St. John Cassian: The Rule of Fasting is Never Over-eat

“I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite of gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies. They also found a day’s fast to be more beneficial and a greater help toward purity than one extending over a period of three, four, or even seven days. Someone who fasts for too long, they say, often ends up by eating too much food. The result is that at times the body becomes enervated through undue lack of food and sluggish over its spiritual exercises, while at other times, weighed down by the mass of food it has eaten, it makes the soul listless and slack.[…]The Fathers have handed down a single basic rule of self control; ‘do not be deceived by the filling of the belly’ (Prov. 24:15), or be led astray by the pleasure of the palate. It is not only the variety of foodstuffs that kindles the fiery darts of unchastity, but also their quantity.[…]A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied. When the Apostle said, ‘Make no provision to fulfil the desires of the flesh’ (Rom. 13:14), he was not forbidding us to provide for the needs of life; he was warning us against self indulgence. Moreover, by itself abstinence from food does not contribute to perfect purity of soul unless the other virtues are active as well.” (St. John Cassian in The Philokalia, Volume One, pgs. 73-74)

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