Tag Archives: Fasting

Elder Thaddeus: Abstinence is for everyone, not just for monks. Husbands and wives for whom marriage means only . . .

MarriageAbstinence is for everyone, not just for monks. Husbands and wives for whom marriage means only the satisfaction of bodily passions will not be justified. They will answer before God for not having been abstinent. Of course, as the Apostle says, they are not to abstain from each other for a long time, lest the devil deceive them, but they should abstain according to mutual consent (cf. I Cor. 7:1-6). Married people should abstain from corporeal relations during fasts and on great Feast days.

+ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

Elder Thaddeus: Because of the Fall of man, the natural order of things has become chaotic. . . .

Icon FallBecause of the Fall of man, the natural order of things has become chaotic. In nature, there is an order for all things, but with man there is chaos, Everything is distorted and turned around. Because of our disobedience to the commandments of our Heavenly Father, we have lost the natural order. In order to reestablish this order, we must practice abstinence.

+ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

Ode I, First Canon of Cheesfare Monday: Today is the joyful forefeast of the time of abstinence . . .

Icon of JesusToday is the joyful forefeast of the time of abstinence, the bright threshold of the Fast. Therefore, brethren, together let us run the race with confident hope and with great eagerness.

— Ode I, First Canon of Cheesefare Monday

Sessional hymn, Matins, Cheesefare Monday: The gateway to divine repentance has been opened . . .

JesusThe gateway to divine repentance has been opened: let us enter eagerly, purified in our bodies and observing abstinence from food and passions, as obedient servants of Christ who has called the world into the heavenly Kingdom. Let us offer to the King of all a tenth part of the whole year, that we may look with love upon His Resurrection.

— Sessional hymn, Matins, Cheesefare Monday

Aposticha, Vespers on the evening of the Sunday of the Last Judgement: Through greed we underwent the first stripping . . .

Icon Expulsion from Paradise 2Through greed we underwent the first stripping, overcome by the bitter tasting of the fruit, and we became exiles from God. But let us turn back to repentance and, fasting from the food that gives us pleasure, let us cleanse our senses on which the enemy makes war. Let us strengthen our hearts with the hope of grace, and not with foods which brought no benefit to those who trusted in them. Our food shall be the Lamb of God, on the holy and radiant night of His Awakening: the Victim offered for us, given in communion to the disciples on the evening of the Mystery, who disperses the darkness of ignorance by the Light of His Resurrection.

— Aposticha, Vespers on the evening of the Sunday of the Last Judgement, Lenten Triodion, p. 166

Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Meatfare Sunday: I think upon that day and hour when we shall all stand naked . . .

Last Judgement 3I think upon that day and hour when we shall all stand naked, like men condemned, before the Judge who accepts no man’s person. Then shall the trumpet sound aloud and the foundations of the earth shall quake, the dead shall rise from the tombs and all shall be gathered together from every generation. Then each man’s secrets will be manifest before thee: and those that have never repented shall weep and lament, departing to the outer fire; but with gladness and rejoicing the company of the righteous shall enter into the heavenly bridal chamber.

How shall it be in that hour and fearful day, when the Judge shall sit on his dread throne! The books shall be opened and men’s actions shall be examined, and the secrets of darkness shall be made public. Angels shall hasten to and fro, gathering all the nations. Come ye and hearken, kings and princes, slaves and free, sinners and righteous, rich and poor: for the Judge comes to pass sentence on the whole inhabited earth. And who shall bear to stand before his face in the presence of the angels, as they call us to account for our actions and our thoughts, whether by night or by day? How shall it be then in that hour! But before the end is here, make haste, my soul, and cry: O God who only art compassionate, turn me back and save me.

Daniel the prophet, a man greatly beloved, when he saw the power of God, cried out: “The court sat for judgment, and the books were opened.” Consider well, my soul: dost thou fast? Then despise not thy neighbor. Dost thou abstain from food? Condemn not thy brother, lest thou be sent away into the fire, there to burn as wax. But may Christ lead thee without stumbling into his kingdom.

Let us cleanse ourselves, brethren, with the queen of the virtues: for behold, she is come, bringing us a wealth of blessings. She quells the uprising of the passions, and reconciled sinners to the Master. Therefore let us welcome her with gladness, and cry aloud to Christ our God: O risen from the dead, who alone art free from sin, guard us uncondemned as we give thee glory.

— Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Meatfare Sunday, Lenten Triodion, pp. 164-165

St. Raphael the Archangel: Do that which is good . . .

Archangel Raphael“Do that which is good, and no evil shall touch you. Prayer is good with fasting and alms and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with unrighteousness. It is better to give alms than to lay up gold: For alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin. Those that exercise alms and righteousness shall be filled with life: But they that sin are enemies to their own life.”

