2016 Week 1 of Great Fast - Devotional & Scripture
Devotional based on abridged Homilies of St. John Chrysostom “On Fasting” – part 1
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Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user.
He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the
condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet
of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good.
So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned
about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail.
Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the
distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality,
abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see
someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is
becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.
In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the
body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding
roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing
the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let
your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.
Let the mouth fast from disgraceful and abusive words, because, what gain is there when, on the one hand we avoid
eating chicken and fish and, on the other, we chew-up and consume our brothers? He who condemns and
blasphemes is as if he has eaten brotherly meat, as if he has bitten into the flesh of his fellow man. It is because of
this that Paul frightened us, saying: "If you chew up and consume one another be careful that you do not annihilate
You did not thrust your teeth into the flesh (of your neighbor) but you forced bad talk in his soul; you wounded it
by spreading lies, causing great damage both to yourself, to him, and to many others.
If you cannot go without eating all day because of an ailment of the body, beloved one, no logical man will be able
to criticize you for that. Besides, we have a Lord who is meek and loving and who does not ask for anything beyond
our power. Because he neither requires the abstinence from foods, neither that the fast take place for the simple
sake of fasting, neither is its aim that we remain with empty stomachs, but that we fast to offer our entire selves to
the dedication of spiritual things, having distanced ourselves from secular things.
If we regulated our life with a sober mind and directed all of our interest toward spiritual things, and if we ate as
much as we needed to satisfy our necessary needs and offered our entire lives to good works, we would not have
any need of the help rendered by the fast. But because human nature is indifferent and gives itself over mostly to
comforts and gratifications, for this reason the philanthropic Lord, like a loving and caring father, devised the
therapy of the fast for us, so that our gratifications would be completely stopped and that our worldly cares be
transferred to spiritual works.
So, if there are some who have gathered here and who are hindered by somatic ailments and cannot remain without
food, I advise them to nullify the somatic ailment and not to deprive themselves from this spiritual teaching, but to
care for it even more.
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