Fasting and Invisible Beasts

“There are certain parts of the sea which teem with huge beasts like sea monsters.

Those who sail there hang bells from their ships, so that the creatures panic and flee at the sound. Many wild things far more horrible breed in the sea of our life: the evil passions and the even more evil demons who supervise them.

God’s Church sails upon this sea like a ship, and instead of bells it has spiritual teachers to ward off the invisible beast by the holy sound of their teaching. Prefiguring this, Aaron’s robe had sweet sounding bells fastened to its edge, and it was decreed that when Aaron ministered their sound should be heard (Exod. 27:21-35). Turning the literal into the spiritual to good effect, let our words ring out to you now spiritually, especially in this time of fasting when visible and invisible beasts make terrible attacks.

The visible ones are gluttony, drunkenness and the like. The ones that lie invisibly in wait are vainglory, pride, self-conceit and hypocrisy. The same sound puts such beasts to flight and safeguards those who practice fasting. Fasting and self-indulgence are opposites, like life and death. Fasting is a commandment of life as old as human nature, for it was originally given by God to Adam in paradise (Gen. 2:16-17), as a guardian of the life and grace engendered in him by God Himself.

Self-indulgence, on the other hand, is a counsel of death for both soul and body, craftily given by the devil to Adam in paradise by means of Eve (Gen. 31:1-6), for banishment from life and estrangement from God-given divine grace. God did not make death, nor does He delight in the destruction of the living. Does anyone want to find life and grace in God and from God? Let him flee lethal self-indulgence and run towards fasting and prayer which make divine, that he may return to paradise rejoicing.” (Saint Gregory Palamas, The Homilies, pp 94-95)