Fasting: To Become Christlike

We Orthodox have entered into the Christmas season with the beginning of the Nativity Fast.   St. Gregory Palamas (d. 1439) offers us some thoughts on fasting and keeping a Lent which is pleasing to God:

“Fasting is a means and not an end in itself. The aim of fasting, as with all the means that the Church places at our disposal, is to help us to attain Christlike perfection and humility. And so it is possible to fast very strictly and yet not attain to such perfection. As St. John Cassian relates, in his On the Holy Fathers of Sketis, Abba Moses (c. 330 – c. 405) warns, ‘Fasts and vigils, the study of Scripture, renouncing possessions and everything worldly are not in themselves perfection…they are tools. For perfection…is acquired through them. It is useless, therefore, to boast of our fasting, vigils, poverty and reading of Scripture when we have not achieved the love of God and our fellow men’ (trans. from The Philokalia, op. cit., Vol. 1, p 96). Note also the advice that St. Symeon the Devout (9th – 10th cent.), in Catechetical Sermons, op. cit., XXI, 54-57: ‘Know this, my child, that neither fasting, nor vigil, nor physical toil, nor any other ascetic feat causes God to rejoice and appear to us, but only a humble, simple and good soul and heart.’” (The Homilies, pp 554-555)

St. Olga of Alaska (d. 1979)

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