Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Church Fathers on the Lenten Fast

Mosaic depicting the Temptation of Christ after His fast in the desert

St. Epiphanius (315 - 403)

"And in the days of the Paschal fast, when among us there are prostrations, purifications, afflictive sufferings, prayers, vigils and fastings, they [i.e. transgressors] from the morning feed themselves with flesh and wine, filling their veins, and deride us, laughing and mocking at such as celebrate the holy service of this season - so that he shows thereby his mind and his unbelief."

St. Gregory Nazianzen (329 - 390)

"We fast because we fasted not from the tree of knowledge, having been overcome thereby: for fasting was an old command, and coeval with us. It is the pedagogy of the soul, and the moderation of sensual delight; which is very meetly enjoined us, that what we lost by not observing that precept of fasting, we may recover again, observing it."

"By our passions, let us imitate His Passion."

"Christ fasted a while before His temptation; we, before the Paschal feast - the matter of fasting is the same. This hath in us the force of mortifying us with Christ, and is the purifying preparation to the feast. And He indeed fasted forty days; for He was God; but we proportionate this to our power, though zeal persuade some to leap even beyond their strength."

St. Basil the Great (330 - 379)

"For neither doth the spite of devils dare anything against him that fasteth. And the Angels, guardians of our life, do more studiously abide by such who have their souls purified by fasting."

"There are Angels who, in each church, register those who fast."

"Fasting is the beginning of penance or repentance, the continence of the tongue, the bridle of anger, the banishment of lust."

"Fasting is our assimilation unto the Angels, the temperament of life."

St. Ambrose (340 - 397)

"If any man desire to obtain the glory of the Gospel, and the fruit of the Resurrection, he ought not to be a transgressor of the mystical fast, which both Moses in the Law did, and Christ in His Gospel hath prescribed, by the authority of both Testaments, a space for the faithful striving of virtue."

"Not every hunger makes an acceptable fast, but that hunger which is undertaken from the fear of God. Consider: a Lent is fasted with us all days, except Saturday and the Lord's day."

"He that had no sin fasted a Lent, and wilt not thou who sinnest? He, I say, had no sin, but fasted for our sins."

"For so hath the Lord appointed, that as for His Passion we should mourn in the fasts of Lent, so for His Resurrection we should rejoice in the fifty days following. Therefore, we fast not in this fifty days, because in these the Lord is with us. We fast not, I say, the Lord being present; because He hath said, 'Can the children of the Bridegroom fast so long as the Bridegroom is with them?'"

St. Jerome (347 - 420)

"The Lord hath taught us that the fiercer sort of devils cannot be overcome but by prayer and fasting."

"The Lord Himself, the true Jonas, sent to preach unto the world, fasted forty days, and leaving us the inheritance of the fast, under this number prepares our souls for the eating of His Body."

"The Lord fasted forty days in the wilderness, that He might leave unto us the solemn days of the fasts."

St. Chrysostom (349 - 407)

"And the ground and teacher of all these things, fasting will be unto us; fasting, I mean, not that of most men, but that which is the true fast, viz. the abstinence not from meats only, but from sins. For the nature of fasting only is not sufficient to deliver such as betake themselves to it, except it be done agreeably to its law."

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