Sunday, February 22, 2015

Beginning of the Great Fast

Fasting was ordained in Paradise. The first injuction was delivered to Adam that he was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “Thou shalt 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….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. The conclusion, however, is a warning against mere carnal abstinence. Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. Loose the bands of wickedness. Forgive your neighbour 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 the 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 it out of its wits like wine….May the Lord, Who has brought us to this period of time, grant to us, as to gladiators and wrestlers, that we may show firmness and constancy in the beginning of contests!
St Basil the Great, 4th century

There is a drunkenness not of wine but of hatred. THis more than anything else causes God to turn away. As for the devil, he attempts to bring it about in those who pray and fast. He prompts them to remember wrongs, he directs their thoughts toward harboring malice, and he sharpens their tongues for slander. So brethren, in this time of fasting and prayer, let us with all our hearts forgive anything real or imaginary we have against anyone. May we devote ourselves to love! Let us consider one another as an incentive to love and good works, speaking in defense of one another, having good thoughts and dispositions within us before God and men. In this way our fasting will be laudable and blameless, and our requests to God will be readily received.
St Gregory Palamas, 14th century

We are told: It is of no great consequence to eat non-fasting food during the Great Fast. It is of no consequence if you wear expensive and beautiful outfits, or go to the theater, or attend parties and masquerade balls. It is of no import if you use expensive chine and furniture. It is of no matter if you acquire 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 theater and balls? 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 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? Why do we fall endlessly into opposing God and choosing a life of vanity? It is 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-fasting food during the fast? The fact that we talk this way is in fact a show of pride, and idle thought, and act of disobedience, a refusal to submit to God, and a separation from Him.
St John of Kronstadt, 20th century


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