The Fathers on Fasting
Stichera for Wednesday of the First Week of the Great Fast
Tone 8
While fasting in body,
let us also fast in spirit.
Let us loose the bonds of iniquity.
Let us undo the chains of injustice.
Let us break the yoke of oppression.
Let us give food to the hungry.
Let us shelter the poor and homeless,
so that we may receive great mercy from Christ our God.
Matthew 6:16-18
And when you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men, but your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Deuteronomy 16:14
And thou shalt rejoice in thy Feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant and they maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within they gates
St. Basil the Great
Because we did not fast, we were chased out of Paradise; let us fast now, so that some day we return there.
St. Basil the Great’s Hymn of First Monday of Lent
“Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fast is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood perjury. Privation of these is true fasting.”
St. Isidore
Fasting in respect of food is of no benefit for those who fail to fast with all their senses; for whosoever is successfully waging his battle must be temperate in all things.
St. John Chrysostom
The fast should be kept not by the mouth alone but also by 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.
St. Clement of Alexandria
Fasting is abstention from foods according to the meaning of the word, but the food does not make us either more just or more unjust. Yet, in its mystical meaning it declares that as the life of each one depends upon food, total abstention is the sign of death. Thus we ought to abstain from worldly things, for we would die as far as worldly matters are concerned, and after that, when we partake of food of divine nature, we will live in God. Above all, total abstention empties the soul of matter, and presents the soul pure and nimble to the body according to the divine words. Then, on the one hand, worldly nourishment consists of temporal life and iniquities, while divine nourishment is faith, hope, love, patience, knowledge, peace, prudence as our Lord said in Matthew: ‘Blessed are theywhich do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled’ (5:6), where truly He attributes this longing to the soul and not to the body.
Canon 15 of Peter the Martyr
Wednesday is to be fasted, because then the Jews conspired to betray Jesus; Friday, because he then suffered for us. We keep the Lord’s Day as a day of joy, because then our Lord arose.
Abba Dorotheus, Directions on Spiritual Training
…in fasting one must not only obey the rule against gluttony in regard to food, but refrain from every sin so that, while fasting, the tongue may also fast, refraining from slander, lies, evil talking, degrading one’s brother, anger and every sin committed by the tongue. One should also fast with the eyes, that is, not look at vain things…not look shamefully or fearlessly at anyone. The hands and feet should also be kept from every evil action.
When one fasts through vanity or thinking that he is achieving something especially virtuous, he fasts foolishly and soon begins to criticize others and to consider himself something great.
A man who fasts wisely…wins purity and comes to humility…and proves himself a skillful builder.