In the Time of Fasting and Prayer

Venerable Kyra of Syria

Venerable Kyra of Syria

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

By Saint Gregory Palamas

Saint Paul says, "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Romans 2:13). And the Lord of both David and Saint Paul says, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (St. John13:17).

Brethren, by our actions, let us lay hold of the benefit of fasting and self-control. Let us prove our good disposition towards them and give a practical demonstration of the fruit they bear. "For every tree is known by his own fruit" (St. Luke6:44), and, "The husbandman must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say", says the holy Apostle (2 Timothy 2:6-7). Each of the other virtues cleanses and adorns either the soul or the body, or rather, just one part of the soul or body. The mind is cleansed and adorned by prayer and knowledge, anger by meekness and desire by chastity. But fasting and self-control lull the stirrings of the body and quench the raging of anger and desire. They make the understanding like a clear, cloudless sky cleansing it from the rising vapors which result from large quantities of food, and the melancholy which they cause. The outward man perishes through fasting and self-control, but the more he does so, the more the inward man is renewed, as the holy Apostle tells us (2 Corinthians 4:16). Someone has said, "A fat belly does not bring forth a fine mind." A belly refined by faith and self-control, however, necessarily refines the mind as well.

Everything noble and good is accomplished and perfected by these means. Fasting and self-control are a double wall of defense and whoever lives within them enjoys great peace, like someone inside Jerusalem, of the name Jerusalem means peace. The head cook of the ruler of Babylon makes war against this wall, and unless he finds those inside strongly defending the walls he razes them to the ground, bringing culinary delights into action as engines of destruction (cf. 2 Kgs. 25:8-21, Jer. 52:12-27)...

"...The forty-day period of the fast is not your whole life, and every day your fasting ends when the sun sets. Going without food to this extent is surely easy and reasonable for nearly everyone. But when we eat let it also be with moderation, so that fasting and eating within due limits, we may not lag far behind those who do not eat at all. Perhaps you spare your flesh and avoid fasting in case you waste away. The opposite is true. Eating your fill unavoidably gives rise to gout, headaches and other illnesses, whereas fasting is the mother of good health. It seems that the fornicator is not the only one who sins against his own body, for the glutton also offends against his body by making it sickly and diseased.

We indulge ourselves through all our senses, so let us impose self-control on them all. If you abstain from food while your sight lures you into adultery, inquisitiveness and malice in the hidden place of your soul, your hearing is open to insulting words, lewd songs and evil slanders, and your other senses are open to whatever harms them, what is the benefit of fasting? None whatsoever. For the evil which you avoid with one of your senses, you let into your soul through another. We are made of a soul and a body, and both soul and body consist of many members. For the soul too has members after a fashion: those parts of it concerned with growth, desiring, anger and reason. Therefore true fasting must extend to every part, cleansing and healing them all. Fasting, brethren, gently and kindly restores the soul to health, and that is why our Fathers imposed it on us during these days.

If we shrink from fasting in our foolishness, hell waits to punish us, to cut us down and burn us, at that time when Christ will cut in pieces anyone incapable of being healed and consign them to the unquenchable fire to suffer eternal punishment. It was because we did not fast in paradise that we were thrown out into this life full of sufferings. In the same way, if we have not fasted here or lived with as much self-restraint as we could, we shall fall into that unquenchable and unbearable hell-fire...

"...Please do not let us give up calling upon Him with fasting, vows, tears and every other means until He draws near and heals us. We should show by our deeds that we have Christ as our bridegroom and we wait for Him in hope, although He is far away from us for the present, hidden in the realms of heaven. "When the bridegroom", it says, "shall be taken from them, then shall they fast" (St. Matthew 9:15). Clearly, those called by Christ's name must pass their whole lives in self-control and fasting, looking forward with good hope to His terrible coming again. Let us fast particularly at this time, and prepare ourselves in every possible way while we wait for the yearly commemoration of Christ's Resurrection, that being cleansed we may glorify His Passion with all purity and attain the blessed immortal life which the lord achieved for us by this means.

May we all attain to this, by the grace and love towards mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belong All Glory, Honor and worship, together with His Father without beginning and the All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Source: Saint Gregory Palamas, The Homilies)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


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

+Father George