Quotes from Spiritual Fathers (Lent season)

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
I was wondering If we can start posting inspiring quotes from the fathers regarding fasting or the gospel's throughout Lent. The point is so that we can learn and benefit from the wisdom of the fathers and learn to apply it in our fast. Since I created this thread, I will initiate the first quote:

"Even the cross itself was but an expression of an existing reality, since Christ had crucified Himself for the world before the world crucified Him.... In Lent we prepare ourselves for the Last Supper. We prepare for two like things coming together. How could those who do not sacrifice themselves be worthy of Him who sacrificed His life? If we eat of a sacrificed body and do not sacrifice our own selves, how can we claim that a union takes place? The Mystical Supper on Thursday, which is the intentional acceptance of a life of sacrifice, is but a preparation for accepting sufferings openly, even unto death." [Fr. Matthew the Poor]


  • "And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came to him" (Matt. 4:2, 3).

    Divine inspiration in this Gospel text throws into bold relief the relationship between human instincs and temptation: "He was hungry, and the tempter came to him." Hunger is considered a natural and honest expression of physical need and is in keeping with the nature of the flesh. There is no shame or corruption in this.

    But when physical need presses hard upon man, importunately and solicitously asking for gratification, all the intellectual and psychic standards fall down to the level of the flesh with its natural drives and become influenced by this solicitude in an always-exaggerated manner: physical need tyrannically overwhelms the spirit.

    At the beginning, such pressure seems hard and insisten as if it were an irresistable necessity. But if the mental and psychic system does not ally itself with this exaggerated insistence, man can manage to control the flesh: instincts calm down, recede, and then cease.

    Physical needs are not evil in themselves, for they were created by God. But if man succumbs to their magnified importunity and consigns himself to their rebellious leadership, they can lead him to transgression and drop him into the grasps of the devil, who would inhabit these physical needs and use them as a weapon against man....

    The rejection of Satan's counsel by Christ while he bore our self-same hunger and abjection, elevated human nature above the devil's power and raised it from its hunched posture so that it stands upright. Christ's adherance (while he was starving to death) to the principle that the life of the flesh does not consist in bread alone but in God's word raised the Word of God above bread, raised the flesh above hunger, instinct and death, and linked the life of the flesh to the Word of God: thus man may live by Him and in Him forever....

    Christ thus raised fasting and the physical sufferings which it entails to an act of divine economy and completed with is a considerable portion of the work of salvation. Thus the fasts in the Orthodox Church are rather tinged with a theological significance, that they might no longer be an individual struggle against sin and the devil, but a participation in a guarenteed victory which the Lord has perfected on our behalf, yielding for us fruits that transcend our potential to reap.

    (Fr. Matthew the Poor, On the Mount of Temptation, 27, 37-39).
  • St. John Cassian on Fasting:

    “I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite of 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 single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies. They also found a day’s fast to be more beneficial and a greater help toward purity than one extending over a period of three, four, or even seven days.

    Someone who fasts for too long, they say, often ends up by eating too much food. The result is that at times the body becomes enervated through undue lack of food and sluggish over its spiritual exercises, while at other times, weighed down by the mass of food it has eaten, it makes the soul listless and slack.[…]The Fathers have handed down a single basic rule of self control; ‘do not be deceived by the filling of the belly’ (Prov. 24:15), or be led astray by the pleasure of the palate. It is not only the variety of foodstuffs that kindles the fiery darts of unchastity, but also their quantity.[…]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. When the Apostle said, ‘Make no provision to fulfil the desires of the flesh’ (Rom. 13:14), he was not forbidding us to provide for the needs of life; he was warning us against self indulgence. Moreover, by itself abstinence from food does not contribute to perfect purity of soul unless the other virtues are active as well.” (St. John Cassian in The Philokalia, Volume One, pgs. 73-74)
  • Select quotes on fasting from St. Isaac the Syrian's Ascetical Homilies

    This much is known to every one, that all strife against sin and its desires is to be preceded by the labour of fasting, especially if one is combating inward sin. And the token of hate against sin and its desires, visible in those who are engaged in this invisible strife, is this that they begin with fasting.

