Post date: Mar 17, 2013 8:19:45 PM
Here we are, at the beginning of the Fast. There are many elements to the fast. One of them is specifically directed to the struggle against the passions. The Fathers of the Church knew that gluttony is one of the sins to which we are most susceptible. Through history, economic conditions have often prevented the visible effects of gluttony from being widely seen; when there is little food, even if one is tempted to be a glutton, he does not have the opportunity to act on that temptation. In today’s Western society, food can be found in abundance and I think many (though obviously not all) of the weight problems in American society can be linked to this passion.
The Fathers also often spoke of it as the origin of many other vices, lust and avarice being just two. With so much connected to gluttony, it is clear that overcoming it is a big step towards holiness. I hope it is not surprising that fasting is an essential part of the process. With almost half the year being taken up by fasting periods, whether it be through the weekly fast of Wednesday and Friday, or in the longer fasts, we can say that fasting in the Orthodox Church is a habit; something that is done often and on a regular basis.
This is a common characteristic of the struggle against the passions in the Church. We do not simply struggle to remove the passion, but to acquire its opposite virtue. In the case of fasting, that means acquiring self-control. Since passions are a matter of habit, the way to acquiring virtue is a matter of changing habits. The Church constantly places before us the opportunity to acquire self-control as far as our appetite for food is concerned.
Of course, the Church also teaches us that a forced virtue is no virtue at all. Following the fast while grumbling about not being able to eat this, that, or the other thing, is not self-control. Doing that is also unlikely to cure the passion of gluttony, which may return in full force as soon as the fasting period is over. This is just one of the reasons why, while the Church has its fasting guidelines, the degree of individual fasting can be varied, preferably with the guidance of a spiritual father. With help, we should be able not only to undertake fasting with joy, but to sustain that joy through the entire fast.
May the Lord grant all of us a blessed Great Lent.
With love in Christ,