As we continue our sojourn through the Nativity Lent, one goal of fasting – which also happens to be the first command from Christ to us His disciples – is to come to repentance. Fasting is not the goal, but a tool to change our hearts, moving us away from attachment to the good things of this earth so that we can love God and love neighbor.
St. Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1022AD) offers us a detailed description of what the Christian life looks like, and invites us to follow the discipline.
“Thus he is set aright by the mortification of his own will. I am not just talking about what concerns the outer man, such as not eating, not drinking, not doing something lightheartedly, not sleeping, not doing anything which is apparently good without a command to do so, but I mean as well as the mortification of what is within, of the heart’s own movement,
such as not looking with passion at, or greeting anyone or anything in such manner,
nor laying blame secretly,
nor judging anyone,
nor rejoicing at the fall of anyone,
nor being angry in thought,
nor envying maliciously,
nor being jealous with malice.
How shall I enumerate all the characteristics of piety in order to show you exactly what it is, strictly, to be a Christian? Listen once again to what is proper to life-giving mortification:
not hiding even any passing evil thought from your spiritual father;
not agreeing with anyone against anyone else;
not saying anything which is not edifying;
not being silent about anything which ought to be said;
nor ever abandoning your rule of prayer until death.”
(On the Mystical Life: The Ethical Discourses, pgs. 66-67)
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