer and fasting. His holy disciples and Apostles ministered to the Lord with fasting, as it is written: 'As they ministered to the Lord and fasted ...' (Acts 13:1). The Truth of our Faith, by Elder Cleopa of Romania

Suppose you have ordered yourself not to eat fish; you will find that the enemy continually makes you long to eat it. You are filled with an uncontrollable desire for the thing that is forbidden. In this way you can see how Adam's fall typifies what happens to all of us. Because he was told not to eat from a particular tree, he felt irresistibly attracted to the one thing that was forbidden him. St. John of Karpathos "The Philokalia: the Complete Text" (volume I), by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, trans. By G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and (Bishop) Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 298 - 309


A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Savior’s passover. It was therefore necessary to end their fast on that day, whatever day of the week it should happen to be. But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this time, as they observed the practice which, from apostolic tradition, has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the resurrection of our Savior. Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all, with one consent, through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree, that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other but the Lord’s day, and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on this day only. The Church History of Eusebius, CHAPTER 23

The Three Degrees of Eating
According to St. Gregory the Sinaite there are three degrees in eating: temperance, sufficiency, and satiety. Temperance is when someone wants to eat some more food but abstains, rising from the table still somewhat hungry. Sufficiency is when someone eats what is needed and sufficient for normal nourishment. Satiety is when someone eats more than enough and is more than satisfied.

Now if you cannot keep the first two degrees and you proceed to the third, then, at least, do not become a glutton, remembering the words of the Lord: "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger" (Lk 6:25). Remember also that rich man who ate in this present life sumptuously every day, but who was deprived of the desired bosom of Abraham in the next life, simply because of this sumptuous eating. Remember how he longed to refresh his tongue with a drop of water.

St. Basil not only did not forgive the young people who ate to satiety but also those who ate until satisfied; he preferred that all eat temperately. He said, "Nothing subdues and controls the body as does the practice of temperance. It is this temperance that serves as a control to those youthful passions and desires."'

St. Gregory the Theologian has also noted in his poetry: "No satiety has brought forth prudent behavior; for it is in the nature of fire to consume matter. And a filled stomach expels refined thoughts; it is the tendency of opposites to oppose each other."

Job, too, assuming that one could fall into sin through eating, offered sacrifice to God for his sons who were feasting among themselves. "And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said: 'It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts'" (Jb 1:5-8). In interpreting this passage Olympiodoros wrote: "We learn from this that we ought to avoid such feasts which can bring on sinfulness. We must also purify ourselves after they have been concluded, even if these are conducted for the sake of concord and brotherly love as in the case of the sons of Job."

Surely then, if the sons of Job were not at a feast but in prayer or some other spiritual activity, the devil would not have dared to destroy the house and them, as Origen interpreted the passage: "The devil was looking for an opportunity to destroy them. Had he found them reading, he would not have touched the house, having no reason to put them to death. Had he found them in prayer, he would not have had any power to do anything against them. But when he found an opportune time, he was powerful. What was the opportune time? It was the time of feasting and drinking." Do you see then, dear reader, how many evils are brought forth by luxurious foods and feasting in general? A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, by St. Nicodemos (Chapter 6)

The old man (Abba Moses) was asked, "What is the good of the fasts and watchings which a man imposes on himself?" and he replied, "They make the soul humble. For it is written, "Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins" (Psalm 25:18). So if the soul gives itself all this hardship, God will have mercy on it." "The Desert Christian," by Sr. Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1975), p. 142

The partaking of food has three degrees: abstinence, adequacy and satiety. To abstain, means to remain a little hungry after eating; to eat adequately, means neither to be hungry, nor weighed down. But eating beyond satiety is the door to belly-madness, through which lust comes in. But you, firm in knowledge, choose what is best for you, according to your powers, without overstepping the limits... St. Gregory of Sinai (Instructions to Hesychasts no. 6)

The reason that fasting has an effect on the spirits of evil rests in its powerful effect on our own spirit. A body subdued by fasting brings the human spirit freedom, strength, sobriety, purity, and keen discernment. St. Ignaty Brianchaninov

The right practice of abstinence is needful not only to the mortification of the flesh but also to the purification of the mind. For the mind then only keeps holy and spiritual fast when it rejects the food of error and the poison of falsehood. St. Leo the Great

The undefiled beauty of fasting is the pure mother of character. It causes philosophy to gush forth, and offers a crown. It negotiates Paradise for us And grants a paternal family for those who fast. Of this Adam was deprived, and he attracted death When he dishonored the worth of feasting. For at the time when it was treated scornfully, The God of all, the Creator and the Master was at once displeased. To those who honor it He grants eternal life. Kontakia of Romanos. On Fasting

There was a certain old man who lived a life of such strict self-denial that he never drank wine. And when I arrived at his cell we sat down to eat. Dates were brought and he ate, and he took water and drank. And I said unto him laughingly, "So you are angry with absinthe, Father? Since you have eaten dates and have drank water, why do you not drink wine?"

