...The Value of Fasting Consists Not is Abstinence from Food, But Withdrawing From Sinful Practices...

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM: FOR THE VALUE OF FASTING CONSISTS NOT IN ABSTINENCE FROM FOOD, BUT IN WITHDRAWING FROM SINFUL PRACTICES...

"For the value of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works! Is it said by what kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you see an enemy, be reconciled to him! If you see a friend gaining honor, envy him not! If you see a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves upon handsome countenance, 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 whole 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 food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden.

Do you not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes. Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speaking and calumnies.

SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS: IF YOU WANT TO OVERCOME THE SPIRIT OF SLANDER...

"He who wants to overcome the spirit of slander, should not ascribe the blame to the person who falls, but to the demons who suggests it. For no one really wants to sin against God, even though we do all sin without being forced to do so."

SAINT MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR: INASMUCH AS YOU PRAY WITH ALL YOUR SOUL FOR THE ONE WHO HAS SLANDERED YOU...

"To the extent that you pray with all your soul for the person who slanders you, God will make the truth known to those who have been scandalized by the slander."

SAINT JAMES THE HOLY APOSTLE

The Epistle of Saint James is filled with many verses that speak to real life and to the core of how to be a genuine Christian. Chapter three is known as "The Untamable Tongue" where Saint James rips into the reader; they are by no means words that are comforting but rather awakening.

"Indeed, we put bits in horses" mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things" (St. James 3:3-5).

Saint James continues to say that we tame all kinds of animals, even wild beasts, yet "no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father and it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God" (St. James 3:8-9).

Have we ever thought to ourselves how it is that the same mouth and tongue that partake of the Divine Body and Divine Blood of Christ is used to feed on our brothers, sisters and the priest of our church. Saint John Chrysostom says, "Slander is worse than cannibalism." A lot of times we think we think there is no harm in speaking about the other person as long as it's behind their back and the truth. Saint John Chrysostom also tells, "Speaking evil of others, even if the evil be true, is always a crime."

Why is it a crime?

When we slander or gossip about others we are undoubtedly judging them and their actions. Judging is only for the One Lawgiver, Who is able to know the heart of each person and to save that person. Since no one is perfect or without sin, no one has the right to judge another person. Saint John Chrysostom writes: "You are a human being, and yet you spit venom of a poisonous serpent. You are a human being and yet you become like a raging beast. You have been given a mouth not to would but to heal."

Gossip is like a chain from one person to the next. We should ask ourselves, "Am I a roadblock to this slander or am I making it longer?" Saint Augustine says, "Do not attempt to excuse your slander saying, 'that is what people are saying. I'm just telling you what I heard.' My friends, isn't it illegal to resell stolen or damaged merchandise? You heard something-well, act as if you had not. This is the advice of the son of Sirach in Holy Scripture--let anything you hear die with you; rest assured, it will not make you burst."

Each person needs to take it upon themselves that they will not continue the path. If someone comes to us eager to speak about someone else we must take Saint John Chrysostom's example and say, "are you here to praise someone and raise him in my esteem? Then gladly will I give hear and savor your conversation. But if you intend to speak ill of someone, let me stop you now; I cannot stand filth and stench. What have I got gain by knowing that someone is evil? Would I not be losing something instead? Talk to him yourself and let us mind only our business." A spiritual father once said, "If you cover the sins of others God will cover yours and if you uncover the sins of others He will uncover yours."

Saint Basil the Great gives a cognitive restructuring exercise saying, "If you see your neighbor committing sin, take care not to dwell exclusively on his faults, but try to think of the many good things he has done and continues to do. Many times, by examining everything he has done, you will come to the conclusion that he is truly better than you."

Remember, like everything else in our spiritual life, it is a struggle to be able to control our tongues. However, with obedience and submission to God, praying for his strength.

"YOU SHALL NOT KILL"

Have you committed spiritual murder, that is, have you led someone astray from the proper path; have you been enticed by heresy or schism; have you tempted someone to sin?

Have you killed someone spiritually in a display of malice and hatred?

Have you killed someone spiritually or destroyed their life through gossip?

Do you forgive those who offend you? Do you bear malice and resentment in your heart for long?

Do you blame others unjustly for your own faults and sins and weaknesses?

In the First Epistle to Saint Timothy 5:12-13 the holy Apostle Paul writes: "...having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not."

Idleness is spiritually dangerous. Idleness is a breeding ground for sin and gossip. There are those who seek attention, who are unhappy with their own lives, who are envious of others and their happiness and success, who are mean-spirited, who glory over the pain and suffering of others, who are hateful and yes, evil. In other words, people, not Christians, who wish to replace brotherly love and peace, with hatred and constant turmoil. 

A BRIEF CONFESSION, COMPILED BY SAINT TIKHON BASED ON A LONGER VERSION BY SAINT DIMITRI OF ROSTOV

I confess to the Lord my God before you, reverend father, all my sins which I have committed up to the present day and hour, in deed, word and thought. Every day and every hour I sin through ingratitude to God for His great and numberless blessings to me and His most gracious Providence and care for me, a sinner.

I have sinned through:

idle talk
condemnation of others
scorn
insubordination
pride
envy
anger
slander
inattention
listlessness
negligence
carelessness
resentment

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Attention please: As we come closer and closer to Holy and Great Lent, the evil one, will attack you from all sides. Be vigilant and alert on the following: thoughts (evil thoughts or logismoi), evil actions, evil words, slander, gossip, feelings of resentment and hatred, on your attitude towards your fellow man, on spiritual apathy etc. Instead, pray unceasingly, worship continually, offer charity to those in need, have constant sacramental life, be forgiving, reconcile with your enemies, forgive those who hurt you, be an instrument of peace and love.

Warning: The telephone for some of you can be the cause of your condemnation. The telephone and other means of communication can be abused or used for evil things, i.e., gossip, slander, spreading malice and to conspire for those who pray for your salvation.

With agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George