To Encourage Fasting

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


To Encourage Fasting
By Saint Gregory Palamas

THE INVISIBLE SERPENT, the originator of evil, is inventive, versatile, and extremely skillful in contriving wickedness. He has the means to hinder our good purposes and actions as soon as they begin. But if he fails to prevent them initially, he sets up other devices by which he can render them useless once they are underway. If he is unable to make them worthless when they are halfway to completion, he knows other tricks and ways to invalidate them even once they are finished and makes them a source, not of reward but of harm to all but the most careful. First, of all, he points out how laborious and difficult to accomplish virtue is. In this way, he fills us with LAZINESS and DESPAIR, as though we were attempting difficult and impossible things and were therefore incapable of putting our intentions into action. Then he engenders disbelief in the rewards which God has promised to those who struggle.

But we, brethren, should rise above this trap by our soul’s courage, eagerness, and faith. We should bear in mind the fact that just as the earth cannot yield worthwhile fruit without labor, so the soul cannot acquire anything which pleases God or leads to salvation WITHOUT SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE. But while it is possible to find earth that is unsuitable for cultivation, every human soul is naturally suited to virtue. As we are all unavoidably condemned, however, by the judgment given against our forefather, to live by labor and toil, let us turn necessity into an honor and willingly offer to God what is ours not by own will. Let us give up transitory things in exchange for things that endure, and receive what is beneficial in exchange for what is harmful, transforming short-lived toil into a means to gain eternal ease. If we labor here for the sake of virtues we shall certainly attain to the rest promised in the age to come. He who promised is trustworthy and is at hand to help all who readily TAKE ON THE STRUGGLE FOR VIRTUE. If He Who can do all things gives us His help, is anything impossible to achieve?

When we remember this and eagerly apply ourselves to virtuous actions, THE EVIL ONE, knowing that nothing can be good unless it is done in a good way, strives to persuade us not to accomplish any good work with the object of pleasing God of winning His approval, but to look for other people’s approval. By this means, he can deprive us of our reward from God and of all spiritual and heavenly honors. Let us frustrate these efforts of his by considering the great recompense stored up FOR THOSE WHO LIVE AS GOD PLEASES, AND HOW INSIGNIFICANT OTHER PEOPLE’S APPROVAL IS. Not only is it not worth mentioning in comparison with the great and holy glory to come, but it is also an insufficient reason to neglect and waste our flesh…

I am speaking to your charity on this subject in this present season of fasting, so that we may observe it together for our own sake unalloyed with anything evil. FASTING was of no benefit to that Pharisee in the Gospel, even though he always fasted two days a week because HE HAD ADULTERATED IT WITH PRIDE AND CONDEMNATION OF HIS NEIGHBOR (Luke 18:11-12). Not that this means fasting is unprofitable. Moses, Elijah, and the Lord Himself showed HOW BENEFICIAL IT IS FOR THOSE WHO FAST PROPERLY IN A WAY PLEASING TO GOD.
Moses fasted for many days. Awaken your minds, I entreat you and lift them up at this opportune time, in company with Moses when he went up the mountain towards God. In this way may you start off afresh on your ascent, and be lifted up together with Christ, Who did not merely go up a mountain but UP TO HEAVEN, TAKING US WITH Him. Moses FASTED FOR FORTY DAYS ON THE MOUNTAIN and according to the Scriptures he saw God, not darkly but FACE TO FACE (Exodus 24:1). He TALKED TO HIM AS SOMEONE WOULD SPEAK TO HIS FRIEND (Exodos 33:11, Deut. 34:10). HE LEARNT FROM GOD AND TAUGHT EVERYONE ABOUT HIM: THAT HE IS HE WHO ETERNALLY IS (Exodos 3:14) and will never cease to be, that He summoned what did not exist into existence, brought all things out of non-being and will not let them fall back into non-existence. In the beginning, He brought the whole visible creation out of nothing all at once, just by a nod and His will. "IN THE BEGINNING," it says, "GOD CREATED THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH" (Genesis 1:1), not empty of course, nor without all that lies between them. The earth was interpreted with water, and both were full of air, animals, and plants of various kinds, whereas the heavens were full of the various lights and fires, from which the universe is formed.

Sensual pleasure causes ungodliness as well as sin, but FASTING AND SELF-CONTROL IN THE FEAR OF GOD AS WELL AS VIRTUE. FASTING MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY SELF-CONTROL. Why? Because eating our fill, even of humble foods, IS A HINDRANCE TO THE PURIFYING MOURNING, GODLY SORROW AND CONTRITION IN OUR SOULS, WHICH BRING ABOUT UNSWERVING REPENTANCE LEADING TO SALVATION. For without a contrite heart we cannot really lay hold of repentance. It is the restriction of self-indulgence, sleep, and the senses according to God’s will that crushes our hearts and makes us mourn for our sins.

When the rich man in the Gospel said to himself, "EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY" (Luke 12:19), the wretch made himself fit for the eternal flames and unfit for this present life. Let us, on the contrary, be RESTRAINED, TO BE HUMBLE AND TO SUFFER HARDSHIP FO ROUIR SALVATION. Then we shall finish this present life IN A GOOD WAY PLEASING TO GOD AND INHERIT THE BLESSED LIFE WITHOUT END.

May we all attain to this by the grace and love towards mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belong glory, mighty, honor, and worship, together with His Father without beginning and the Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen. (Source: Saint Gregory Palamas. The Homilies)


"Glory Be To GOD
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

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

+ Father George

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