Fasting during the Great Lent
Below is an excerpt from St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople during the 5th century and one of the early Church fathers, about the noble Christian tradition of fasting and abstinence during the Great Lent.
The value of fasting consists not only in avoiding certain
foods, but in giving up of sinful practices. The person who
limits his fast only to abstaining from meat is the one who
especially lowers the value of it.
Do you fast? Prove it by doing good works. If you see
someone in need, take pity on them. If you see a friend being
honored, don’t get jealous of him. For a true fast, you cannot
fast only with your mouth. You must fast with your eye, your ear,
your feet, your hands, and all parts of your body.
You fast with your hands by keeping them pure from doing
greedy things. You fast with your feet by not going to see
forbidden shows or plays. You fast with your eyes by not
letting them look upon impure pictures. Because if this is
forbidden or unlawful, it mars your fast and threatens the safety
of your soul. But if you look at things which are lawful and
save you increase your fast, for what you see with your eye
influences your conduct. It would be very stupid to eliminate or
give up meat and other foods because of the fast but feed with
your eyes upon other things which are forbidden.
You don’t eat meat, you say. But you allow yourself to lis-
ten to lewd things. You must fast with your ears, too. Another
way of fasting with your ears is not to listen to those who speak
evil or untrue things about others. “Thou shalt not receive an
idle report. “This is especially true of rumors, gossip,
untruths which are spoken to harm another.
Besides fasting with your mouth by not eating certain foods,
your mouth should also fast from foul language or telling lies
about others. For what good is it if you don’t eat meat or
poultry, and yet you bite and devour your fellow man?
Seems like I have much to learn, do and undo. I must say I've been guilty of observing the bare minimum for the fasting practice - since 1537 the Filipino faithful have been exempted from much of the laws of the fast and abstinence, reducing the requirements of the fast to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. By contrast, the early Christians fasted a lot!