    Afterwards comes standing during the night. He that during his whole life loves the use of fasting, is a friend of chastity. As at the root of all the boons of the world and of all its evils, is sexual pleasure and the relaxation of sleep which incites to impure cohabitation, so the beginning of the holy way of God and of all virtues, is founded upon fasting and strict punctuality in the service of God, with the crucifixion of the body during the whole night in the strife against the pleasure of sleep.

    Fasting is a strengthening of all the virtues, the beginning of the struggle, the crown of the Naziraeans, the beauty of virginity and sanctity, the preservation of chastity, the beginning of the way of Christianity, the father of prayer, the fountain of placidity, the teacher of quiet, and the forerunner of all good qualities. As the delight of light belongs to sound eyes, so the desire of prayer follows fasting with discernment. For as soon as a man begins to fast, his mind forthwith will be desirous of intercourse with God. A fasting body cannot endure lying on its bed during the whole night. For fasting naturally excites vigilance unto God; not only by day, but also during the night. And the empty body of him that fasts does not grow fatigued in the struggle against sleep. And though his senses are weak, his mind is awake unto God in beseechings. It is better to neglect service for weakness caused by fasting, than on account of indolence caused by food.

    To dwell at length upon the beauties of fasting is not necessary. Many of the teachers and fathers have spoken about the victories of fasting and the many beautiful things originating in it. And all books inform us concerning the importance of fasting and the victories it has given generation after generation, and concerning the mighty help afforded by it, and the high praise deserved by those who fast. And by experience it is known to every one, that it is the fountain of all good [qualities].

    As long as the seals of fasting are on a man's mouth, his mind meditates on the soul's penitence, his heart sends forth prayers and his face is dark with sadness. Evil impulses are afar from him; neither is gladness seen on his brow at all. For he is an enemy of desires and idle occupations. There has never been seen a man who was fasting with discernment who was subjected to evil desire. For fasting is a storehouse of all virtues. And he that despises it, makes all virtues totter.

    As the first commandment imposed upon our nature in the beginning was against the tasting of the food, and in this point the head of our race fell, therefore those who strive for the fear of God begin the building there where the first injury originated, when they begin the task of keeping His commandments. And also our Saviour, when He manifested Himself to the world at the Jordan, began from that point. For when He had been baptised, the spirit led Him into the wilderness, and then He fasted forty days and forty nights. And all those who follow His steps, base the beginning of their struggle upon this action. That weapon was polished by God, who should despise it without being blameworthy? If the lawgiver has fasted, to which guardian of the law is it not necessary to do likewise?

    Till then the human race had not known victory, and Satan had never experienced defeat on the part of our nature; through this weapon, however, he was vanquished for the first time and the first victory was won which set the crown on the head of our nature. Thus it is that as soon as this weapon appears in the hand of a man, immediately fear falls upon the deliberations of Satan, that head of rebellion, and at once his mind is struck by the recollection of that defeat in the desert and that first defeat he had to suffer. His strength will be broken when he sees the weapon which our commander has placed in our hands. As soon as he sees this weapon worn by any man, he knows that this one is prepared for the strife. What weapon is stronger than this and which gives encouragement to the heart in the struggle with evil spirits as hunger for Christ's sake does? To the degree in which a man's body is fatigued and kept down at the time when the hosts of Satan surround him, to the same degree his heart is supported by confidence. And he that is constantly in this state, will at all times be burning with zeal as it were with fire.

    Constant fasting is a symptom of zeal and fervour in war. Even that zealot Eliyah took upon him this tribulation when he fought for the divine law. Forty days he restrained his mouth from food, during the long walk through the desert.

