STORIES FROM THE
Many have tormented their body with
labours, but because they did not manage to acquire discernment, they
found themselves far away from God.
Abba Isidoros the elder
If you are fasting in the proper
manner, do not boast, otherwise, it would be better if you ate meat.
Because it is far more beneficial to man to eat meat, than to be proud
Abba Joseph asked Abba Poemen how one
should fast. And Abba Poemen replied :
"I would prefer one to eat every
day, a quantity so small that would not be enough to satisfy his
Abba Joseph then said to him :
"When you were younger, abba, did
you not fast for two consecutive days ?"
And the elder replied :
"Naturally, and for three and four
days consecutively, even for a week. All these have been tried by the
fathers, because they had the strength; however, they deemed it better
for one to eat every day, but in small measures; they have therefore
bequeathed to us the royal path, which is much lighter."
One must also be careful not to
interrupt one's fasting if there is no great emergency, nor to seek
tasty food, or to load one's self with large quantities of food and
There are two kinds of gluttony:
Thus, one person's adversary may be
delicacies, in which case, he will not continuously seek to eat large
quantities, but instead hunt for flavoursome food. And it so happens
that, when eating a food which he likes, he becomes so overwhelmed by
the enjoyment of it, that he will leave the food in his mouth and chew
it for some time, not having the strength to swallow it, for
enjoyment's sake. (Lemarghia)
Another person's adversary may be
quantity, and in this case, he does not care for good foods or for
flavour; if it is good or bad he does not care, except only to eat it,
and will not examine what it is, as long as he fills his belly.
I will explain the origin of these
meanings. Philologists tell us that the Greek word "marghia" means
"to become mad", and "marghos" is a person who has become mad.
So, when a person becomes sick from the madness of filling his belly
(gastric region), this sickness is called "gastri-marghia". If he
should become sick only because of his obsession to satisfy taste in
the throat (lemos) , it is called "lem-margia", because of the
mania of the throat.
Vasileios the Great
Do not, however, restrict the benefit
of fasting to the abstinence from food. Because true fasting is to
abstain from doing anything unjust.
"Undo every bond of injustice".
Forgive your neighbour for the evil
he has done to you, and forget whatever he owes you. "Your fasting
must be free of judicial acts and conflicts". You do not eat meat,
yet you devour your brother. You do not partake of wine, yet you are a
squanderer of injustices. You wait for nightfall to eat, but you spend
all your day in courtrooms". Woe to them that do not become drunk
from wine, but from injustices.
I think that no advice can touch the
soul of a glutton and change it, as one chance encounter with a
continent person. And I think this means to eat and drink in such a
way that would honour God, so that even at the table, a good deed may
make our life shine, and our Father in heaven be glorified.
You should fast with all your might,
before God. This fasting will cleanse you of your iniquities and sins;
it brings your soul to conformity, it sanctifies your convictions, it
expels demons, and it makes us worthy to approach God. If you eat once
a day, do not seek to do it a second time, lest you become exceedingly
expensive and risk jeopardizing your convictions.
In this way, you will have wealth
enough to spare for charity, and you will also subdue the passions of
your own body. And if you happen to meet with any brothers and must
eat, two or even three times, do not worry, but on the contrary, be
joyful that you have responded to a need, and thank God that you have
obeyed the law of love, and that God Himself has undertaken to direct
your life. You will also at some time fall sick and will necessarily
have to eat two, three, or many times, but do not be sad; it is not
imperative to continue with your labours in times of sickness,
instead, you may retreat in some things, in order to be able to later
continue with your labours. As for abstaining from certain foods, the
word of God did not ban any, but said : "I have given you
everything, as if it were a vegetable, so that you may eat without
hesitation" and "it is not foods that pollute man".
Abstinence from certain foods is
therefore our own choice, and an excercise for the soul.
HOSIOS MARK THE ASCETIC
He that troubles his mind and
comforts his body, is similar to him that torments his body and
scatters his mind.
HOSIOS THALASSIOS FROM LIBYAN
When you abstain from wine, do not
bloat yourself with water, because by doing this, you offer the same
sustenance to fornication.
Some people are very careful about
the intake of foods, but are indifferent to the output of words. They
have not learnt to expel anger from their heart, nor the desire from
their flesh, as the Ecclesiast says;
however, this is the only way that a
pure heart can be built, by the rejuvenating Spirit.