St. John Chrysostom reminds us that keeping a fast is not mostly about diet – it is about how we live. It is about turning away from sin with all our soul, heart, mind and strength. It is doing good works with our entire bodies – eyes, mouth, ears, hands and feet. We can keep the fast he describes even if we feel we can’t keep the prescribed dietary regulations. In fact St. John’s attitude in this quote seems to challenge any thought that fasting is mostly about dietary regulations. Chrysostom wants to see some change in behavior before he is willing to recognize a person is fasting. He wants to know that the person is living according to Gospel commandments, otherwise the fasting is not really accomplishing the purpose of a fast. The true fast is fasting from sin not just from food. That is what we should be concentrating on during every fasting season. Instead of producing more Lenten recipes, we should be practicing overcoming sin in our lives and living virtuous lives.
“Do You Fast?
Give me proof of it by your works.
If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.
Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye,
and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and
all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare
at that which is sinful…..
Let the ear fast…by not listening to evil talk
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and
fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?”
(Daily Readings From the Writings of St. John Chrysostom, Edited by Anthony M. Coniaris, p 37)