    Fasting reminds those who practise it of the spiritual commandments; for it was a mediator in the ancient law and by the grace of our Lord Jesus we have received it. But what more shall I say concerning its merits which are known to every one? He that despises fasting, will also be weak and without vigour in the other good works, because he lacks the weapon by means of which the godlike athletes have been victorious. And he that from the beginning shows in himself a sign of relaxation, gives his adversary a chance of victory and enters battle in a state of deprivation. And it is certain that he will leave it, without the victory, because he has bereaved himself of the force which divine zeal had stirred in him. Thus he begins strife in a state of cold in stead of in a state of heat. For his limbs are not clad with the flame of hunger, namely of fasting during which the mind endures the strokes of all hard and unexpected events motionless.

    It is said concerning many of the holy martyrs that, when they were informed by a spiritual revelation or by one of their friends, regarding the day on which they would receive the crown, they did not taste anything the preceding night, nor did they take any food. But from the eve till morn they would stand in prayer, awake, praising God in songs and glorifications and hymns and spiritual melodies, being joyful and exalting and expecting that moment as people destined to enter a bridal house. They expected, while in a state of fasting, to receive the blow of the sword and to be crowned with the crown of the confessorship.

    And we too have to keep this state of preparation perpetually, o my brethren, expecting invisible martyrdom and the winning of the crown of holiness, [being on our guard] lest in any of our limbs a sign of unbelief be given to our enemies. Thus our outward senses and our inward impulses being clad with all the weapons of God, we shall receive this crown deserving it and so we shall go in unto His glory with the holy martyrs, striking our enemies with amazement. For without labour nobody wins the crown, as the teacher, the great Diodorus ] ) says. For it is well known that it would be most unworthy that merchants may not bring home riches without labour and dangerous storms, and that yet the righteous should expect the remuneration of the crown, without injury and labour for the sake of righteousness.


    If thou hast no sufficient power to fast during the night, fast at least in the evening. And if thou hast no force for fasting in the evening, be on thy guard at least against satiety.


    Through his continual silence and fasting a man becomes distinguished that in his hidden state is constantly occupied with the service of God.


    So the love of God is found in selfdenial. As from the seeds of the sweat of fasting the blade of chastity grows up, so does lasciviousness grow up from satiety and impudence from repletion.


  • "Fasting ends lust, roots out bad thoughts, frees one from evil dreams. Fasting makes for purity of prayer, an enlightened soul, a watchful mind, a deliverance from blindness. Fasting is the door of compunction, humble sighing, joyful contrition, an end to chatter, an occasion for silence, a custodian of obedience, a lightening of sleep, health of the body an agent of dispassion, a remission of sins, the gate, indeed the delight of Paradise."
    -St. John Climacus
  • Lent Prayers: Penitential Prayer of St. Augustine

    O Lord,
    The house of my soul is narrow;
    enlarge it that you may enter in.
    It is ruinous, O repair it!
    It displeases Your sight.
    I confess it, I know.
    But who shall cleanse it,
    to whom shall I cry but to you?
    Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
    and spare Your servant from strange sins.
    –St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)

  • Fr. JC Maximilian
    My Homilies & Spiritual Reflections HomeAbout Me
    A Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent (C)
    Posted by frjcmaximilian on Feb 21st, 2010

    [“The Temptations in the Desert” by Michael D. O’Brien, the author of Father Elijah: An Apocalypse and numerous other books. The artist’s commentary: “In the desert, Satan offers three temptations to Christ: to misuse his gifts for physical good, spiritual presumption, and worldly power. He tempts the Lord to make bread from stones, to throw himself from the Temple to test God, and to pay homage to Satan in exchange for authority over the kingdoms of this world. Jesus rejects each offer with Scripture. He seeks only the will of his Father in heaven, the goods and the authority that are given from above.”]

