Patristic Thoughts on Fasting

“’Just as the body if it is burdened with a multitude of foods makes the spirit slack and lazy, so if it is enfeebled by excessive abstinence it breeds despondency and aversion in the contemplative part of the soul. It is necessary therefore to regulate the soul’s nourishment in accordance with the state of the body, so that when the body is in good health it may be suitably controlled, and when it is weak it can be reasonable strengthened. The athlete must not be in poor physical shape.’  (Diadochus of Photike)

Fasting is capable of making us bad-tempered, or of giving us the good conscious of a Pharisee. Hence the constant call for respect for one’s neighbor, for the struggle against backbiting, and also for sharing with the poor, and for the works of righteousness.

Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, ‘What ought I to do?’ The old man told him, ‘Do not put any trust in your righteousness, do not worry about the past, keep a tight rein on your tongue and your belly.’  (Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

‘If you fast, but fail to keep watch over your mouth so as to refrain from evil speaking and angry words, from lying and perjury; if you slander your neighbor, even if the words come from the mouth of one who is fasting, your fast will be of no avail and will be labor lost.’ (St. Athanasius of Alexandria)”

[ The Roots of Christian Mysticism by Oliver Clément, pp. 142-143]