St Basil the Great: Have You Learned the Grace of Fasting?

Feast of St Anthousa the Martyr & Her 12 Servants

Basil_Square_2.jpgISAIAH HAS taught us the grace of fasting, rejecting the Jewish manner of fasting and showing us the true fast. “Do not fast to quarrel and fight, but loose every bond of iniquity” (Is. 58.4, 6). And the Lord adds: “Do not be gloomy, but wash your face and anoint your head” (Mt. 6.16-17). So let us acquire the disposition that we have been taught, not looking gloomy on the days of fasting we are currently observing, but cheerfully disposed toward them, as is fitting for the saints. No one crowned is despondent; no one glum holds up a trophy. Do not be gloomy while you are being healed. It is absurd not to rejoice in the soul’s health, and rather to sorrow over the change in food and to appear to favor the pleasure of the stomach over the care of the soul. After all, while self-indulgence gratifies the stomach, fasting brings gain to the soul. Be cheerful since the physician has given you sin-destroying medicine. For just as worms breeding in the intestines of children are utterly eradicated by the most pungent medicines, so too, when a fast truly worthy of this designation is introduced into the soul, it kills the sin that lurks deep within.

—St Basil the Great, First Homily on Fasting

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