Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Self-Control as Fasting

The act of fasting is a conscious act to glorify God and his creation as it helps us overcome our actions based on our passions and bodily desires for pleasure.  It is an act that restrains our egoism and heightens our spiritual appetite.  Fasting demands will-power and the reestablishment of the domination of the soul over the body.

Fasting is seen by our Church Fathers as the primary passion to overcome. Mastering it you can then master the others.

Fr. Dimitru Staniloae says,
Self-control from gluttony is what makes restraint from the others possible...
Fasting is the antidote against this pathological extension of our appetites and or our egoism.  It is the humble return of the ego to itself, but by its transparence it sees God and is filled with a life consistent with God. This is the growth of spirit in man, from divine sprit....Because man's egoism wants to grow without God, without loving relationships with his fellow creatures, it grows only in appearance and for a little while.
Through self-control eating can become an act for reflecting and thinking about God.  As we contemplate on our food we can seek the Logoi that is behind its creation. We can see the beauty in God's creation realize how it was provided for our benefit to come closer to God.

This is why the Church in her wisdom from its earliest days prescribed fasting on Wednesday and Fridays as well as other extended periods for fasting such as the 40 day fast of Great Lent.  While it is helpful to follow the program of fasting outlined by the church, one cannot see it as a "law" but as a aid to help us grow spiritually.  It is a means to help us overcome our enslavement by our bodily passions, so we can be freed for higher spiritual growth.

Your personal rule for spiritual growth should include regular fasting.

Ref:  Orthodox Spirituality, pp 150 - 153

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