When other animals get sick, the first thing they do is stop eating – they fast, in other words. Fasting is an acknowledgement that, as all the Fathers have taught us, we are fundamentally sick with the disease of Death. Not to fast is to deny the most basic truth of our Faith, that we have become separated from God, and is to deny the example of God himself, who became man to unite us to himself, and who likewise fasted and still does fast. As St. Seraphim says, he who does not fast does not really believe in God. Certainly, he does not believe in the “god” we mean when we say that word.
“Do not abandon a fast in time of sickness, for lo, those who do not fast fall into the same sicknesses.” – St Syncletica
The wages for the labors of virtue are detachment and knowledge. These
become our friends and advocates in the kingdom of heaven, just as the
passions and ignorance are the advocates for eternal punishment. He then
who seeks the former for the sake of reputation among men and not for
the good in it, will hear from Scripture: ‘You ask and you receive not,
because you ask amiss.’ (Jas. 4:3).
St. Maximus the Confessor, The Ascetic Life and Four Centuries on
“…fasting–the refusal to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of flesh and matter over the spirit… – Fr. Alexander (Schmemann)
“It is not suited to everyone to follow a severe rule of abstinence from everything, or to deprive himself of everything which can serve for the easing of weakness.
One should make use of food daily to the extent that the body, fortified, may be the friend and assistant of the soul in the practice of virtue. Otherwise, the soul may weaken because it is exhausted.
On Wednesdays and Fridays, especially during the four fasts, eat once a day, and the angel of the Lord will remain with you.”
– St. Seraphim
A brother said to an old man: “There are two brothers. One of them stays in his cell quietly, fasting for six days at a time, and imposing on himself a good deal of discipline, and the other serves the sick. Which one of them is more acceptable to God?” The old man replied: “Even if the brother who fasts six days were to hang himself up by the nose, he could not equal the one who serves the sick.”
“I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies… A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied.” – St. John Cassian
Comment: It seems like we are always fasting when we feast, never letting the food become the point, and feasting on the Spirit when we fast.
“Let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our souls and cleanse our flesh; As we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit, may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness, to behold His holy Pascha.” – (Sticheron, First Monday of Great Lent, Tone 2)
“For in our bodies too all distempers arise from excess; and when the elements thereof leave their proper limits, and go on beyond moderation, then all these countless diseases are generated, and grievous kinds of death.” — St. John Chrysostom
“He who does not fast, does not really believe in God.” – St. Seraphim