Monday, March 20, 2006
On February 13 I started a discussion on Fasting. If you go back to that post, you will see in the comments that I left much scripture in support of the need to fast in the comments. So I continue…
“The Christian fast signifies, above all, an exercise of penitence and sacrifice; but, already for the Fathers, it also had the aim of rendering man more open to the encounter with GOD and making a Christian more capable of self-dominion and at the same time more attentive to those in need.”(www.vatican.va)
Fasting is univocally commended by the early church Fathers, along with disciplines such as prayer and silence, interestingly enough fasting is the universally applied spiritual discipline.
The saints of the church speak with one voice: gluttony is a great sin and fasting is a great virtue. The New Testament sets forth a powerful concept that the appetites or lusts of the body are seen as the root of much evil. Anyone can appreciate the inner battle between the good the “spirit” wants and the sin that is the tendency of our flesh. Simply put, physical disciplines aid our spiritual development precisely because the body and the soul are so intricately intertwined. One reason we should fast is to develop self control. Through out his writings, Paul consistently urges moderation and self-control; something that our culture is not good with.
Fasting is a spiritual remedy to what is, really, a spiritual problem. To fast shows our reliance on GOD for all things. It reminds us that we are, ultimately, spiritual beings. It confirms that “man does not live by bread alone.” Fasting trains us in righteousness and as we practice this form of self control we are not alone…the Holy Spirit is there with us as we develop the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Most people find fasting next to impossible simply because food has both a physical and a psychological hold on us. The cravings can be hard to deal with but the psychological dependence on food can be ever harder to break. Most of us pattern our lives around to three meals and many snacks per day and we feel incomplete with the oral fixation of food or coffee or gum. One of the disciplines of the fast is to find other prayerful or otherwise productive ways to use the time usually spent eating and drinking.
John Chrysostom said:
“Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!
Is it said by what kind of works?
If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!
If thou seest an enemy, be reconciled to him!
If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!
If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!
For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands 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 while 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 foods because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Doest thou not eat flesh? Food not upon lasciviousness by mean of the eyes.
Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speaking and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,” it says. (www.ccel.org)
Posted by SoulPastor at 8:12 AM