And he answered and said unto me, "If you take a handful of dust and throw it on a man, will it hurt him?" And I said unto him, "No." And he said unto me, "If you take a handful of water and throw it over a man, will he feel pain?" And I said unto him, "No." And he said unto me, "And again, if you take a handful of chopped straw and throw it over a man, will it cause him pain?" And I said unto him, "No."

Then he said unto me, "But if you bring them all together and mix them, and knead them well, and dry them, you may throw the mass on the skull of a man and you will not break it." And I said unto him, "Yes, father, that is true." And he said unto me, "The monks do not abstain from certain things without good reason, and you must not listen to the men who are in the world who say, 'Why do they not eat this and why do they not drink that?' Is there not sin in them? Such people know not. Now we abstain from certain things not because the things themselves are bad, but because the passions are mighty, and when they have waxed strong they kill us." S. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," (Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984), pp. 151-152

There was a man who at a lot and was still hungry, and another who ate little and was satisfied. The one who ate a lot and was still hungry received a greater reward than he who ate little and was satisfied. St. John of Kronstadt

Those pursuing the spiritual way should train themselves to hate all uncontrolled desires until this hatred becomes habitual. With regard to self-control in eating, we must never feel loathing for any kind of food, for to do so is abominable and utterly demonic. It is emphatically not because any kind of food is bad in itself that we refrain from it. But by not eating too much or too richly we can to some extent keep in check the excitable parts of our body. In addition we can give to the poor what remains over, for this is the mark of sincere love. St. Diadochos of Photiki(On Spiritual Knowledge no. 43)

Those who struggle, regain their original state by keeping two commandments - obedience and fasting; for all evil entered into the generation of mortals through practices opposed to them. Moreover, those who keep the commandments through obedience ascend to God more quickly, and those who keep them through fasting - more slowly. Besides, obedience is more suitable for beginners, and fasting for those on the way, who possess courage and vision of mind. But in fulfilling the commandments it is given to very few always to obey God undeceived, and even for the most valiant this achievement is very difficult. St. Gregory of Sinai (Texts on Commandments and Dogmas no. 18)

To fast in the soul means keeping silent more and praying more frequently by oneself saying, "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." At first this prayer will be only in our minds, then, because of the mind's prayerful effort, suddenly, we know not how, this prayer passes into our hearts. It is possible that at this moment we may even weep and in this way we are baptized anew in the unseen font of our tears. There are all kinds of tears: tears of exaltation, tears of joy, tears of sadness, but the most precious are tears of compunction and repentance. Metropolitan Vitaly, Paschal Encyclical, 2001 (

True fasting lies is rejecting evil, holding one’s tongue, suppressing one’s hatred, and banishing one’s lust, evil words, lying, and betrayal of vows. St. Basil the Great

We are told: It is no big deal to eat non-Lenten food during Lent. It is no big deal if you wear expensive beautiful outfits, go to the theater, to parties, to masquerade balls, use beautiful expensive china, furniture, expensive carriages and dashing steeds, amass and hoard things, etc. Yet what is it that turns our heart away from God, away from the Fountain of Life? Because of what do we lose eternal life? Is it not because of gluttony, of expensive clothing like that of the rich man of the Gospel story, is it not because of theaters and masquerades? What turns us hard-hearted toward the poor and even toward our relatives? Is it not our passion for sweets, for satisfying the belly in general, for clothing, for expensive dishes, furniture, carriages, for money and other things? Is it possible to serve God and mammon, to be a friend to the world and a friend to God, to serve Christ and Belial? That is impossible. Why did Adam and Eve lose paradise, why did they fall into sin and death? Was it not because of one evil? Let us attentively consider why we do not care about the salvation of our soul, which cost the Son of God so dearly. Why do we compound sin upon sin, fall endlessly into opposing to God, into a life of vanity? Is it not because of a passion for earthly things and especially for earthly pleasures? What makes our hearts become crude? Why do we become flesh and not spirit, perverting our moral nature? Is it not because of a passion for food, drink, and other earthly comforts? How after this can one say that it does not matter whether you eat non-Lenten food during Lent? The fact that we talk this way is in fact pride, idle thought, disobedience, refusal to submit to God, and separation from Him. Holy Righteous St. John of Kronstadt

We who are pious Christians must fast always, but especially on Wednesday, because the Lord was sold on that day, and on Friday, because He was crucified on that day. Similarly, it is our duty to fast during the Lent seasons, as the Holy Spirit illumined the holy Fathers of the Church to decree, in order to mortify the passions and humble the body. Moreover, if we limit the food we eat, life becomes easier for us. Fast according to your ability, pray according to your ability, give alms according to your ability, and always hold death before the eyes of your mind. Modern Orthodox Saints I, St. Cosmas Aitolos).Dr. Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN GREEK STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., pp.81-94

