The Holy Season of Great Lent: Not by Bread Alone: Fasting Today in the Orthodox Christian Way (Part VI)

Martyr Nikon in Sicily

Martyr Nikon in Sicily

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


By Reverend Father Peter A. Chamberas

The theological principle of synergy provides the justification for fasting in the Orthodox Christian Church. God has done His work of salvation, but man must now activate the spiritual life in himself by responding, cooperating and co-suffering through a spiritual life of faith, hope and love, together with prayer and fasting in body and soul. This response to God's free gift of salvation by grace is essential for authentic Christian living, and it includes fasting in the Church and through the Holy Tradition of the Church. When we fast, as when we pray, we do not fast as individuals but rather as members of the Church; we take into serious account what the Church as a whole, as a collective body of believers, believes and does from time to time. We are authentic and devout members of the Church and followers of Christ when we live according to the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. Fasting is an important and essential element in the Orthodox Christian life.

There is fasting in the Holy Bible because God commanded from the beginning; the Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the Fathers and the Saints of the Church fasted because Christ Himself fasted. The Orthodox Church, faithful to this Holy Tradition, invites the faithful to fast through her liturgical life.

"Let us begin the time of the Fast with joyfulness, as we submit ourselves to the spiritual struggles; Let us purify the soul and cleanse the body. As we abstain from foods, let us also abstain from the sinful passions; And then, let us also delight in the virtues of the Holy Spirit..."   (Cheesefare or the Sunday of Forgiveness Vespers)

The spiritual life offered by the Orthodox Church is the ascetical experience of the Saints. It is an ascetic effort, not simply to increase our human potentialities and become a better moral human being, but rather transfigure and transform the whole person, body and soul, according to the measure made possible by God the Father in Jesus Christ the Son, through the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.

The Christian asceticism of Orthodox Christian fasting can be adapted to the new realities and circumstances of modern life by including a disciplined time to find peace and quiet, to really focus on prayer, to become aware and sensitive to the presence and needs of other human beings around us. Such Orthodox Christian fasting has the capacity to raise a prophetic voice and oppose the temptations of our secular culture. "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit...glorify God in your body and in your spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Orthodox Christian Asceticism is not perfection itself; it is a way to perfection. It is an expression of our dependence upon God, our existential hunger and thirst for God and His righteousness. It is the humble yet earnest seeking for the ultimate goal of human life: The Kingdom of God. Fasting, the simple control of what we put into our mouth, goes hand in hand with self-control in general with bodily and mental vigilance, humility, obedience, repentance and tears of contrition--all these are means, all are means, all reasonable efforts on the part of the conscientious believer to approach the ultimate goal and participate in the Holiness of God.

(To be continued)


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


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

+Father George