In the Scripture, we see the necessity to observe
fasts, firstly from the example set by Christ Himself, who fasted 40 days in
the wilderness, even though He was God and had no need of this. Secondly, to
the Disciples’ question as to why they could not drive out the evil spirit in a
person, He replied: "Through your unbelief;" and then added: "This
kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29)
Apart from this, there are directions in the Scripture that we must observe
Wednesdays and Fridays as days of fasting. On Wednesday, Christ was given up
for crucifixion and on Friday, He was crucified.
Plain food is not nasty food. It does not corrupt
the body but fattens it. And St.Apostle Paul says: "Even though our
outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day"
(2 Cor 4:16) He calls the outward person as body and the inward, as the soul.
The Bible states that every deprivation and every
constraint is precious before God: "...the Kingdom of Heaven suffers
violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matt. 11:12) Those who
audaciously and wilfully violate the established fasting rules, are called
enemies of the Cross. To them, their God is their stomach and their glory lies
in their shame. It is stated in the Psalms: "lost through the
stomach." Understandably, its another matter if a person violates the fast
due to an illness and weakness of the body. But the healthy become healthier
and on top of that, they sometimes live longer even though they may look gaunt.
With fasting and self-restraint, the body does not rebel as much, we don’t
succumb to sleep as much, less empty thoughts invade our mind, and spiritual
books are read more eagerly and with greater understanding.
And so, if by the grace of God you developed a
desire to cleanse yourself of your internal iniquities – let it be known to you
that their origins cannot be extracted except through sincere prayer and
fasting, and then sagaciously. Otherwise, you may have a foolhardy example that
occurred here. One landowner, living an indulgent life suddenly wanted to
observe a severe fast: he resolved that all he would eat during Great Lent is
ground hemp-seed washed down with kvass (a Russian soft drink). From this
severe change of indulgence to fasting, his stomach was so damaged that it
could not be remedied after one whole year. Incidentally, there are words of
Holy Fathers that tell us we should not be body killers but vice killers.
Return to the first page