As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Fathers on Fasting

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.
If you see a poor man, take pity on him!
If you see a friend enjoying honor, do not envy him.
For let not the mouth only fast,
but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands,
and all members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast by being pure from avarice.
Let the feet fast by ceasing from running to forbidden spectacles.
Let the eyes fast by being taught never to fix themselves
rudely upon handsome countenances.
For looking is the food of the eyes,
but if it be unlawful or forbidden it mars the fast
and overturns the safety of the soul;
but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting.
For it would be an instance of the highest absurdity
to abstain from meats and unlawful food because of the fast,
but with the eyes to feed on what is forbidden.
Do you eat flesh?
Do not feed on licentiousness by means of the eyes.
Let the ear fast also.
The fasting of the ear is not to receive evil speaking and calumnies.
"You shall not receive an idle report," it says.
Let also the mouth fast from foul words.
For what does it profit if we abstain from birds and fish,
and yet bite and devour our brethren?"
- St. John Chrysostom

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

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