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On Fasting
The benefits of fasting

Man is precious to the Lord, the entire world is subjugated to him; the Son of God Himself came down to earth from heaven, in order to save man from eternal torment, to reconciliate him with God. All the fruits and the flesh of various animals have been given to him to eat, different beverages have been provided to him to satisfy his taste, - but not to the point of satiety, not for pleasure exclusively. Every Christian has other pleasures - great, spiritual, divine pleasures; it is to these pleasures that the pleasures of the flesh must be subjugated, must be tamed or completely excluded if they become a hindrance to spiritual pleasures. Therefore, food and drink are not forbidden in order to bring sorrow to man, or, as it is commonly said in society, to restrict his freedom, but in order to give him true pleasure, real and eternal. It is for this reason that non-lenten foods and liquor are forbidden during lent, because man is very precious to God and must be safeguarded from attaching himself to material things which are unworthy of him.

Saint John of Kronstadt.

Transgressing the fast

A great many of us are guilty of contempt of fasting. The Church commands us to keep fasts very strictly. This is a sure means of humbling and destroying within us the sin of gluttony, that vile and disastrous form of idolatry. Moreover, through fasting the Church honors and glorifies the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviours Most-holy Mother, the Elevation of the Life-giving Cross, the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. A religious person cannot but commemorate with fasting such days and periods of salvation. But many of you do not fast at all, and even cite the Holy Writ: It is not that which goes into the mouth which defiles a man, but that which comes out of the mouth (Matt. 15:11). Opponents of fasting argue thus: If you do not use offensive language, do not become angry, do not mock other people, - that is just as good as keeping lent. However, these are totally different things. One should not make fun of others anyway, nor be angry or filled with wrath, nor repay malice with malice. And, of course, not eating meat during lent, yet chewing out other people makes for poor fasting. But how can we disdain lent when the Lord Himself said: This kind (i.e. demons) is in no way expelled safe by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21). So you see, there are only two resources against the evil spirits: prayer and fasting. How can we not use them? How can we not fast? How can we not listen to our holy Mother, the Church? For whomever the Church is not a mother, for such a one God is not a father, said the holy martyr Cyprian; how can we not obey our Mother?

It is true that non-lenten food of itself does not make a person unclean. Milk does not compromise an infant even during Passion week, and equally those whom the doctors had ordered to imbibe milk daily due to illness. That same milk, for example, or cheese or other dairy product which you are not allowed to eat today, after a certain number of days, when the fast ends, will be allowed, and it is not unclean, nor has it ever been unclean. But what truly makes a person unclean? It is the thoughts that come out of the heart which make a person unclean, as Christ Himself explained to us. It is not milk which makes you unclean, when you imbibe it during lent without a valid reason, but your blasphemous thoughts, your contempt for Church rules, your reasoning sullies you: Just think of it - who keeps the fast nowadays? Try to be good instead, try not to offend others, and that is fasting enough! It is such blasphemous thoughts, issuing from the sinful and rebellious heart of a person, which make him unclean! While those who are ill, and who are consequently allowed to break the fast, should break it only out of sheer necessity, in great sorrow and with a daily prayer of repentance: Lord, forgive me, a sinner, that out of sheer necessity, due to illness, I am forced to break the holy fast. Even my illness has arisen out of my sins, just as all our illnesses have been engendered by the fall. Forgive me, o God, and strengthen my health, so that in the future I would have the great joy of keeping the fast which I so desire.

You have sinned by overeating, eating out of turn, eating secretly, over-indulgence. Repent before God and try each one of you to overcome your destructive passion, be it for over-indulgence, or overeating, or whatever. Particularly since over-indulgence weakens the body, while constant overeating destroys it completely. The main thing is that a stomach fed too abundantly and an obese body produce a multitude of substances which choke the mind and the heart, do not allow them to function in a normal spiritual manner. A corpulent flesh becomes the mistress of a person, and yet this flesh is a fallen entity, contains within itself a law which counteracts the law of our mind and is hostile to our spirit and all that is spiritual. Take heed to yourselves, the Lord warns us, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and so that day come upon you unawares (Luke 21:34).

Drunkenness, to which so many around us are subject, is a mortal sin. "Be ye not deceived, beloved, - the Apostle tells us, - neither thieves, nor adulterers, nor covetous, nor extortioners, nor revilers, nor drunkards shall inherit the kingdom of God!" (I Cor. 6:9). Whoever is guilty of the heavy sin of drunkenness, try to scramble out of this devilish abyss before it is too late, otherwise your fate shall be eternal damnation, eternal torture. As it is, your wives and children already suffer from you, drunkards, when you, being out of your mind, beat them up, when you squander the money needed for their daily bread. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is fornication! (Ephes. 5:18). How many iniquities have been committed by people in a drunken state, how many murders even. How much wealth has been squandered, how much energy and health has been destroyed, both of the drunkard himself and of his family members. How many children have been conceived in a drunken state, and all of them are either sick, or weakly, or deformed, or congenital idiots - and they walk around as a living shame and reproach to the miserable drunkards who have produced them. And these latter perish, they suffer, as medicine terms it, from a deterioration of identity, they are no longer themselves, they have lost their human worth. How can such a drunken individual rule over his home, keep his children in obedience and instruction, which the Lord demands from every husband and father, from every master of a home. One can always drink in moderation. Christ performed His first miracle in Cana during a merry wedding feast, by turning six large jars of water into delicious wine, so that we would know to drink in moderation and not become drunk.

Protopriest Anatoly Pravdolyubov.

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