    As we begin the season of Lent, we should ask ourselves some difficult questions: am I a better Christian now than I was a year ago? Am I holier? Am I more like Christ? Am I really becoming the saint that God created me to be?
    These questions can make us very uncomfortable, but Lent is a time for us to be uncomfortable. Jesus loves us too much to allow us to be lazy. Like a good coach, Jesus is always encouraging us to grow and improve.
    Unfortunately, for many of us, we are not improving in our spiritual life as much as we should. We might be progressing in our professional life, in school, perhaps even physically, but in our spiritual life we have “plateaued”. We still struggle with the same temptations, the same sins. Too many are really just “mediocre” Christians who just do the bare minimum in following the rules of the Church. For them, faith is just a set of tasks to check off on their to-do list. They lack a real, personal relationship with Jesus.
    The reason for our lack of progress in our spiritual life, is that we often fail to get to the real roots of our selfishness. We want to follow Christ faithfully, but we do not do so intelligently. We keep trying to cut off the branches of impatience, or greed, or lust, or dishonesty, but the roots are still intact, so the branches just keep growing back. In Jesus’ temptation in the desert, the devil makes the mistake of exposing the three roots of all our sins. In each one of us, one of these roots is bigger and stronger than the others (though we all have all three). If we can identify which is our main root sin, we can direct our spiritual work more intelligently, and really start making progress as Christians.
    At its heart, sin is a rebellion against God. God created us for happiness, which can only be found fully when we live in communion with Him. St. Augustine writes somewhere, that “sin is beautiful.” That might seem shocking, but what St. Augustine had in mind is that sin always involves trying to find happiness someplace other than in communion with God. These other places are what we mean by the word “idol,” and in today’s Gospel reading Jesus’ three temptations correspond to the three main idols which continue to tempt us. J.R.R. Tolkien, in his famous trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” vividly portrays what happens to people who worship these idols.
    First there is the idol of PLEASURE. Jesus is first tempted to “command these stones to turn to bread.” For many of us, we want something more than just bread. We want fast cars, the finest clothing, the biggest house, the latest gizmo, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. You name it, we often get trapped into wanting the greatest physical pleasure. Now most of these things are not evil in and of themselves. In fact most are good; God created them, and He does not create evil. However, in none of them will we find real, complete, eternal happiness. When we worship the idol of pleasure we are like Gollum, Tolkien’s slimy, murderous villain who only cares about satisfying his fleshly desires. In the end, Gollum does get his “Precious,” and he smiles the whole way as he falls into the lava of Mt. Doom. Jesus tells Satan, and us, that what will give us real life is listening to the Word of God.
    The second idol is power. Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth and offers to give Him, “all this power and glory.” This week, on hearing about the death of former Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, I recalled his famous words after President Reagan was shot, “I’m in charge.” Not many of us will get the power to run a country, but how often do we give in to wanting to be in charge? Maybe it is being in charge of conversations, of our relationships, of the PTA, the Knights of Columbus, our neighbor watch. Leadership is also a very good personal quality, but we need to keep in mind that leadership is always given to us for the service and welfare of others, not for our own sake. One of the biggest temptations of power is trying to run our own life, telling God what we need and what He should do for us. Saruman was a good wizard who at first desired the ring of power so he could govern the world better. But that thirst for power enslaved him. It enslaves us too, if we look for happiness in having control over things and people. Again Jesus demonstrate how to resist the temptation of power, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve.” In other words, we need to be humble.
    The final idol is that of popularity. By tempting Jesus to throw Himself off the Temple, Satan wanted Jesus to impress the crowds. We all like to be liked by others. Again, there is nothing wrong in being liked, in itself. However we become like Shelob, the gigantic spider who spins webs to trap and devour others when we make popularity our idol. Our thirst for popularity turns us into monsters, spinning webs of intrigue and lies, destroying other people to climb the social ladder. Or we fail to tell people the truth of Jesus Christ — perhaps not challenging those persisting in sin to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” — because we are afraid of being disliked.
    Which one of these three is most influential in your life? It’s important to discover our root sin. Each of us should know where we are most vulnerable to temptation. Otherwise the devil can blindside us.
    One of the most effective ways to advance on the path of self-knowledge is by going to confession regularly. Frequent, regular confession forces us to take stock of our sins and failings, to look honestly at all the manifestations of our selfishness, not just the big ones. Together with the guidance of the confessor, this self-examination gradually allows you to get at the roots of what is holding you back.
    Do we really want to grow in our Christian lives, to become better followers of Jesus Christ, better witnesses of his Kingdom, wiser parents, more courageous professionals, more loving spouses and friends? To do so, we must discover our root sin, and constantly hack away at it. And there’s no better way to do that than by making the commitment to come regularly to confession.

