We are now in the season of Lent, and fasting is one of the very important elements of its observance. But what is the true essence of fasting? The saints knew very well the real meaning of fasting, saints such as St. Maximus of Turin and St. Francis de Sales just to name a few. Let's learn from what these saints taught about fasting.
Excerpts from St. Maximus of Turin's Sermo. 35 on Fasting.
1. By fasting we control the passions of the body; by prayer we nourish the soul.
2. There is a useless and empty fast that empties the stomach and the intestines but does not empty the mind of worldliness and the heart of wickedness.
3. What's the use of abstaining from food while the soul is indulging in sin. The body is weakened by fasting while the soul grows stronger in wickedness. The body refrains from strong wine while the thoughts wallow in the wine of avarice. Such fasting weakens the body but does not save the soul.
4. True fasting is to fast from sin, from food and even from the good things in life. The body abstain from food so that the soul may abstain from vices.
5. True fasting is meant to draw God's pity on us. The only fasting pleasing to God is when we chastise our bodies with abstinence while clothing our souls with humility.
And some words of wisdom from St. Francis de Sales about fasting, he said:
"A man given to fasting thinks himself very devout if he fasts, although his heart may be filled with hatred. Much concerned with sobriety, he does not dare to wet his tongue with wine or even water but won't hesitate to drink deep of his neighbor's blood by detraction and calumny."
St. Maximus of Turin, pray for us.
St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.