Four sayings on fasting
The much-neglected Apostles’ Fast will soon be upon us. Here are four sayings on the importance of keeping the fasts.
St Seraphim of Sarov: ‘Once there came to him a mother who was concerned about how she might arrange the best possible marriage for her young daughter. When she came to Saint Seraphim for advice, he said to her: “Before all else, ensure that he, whom you daughter chooses as her companion for life, keeps the fasts. If he does not, then he is not a Christian, whatever he may consider himself to be.”’
— From a sermon of Metropolitan Philaret, quoted in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, pub. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, pg.xxxiii.
Abba Daniel of Sketis: ‘In proportion as the body grows fat, so does the soul wither away.’
St Symeon the New Theologian: ‘Let each one of us keep in mind the benefit of fasting… For this healer of our souls is effective, in the case of one to quieten the fevers and impulses of the flesh, in another to assuage bad temper, in yet another to drive away sleep, in another to stir up zeal, and in yet another to restore purity of mind and to set him free from evil thoughts. In one it will control his unbridled tongue and, as it were by a bit, restrain it by the fear of God and prevent it from uttering idle and corrupt words. In another it will invisibly guard his eyes and fix them on high instead of allowing them to roam hither and thither, and thus cause him to look on himself and teach him to be mindful of his own faults and shortcomings. Fasting gradually disperses and drives away spiritual darkness and the veil of sin that lies on the soul, just as the sun dispels the mist. Fasting enables us spiritually to see that spiritual air in which Christ, the Sun who knows no setting, does not rise, but shines without ceasing. Fasting, aided by vigil, penetrates and softens hardness of heart. where once were the vapors of drunkenness it causes fountains of compunction to spring forth. I beseech you, brethren, let each of us strive that this may happen in us! Once this happens we shall readily, with God’s help, cleave through the whole sea of passions and pass through the waves of the temptations inflicted by the cruel tyrant, and so come to anchor in the port of impassibility.
‘My brethren, it is not possible for these things to come about in one day or one week! They will take much time, labor, and pain, in accordance with each man’s attitude and willingness, according to the measure of faith and one’s contempt for the objects of sight and thought. In addition, it is also in accordance with the fervor of his ceaseless penitence and its constant working in the secret chamber of his heart that this is accomplished more quickly or more slowly by the gift and grace of God. But without fasting no one was ever able to achieve any of these virtues or any others, for fasting is the beginning and foundation of every spiritual activity’.
— Symeon the New Theologian: the Discourses, pub. Paulist Press. pp. 168-169.
Mother Gavrilia of blessed memory spent much time traveling in the service of Christ to places that separated her from the daily liturgical life of the Church. Especially during these times, the advice of her spiritual father Archimandrite Lazarus Moore stood her in good stead: ‘Fasting is one of our greatest weapons against the Evil One. I will repeat what Father Lazarus told me once. In 1962, I went to the USA. I stayed there a long time and travelled to many states. The letters of Father Lazarus were a great help… He used to say: “Go anywhere you like, do whatever you like, as long as you observe Fasting”… Because not a single arrow of the Evil One can reach you when you fast. Never.’
— Ascetic of Love, the biography of Mother Gavrilia, pub. Series Talanto. pg. 200.