The Meaning of the Great Fast

“If it is important not to overlook the physical requirements of fasting, it is even more important not to overlook its inward significance.  Fasting is not a mere matter of diet.  True fasting is to be converted in heart and will; it is to return to God, to come home like the Prodigal to our Father’s house.  In the words of Saint John Chrysostom, it means ‘abstinence not only from food, but from sins.’  ‘The fast,’ he insists, ‘ should be kept not by the mouth alone but also the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands, and all the members of the body’:  the eye must abstain from impure sights, the ear from malicious gossip, the hands from acts of injustice.  It is useless to fast from food, protests Saint Basil, and yet indulge in cruel criticism and slander:  ‘You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother.’


Bishop Kallistos Ware

“The Meaning of the Great Fast” in the Lenten Triodion


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