St Basil the Great: Are You Imitating the Original Sin by Not Fasting?

Feast of St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem

Basil_Square_2.jpgIT IS BECAUSE we did not fast that we were banished from paradise. So let us fast that we may return to it. Don’t you realize that Lazarus entered paradise through fasting (cf. Lk. 16.20-31)? Do not imitate the disobedience of Eve. Then again, do not take the serpent as your advisor, who suggests that you eat out of regard for the flesh. Do not use bodily weakness and illness as an excuse. For you are not giving such excuses to me but to someone who already knows. Tell me, are you unable to fast? Are you able to stuff yourself throughout your life? Are you able to wreck your body with the heaviness of the food you’ve eaten? And yet I know that physicians do not prescribe a variety of foods for the sick, but rather not eating and going without food. So then, if you are able to comply with one treatment, how can you allege that you cannot follow the other? What is easier for the stomach? To pass the night with plain fare? Or for it to lie there weighed down by an abundance of food? Or rather, not for it to lie there, but for it to be constantly upset, bloated, and grumbling?

Indeed, you wouldn’t claim that it is easier for pilots to save a cargo ship loaded down with goods than one less laden and lighter, would you? After all, a slight swelling of the waves has sunk the heavily weighed cargo ship, whereas one that has a moderate amount of freight easily rises above the waves, since nothing hinders it from floating above them. And so, when human bodies are weighed down with unremitting self-indulgence, they are easily inundated with illnesses. But when bodies take nourishment that is light and easy, they escape the impending evil that arises from sickness like a swelling storm, and they evade the present distress that acts like the assault of a tempest. Surely you must think that keeping still is more strenuous than running, and resting more strenuous than wrestling, if indeed you really claim that self-indulgence is more appropriate for the sick than eating lightly. In fact, the faculty that keeps the body alive easily digests a moderate amount of light food and makes it suitable for nourishment. But upon receiving a variety of extravagant foods and then not being satisfied with reaching its limit, it engenders many kinds of sickness.

—St Basil the Great, First Homily on Fasting

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