What does spoil repentance is being again entangled in the same evils. "For there is one" we read, "who builds, and one who pulls down, what have they gained more than toil? He who is dipped in water because of contact with a dead body, and then touches it again, what has he gained by his washing?" Even so if a man fasts because of his sins, and goes his way again, and does the same things, who will hear his prayer? And again we read "if a man goes back from righteousness to sin the Lord will prepare him for the sword," and, "as a dog when he has returned to his vomit, and become odious, so is a fool who by his wickedness has returned to his sin." Chrysostom: Exhortation to Theodore after his fall, letter 1

When you fast and are nourished with abstinence, do not store the leftovers for tomorrow, but, as the Lord became poor and enriched us, feed someone who does not want to be hungry, you who hungers willingly. Then your fast will be like the dove who brings and joyfully proclaims salvation to your soul from the flood. St. Gregory Palamas quoted in The Festive Fast

Which days of the week we are to fast, and which not, and for what reasons

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week. But do you either fast the entire five days, or on the fourth day of the week (Wednesday), and on the day of the Preparation (Friday), because on the fourth day the condemnation went out against the Lord, Judas then promising to betray Him for money; and you must fast on the day of the Preparation, because on that day the Lord suffered the death of the cross under Pontius Pilate. But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day festival (non-fasting, that is feasting); because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. But there is one only Sabbath to be observed by you in the whole year, which is that of our Lord’s burial, on which men ought to keep a fast, but not a festival. For inasmuch as the Creator was then under the earth, the sorrow for Him is more forcible than the joy for the creation; for the Creator is more honorable by nature and dignity than His own creatures. Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book 7, Section 2, Article 23

While fasting and sitting on a certain mountain, and giving thanks to the Lord for all His dealings with me, I see the Shepherd sitting down beside me, and saying, "Why have you come hither [so] early in the morning?" "Because, sir," I answered, "I have a station." "What is a station?" he asked. "I am fasting, sir," I replied. "What is this fasting," he continued, "which you are observing?" "As I have been accustomed, sir," I reply, "so I fast." "You do not know," he says, "how to fast unto the Lord: this useless fasting which you observe to Him is of no value." "Why, sir," I answered, "do you say this?" "I say to you," he continued, "that the fasting which you think you observe is not a fasting. But I will teach you what is a full and acceptable fasting to the Lord. Listen," he continued: "God does not desire such an empty fasting. For fasting to God in this way you will do nothing for a righteous life; but offer to God a fasting of the following kind: Do no evil in your life, and serve the Lord with a pure heart: keep His commandments, walking in His precepts, and let no evil desire arise in your heart; and believe in God. If you do these things, and fear Him, and abstain from every evil thing, you will live unto God; and if you do these things, you will keep a great fast, and one acceptable before God. Shepherd of Hermas, Of True Fasting and its Reward: Also of Purity of Body, Chapter 1

While fasting physically, brethren, Let us also fast spiritually. Let us loose every knot of iniquity. Let us tear up every unrighteous bond. Let us distribute bread to the hungry. And welcome into our homes Those who have no roof over their head, So that we may receive great mercy from Christ our God. the Stichera for Wednesday evening for the first week of Great Lent, at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

While fasting physically, brethren, Let us also fast spiritually. Let us loose every knot of iniquity; Let us tear up every unrighteous bond; Let us distribute bread to the hungry, And welcome into our homes those who have no roof over their heads// So that we may receive great mercy from Christ our God! First week of Lent Wednesday Vespers

[to a sick monk] Concerning fasting, do not grieve, as I have said to you before: God does not demand of anyone labors beyond his strength. And indeed, what is fasting if not a punishment of the body in order to humble a healthy body and make it infirm for passions, according to the word of the Apostle: "When I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12:10). "Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990)

It is necessary most of all for one who is fasting to curb anger, to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency we have corrected in ourselves in the present week. This is true fasting. St. John Chrysostom.

"And finally, did not the Lord Jesus Himself begin His divine ministry of the salvation of mankind with a long, forty day fast? And did not He, in this way, clearly show that we must make a serious beginning to our life as Christians with fasting? First, the fast, and then all the rest comes together with, and through, the fast.

By His own example, the Lord showed us how great a weapon fasting is. With this weapon, He vanquished Satan in the wilderness, and with it was victorious over the three chief satanic passions with which Satan tempted Him: love of ease love of praise and love of money. These are three destructive greeds, the three greatest traps into which the evil enemy of the human race lures Christ's soldiers." St. Nikolai Velimirovic

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