+ St. Raphael the Archangel, Tobit 12:7-10

St. Seraphim of Sarov: One should not think about the doings of God when . . .

St. Seraphim of Sarov“One should not think about the doings of God when one’s stomach is full; on a full stomach there can be no vision of the Divine mysteries.”

+ St. Seraphim of Sarov, “The Spiritual Instructions to Laymen and Monks”, printed in Little Russian Philokalia: St. Seraphim of Sarov

St. Theophan the Recluse: This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. . . .

Icon of St. Theophon the Recluse“This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” [Matthew 17:14-23]

If this kind goes out by the prayer and fasting of another person, then it is even less able to enter one who fasts and prays.

What protection!

Although there are a slew of demons and all the air is packed with them, they cannot do anything to one who is protected by prayer and fasting.

Fasting is universal temperance, prayer is universal communication with God; the former defends from the outside, whereas the latter from within directs a fiery weapon against the enemies. The demons can sense a faster and man of prayer from a distance, and they run far away from him so as avoid a painful blow.

Is it feasible to think that where there is no fasting and prayer, there already is a demon? Yes, it is.

The demons lodging in a person, do not always reveal their presence, but lurk there, stealthily teaching their host every evil and turning him away from every good thing; so this person is certain that he is doing everything on his own, but meanwhile he is only fulfilling the will of his enemy.

Just commence prayer and fasting and the enemy will immediately depart, then wait on the side for an opportunity to somehow return again. And he truly will return, as soon as prayer and fasting are abandoned.Book Thoughts for Each Day of the Year

+ St. Theophan the Recluse, Thoughts for Each Day of the Year: According to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God

St. Macarius the Great: The soul that really loves God and Christ . . .

Icon of St. Macarius the Great“The soul that really loves God and Christ, though it may do ten thousand righteousnesses, esteems itself as having wrought nothing, by reason of its insatiable aspiration after God.

Though it should exhaust the body with fastings, with watchings, its attitude towards the virtues is as if it had not yet even begun to labour for them.”

+ St. Macarius the Great

St. John Cassian: 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. . . .

Icon of St. John Cassian“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.

When the Apostle said, ‘Make no provision to fulfill the desires of the flesh’ (Rom. 13:14), he was not forbidding us to provide for the needs of life; he was warning us against self-indulgence. Moreover, by itself abstinence from food does not contribute to perfect purity of soul unless the other virtues are active as well. Humility, for example, practiced through obedience in our work and through bodily hardship, is a great help.

If we avoid avarice not only by having no money, but also by not wanting to have any, this leads us towards purity of soul. Freedom from anger, from dejection, self-esteem and pride also contributes to purity of soul in general, while self-control and fasting are especially important for bringing about that specific purity of soul which comes through restraint and moderation.

No one whose stomach is full can fight mentally against the demon of unchastity. Our initial struggle therefore must be to gain control of our stomach and to bring our body into subjection not only through fasting but also through vigils, labors and spiritual, reading, and through concentrating our heart on fear of Gehenna and on longing for the kingdom of heaven. ”

+ St. John Cassian
On the Eight Vices : On the Demon of Unchastity and the Desire of the Flesh

St. Photios the Great: . . .the least departure from Tradition can lead to a scorning of every dogma of our Faith. . . .

Icon of St. Photios the GreatThe first error of the Westerners was to compel the faithful to fast on Saturdays. (I mention this seemingly small point because the least departure from Tradition can lead to a scorning of every dogma of our Faith.) Next, they convinced the faithful to despise the marriage of priests, thereby sowing in their souls the seeds of the Manichean heresy. Likewise, they persuaded them that all who had been chrismated by priests had to be anointed again by bishops. In this way, they hoped to show that Chrismation by priests had no value, thereby ridiculing this divine and supernatural Christian Mystery. From whence comes this law forbidding priests to anoint with Holy Chrism? From what lawgiver, Apostle, Father, or Synod? For, if a priest cannot chrismate the newly-baptised, then surely neither can he baptize. Or, how can a priest consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ our Lord in the Divine Liturgy if, at the same time, he cannot chrismate with Holy Chrism? If this grace then, is taken from the priests, the episcopal rank is diminished, for the bishop stands at the head of the choir of priests. But the impious Westerners did not stop their lawlessness even here.

They attempted by their false opinions and distorted words to ruin the holy and sacred Nicene Symbol of Faith — which by both synodal and universal decisions possesses invincible power — by adding to it that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, as the Symbol declares, but from the Son also. Until now, no one has ever heard even a heretic pronounce such a teaching. What Christian can accept the introduction of two sources into the Holy Trinity; that is, that the Father is one source of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that the Son is another source of the Holy Spirit, thereby transforming the monarchy of the Holy Trinity into a dual divinity?

+ St. Photios the Great, Except from The Encyclical Letter of Saint Photius (867)

Canon of St. Andrew: When the Lord had fasted for forty days in the wilderness . . .