  • Why is this priest so offended by people who may just be living their life
    Jesus did not pray to take us out of the world but to be in it
    Unless God has specially called you to be out of the world like John the baptist
    Which few God desires this life for them though we must still fast if we are able and unless our priest has given us permission not to fast
    The important question is does this priest justify and desire the eternal condemnation of people who may just be living their life
    I blame this priest for making my life boring
    He seems to put burdens hard to bear and will not move one of them with his fingers
    Just because one is a priest does not mean he must not show humility before all men and also have the fear of God
    I am also offended by the above poster who rejoices in this behaviour

    I know it is hard being a priest which is why I should not judge
    You are trying to lead all souls to righteousness
    May God support you

    Many of the posters here like to create topics that annoy people
  • [quote author=user157 link=topic=12943.msg152433#msg152433 date=1330069530]
    Why is this priest so offended by people who may just be living their life
    Jesus did not pray to take us out of the world but to be in it
    Unless God has specially called you to be out of the world like John the baptist
    Which few God desires this life for them though we must still fast if we are able and unless our priest has given us permission not to fast
    The important question is does this priest justify and desire the eternal condemnation of people who may just be living their life
    I blame this priest for making my life boring
    He seems to put burdens hard to bear and will not move one of them with his fingers
    Just because one is a priest does not mean he must not show humility before all men and also have the fear of God
    I am also offended by the above poster who rejoices in this behaviour

    I know it is hard being a priest which is why I should not judge
    You are trying to lead all souls to righteousness
    May God support you

    Many of the posters here like to create topics that annoy people

    There are things in the Bible such as getting drunk and sex outside marriage, which are clearly wrong and a priest would be wrong if he told people to just "live your life, and do these things"
    There are also things (which I think you are talking about) which are not wrong of themselves, but can tempt people to do wrong, by gaining importance in their lives over God. I think you may have misinterpreted the priest - he is not forbidding these things, but advising caution, to ensure these things do not gain preeminence over God.
    Monks abstain from this group of things all together - we are not required too.

    I really pray that the peace of God fills your heart, and you understand this.  Remember true satisfaction comes from simple faith, not complex arguments.
  • Ok I will read it with that in mind next time. Thanks
  • Hey guys, the purpose for this forum is so that we can benefit from the quotes of the Fathers. Please refrain from arguing/side chatting/ or posting anything non-orthodox. Thank you all for your cooperation.

    Saint John Chrysostom:
    "Fasting is like medicine. But like all medicines, though it be very profitable to the person who knows how to use it, it frequently becomes useless, and even harmful, in the hands of him who is unskillful in its use.

    I haves said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honor fasting. For the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices, since he who limits his fasting only to abstaining from meat is one especially who disparages fasting.

    Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. By what kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see an enemy, be reconciled with him. If you see a friend gaining honor, do not be jealous of him. If you see a beautiful woman, pass her by. And let not only the mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all members of your bodies."


  •         [center]-- “As so I desire to fix three precepts in your mind so that you may accomplish them during the fast: (1) to speak ill of no one, (2) to hold no one for an enemy, and (3) to expel from your mouth altogether the evil habit of swearing.” - Saint John Chrysostom.
  • "Blessed is He who gave us fasts, the sheer wings by which we fly to Him." ~ Hymns on Fasting by St. Ephram the Syrian
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