Jesus 5When the Lord had fasted for forty days in the wilderness, He at last became hungry, showing His human nature. Do not be despondent, my soul, if the enemy attacks you, but let him be beaten off by prayer and fasting. [Matthew 4:1-11; 17:21; Mark 9:29]

+ The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Mon 9.8
Text of the Canon

St. John Chrysostom: For the value of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices . . .

Icon of St. John ChrysostomFor the value of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works! Is it said by what kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you see in enemy, be reconciled to him! If you see a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If you see a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties. For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden.

Do you not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes. Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. ‘You shall not receive a false report,’ it says. Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what does it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother, and bites the body of his neighbour. Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, ‘If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another.’ [Galatians 5:15]

+ St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3,  On the Statues

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Fr. Seraphim Rose: This weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son . . .

Photo of Fr. Seraphim RoseThis weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son, we will sing Psalm 135.[1]

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion”.

In these words of the Lenten Psalm, we Orthodox Christians, the New Israel, remember that we are in exile. For Orthodox Russians, banished from Holy Russia,[2] the Psalm has a special meaning; but all Orthodox Christians, too, live in exile in this world, longing to return to our true home, Heaven.

For us the Great Fast is a session of exile ordained for us by our Mother, the Church, to keep fresh in us the memory of Zion from which we have wandered so far. We have deserved our exile and we have great need of it because of our great sinfulness. Only through the chastisement of exile, which we remember in the fasting, prayer and repentance of this season.

Do we remain mindful of our Zion?

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…”

Weak and forgetful, even in the midst of the Great Fast we live as though Jerusalem did not exist for us. We fall in love with the world, our Babylon; we are seduced by the frivolous pastimes of this “strange land” and neglect the services and discipline of the Church which remind us of our true home. Worse yet, we love our very captors – for our sins hold us captive more surely than any human master – and in their service we pass in idleness the precious days of Lent when we should be preparing to meet the Rising Sun of the New Jerusalem, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is still time; we must remember our true home and weep over the sins which have exiled us from it. Let us take to heart the words of St. John of the Ladder: “Exile is separation from everything in order to keep the mind inseparable from God. An exile loves and produces continual weeping.” Exiled from Paradise, we must become exiled from the world if we hope to return.

This we may do by spending these days in fasting, prayer, separation from the world, attendance at the services of the Church, in tears of repentance, in preparation for the joyful Feast that is to end this time of exile; and by bearing witness to all in this “strange land” of our remembrance of that even greater Feast that shall be when our Lord returns to take His people to the New Jerusalem, from which there shall be no more exile, for it is eternal.

— Fr. Seraphim Rose, March 1965

Footnotes:

[1] “By the Waters of Babylon” is the entire Psalm 136, sung to a plaintive melody, after the Polyelos Psalm during Matins. It is only sung in church the three Sundays that precede Great Lent: Sunday of the Prodigal Son, The Last Judgment (Meatfare) and Forgivensss (Cheesefare) It is significant that this same hymn is chanted at the beginning of the service of monastic tonsure.
[2] This homily was written in 1965, when the church in Russia was still under captivity to the Communist regime.

St. John of Kronstadt: It is necessary for a Christian to fast, in order to clear his mind. . .

Icon of St. John of Kronstadt“It is necessary for a Christian to fast, in order to clear his mind, to rouse and develop his feelings, and to stimulate his will to useful activity. These three human capabilities we darken and stifle above all by ‘surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life’ (Lk. 21:34).”

— St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

Didache: But concerning baptism . . .

Icon of Theophany“But concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water;  but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if thou canst not baptize in cold, in warm water; but if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

But before the baptism, let him who baptizeth and him who is baptized fast previously, and any others who may be able. And thou shalt command him who is baptized to fast one or two days before.”

— The Didache (Teaching of the Twelve), Chapter 7

St. Gregory Palamas: Adam chose the treason of the serpent . . .

Icon of St. Gregory of Palamas“… Adam chose the treason of the serpent, the originator of evil, in preference to God’s commandment and counsel, and broke the decreed fast. Instead of eternal life he received death and instead of the place of unsullied joy he received this sinful place full of passions and misfortunes, or rather, he was sentenced to Hades and nether darkness. Our nature would have stayed in the infernal regions below the lurking places of the serpent who initially beguiled it, had not Christ come. He started off by fasting (cf. Mk. 1:13) and in the end abolished the serpent’s tyranny, set us free and brought us back to life.”

— St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies Vol. II

St. John Chrysostom: . . . For the greatest thing is charity, and moderation, and almsgiving; which hits a higher mark even than virginity.

Icon of St. John Chrysostom“Do you see that our practice has more power to do good? By practice I mean, not your fasting, nor yet your strewing sackcloth and ashes under you, but if you despise wealth, as it ought to be despised; if you be kindly affectioned, if you give your bread to the hungry, if you control anger, if you cast out vainglory, if you put away envy.

So He Himself used to teach: for, ‘Learn of me,’ says He, ‘for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ [Matthew 11:29] He did not say, ‘for I fasted,’ although surely He might have spoken of the forty days, yet He says not this; but, ‘I am meek and lowly in heart.’ And again, when sending them out, He said not, ‘Fast,’ but, ‘Eat of all that is set before you.’ With regard to wealth, however, He required of them great strictness, saying, ‘Provide not gold, or silver, or brass, in your purses.’ [Matthew 10:9]

And all this I say, not to depreciate fasting, God forbid, but rather highly to commend it. But I grieve when other duties being neglected, you think it enough for salvation, having but the last place in the choir of virtue. For the greatest thing is charity, and moderation, and almsgiving; which hits a higher mark even than virginity.”

+ St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46, Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew

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St. Nektarios: A Prayer to the Immaculate Virgin

A Prayer To the Immaculate Virgin

Icon of the TheotokosTake away from me, O Virgin, the fetters of sin,
of my lusts and other transgressions:
the terrible carelessness and the overcaring,
the evil curiosity and the talkativeness,
the useless incontinence and the haughtiness,
the negligence, the drunkenness and the lack of mercy,
the bad desires, the terrible impurity,
the extravagance, the darkness,
the great insensitivity.

Take away the tendency to say jokes,
the enjoyment, the prodigality.

The laughter of immorality and every evil.

Give me, O maiden, fasting,
carefulness, vigilance and perfect obedience.

Give me carefulness in all
and acute discernment,
silence, order and holy patience.

Grant to me, O Lady, eagerness to work
and to attain my perfection,
and zeal for virtues and exercise.

Keep, O most-holy One,
my soul, my heart and my mind
in holiness and guard it in virginity.

— St. Nektarios
Translated by Nikolaos S. Hatzinikolaou

St. Maximos the Confessor: Many human activities, good in themselves, are not good because of the motive . . .

Icon of St. Maximos the Confessor“Many human activities, good in themselves, are not good because of the motive for which they are done. For example, fasting and vigils, prayer and psalmody, acts of charity and hospitality are by nature good, but when performed for the sake of self-esteem they are not good.”

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love 2.35, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

St. Jerome: May your actions never be unworthy of your words . . .

Icon of St. Jerome “May your actions never be unworthy of your words, may it not happen that, when you preach in church, someone might say to himself: ‘Why does he therefore not act like this?’. How could a teacher, on a full stomach, discuss fasting; even a thief can blame avarice; but in the priest of Christ the mind and words must harmonize.”

+ St. Jerome

St. Athanasius: . . . To fast is to banquet with angels.

Icon of St. Athanasius the Great“Devils take great delight in fullness, and drunkenness and bodily comfort. Fasting possesses great power and it works glorious things. To fast is to banquet with angels.”

+ St. Athanasius the Great

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk: Let thy mind fast from vain thoughts . . .

Icon of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk“Let thy mind fast from vain thoughts; let thy memory fast from remembering evil; let thy will fast from evil desire; let thine eyes fast from bad sights: turn away thine eyes that thou mayest not see vanity; let thine ears fast from vile songs and slanderous whispers; let thy tongue fast from slander, condemnation, blasphemy, falsehood, deception, foul language and every idle and rotten word; let thy hands fast from killing and from stealing another’s goods; let thy legs fast from going to evil deeds: Turn away from evil, and do good.”

— St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

St. Nikolai Velimirovic: In the man who only theorizes about faith . . .

Icon of St. Nikolai Velimirovich“In the man who only theorizes 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.”

— St. Nikolai Velimirovic

St. Seraphim of Sarov: Fasting, prayer, alms, and every other good Christian deed . . .

Icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov“Fasting, prayer, alms, and every other good Christian deed is good in itself, but the purpose of the Christian life consists not only in the fulfillment of one or another of them. The true purpose of our Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. But fasting, prayer, alms and every good deed done for the sake of Christ is a means to the attainment of the Holy Spirit. Note that only good deeds done for the sake of Christ bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Everything else that is not done for the sake of Christ, even if it is good, does not bring us a reward in the life to come, not does it bring the grace of God in this life. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘Whoever gathereth not with me scattereth’ (Matt. 12:30).

— St. Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation on the Goal of the Christian Life

St. John Chrysostom: Let the mouth also fast . . .

Icon of St. John Chrysostom“Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother and bites the body of his neighbor. ”

+ St. John Chrysostom, Homily III, On the Statues

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On the Statutes Homily III

St. John Chrysostom: Paschal Homily

Icon of PaschaIf anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, “Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.” It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
“O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?”
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.