There is both a physical and a spiritual fast. In the physical fast the body abstains
from food and drink. In the spiritual fast, the faster abstains from evil intentions,
words and deeds. One who truly fasts abstains from anger, rage, malice, and vengeance. One
who truly fasts abstains from idle and foul talk, empty rhetoric, slander, condemnation,
flattery, lying and all manner of spiteful talk. In a word, a real faster is one who
withdraws from all evil.
As much as you subtract from the body, so much will you add to the strength of the
Holy Hierarch Basil the Great
Do you fast? Then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, do not
forget the imprisoned, have pity on the tortured, comfort those who grieve and who weep,
be merciful, humble, kind, calm, patient, sympathetic, forgiving, reverent, truthful and
pious, so that God might accept your fasting and might plentifully grant you the fruits of
Fasting of the body is food for the soul.
Holy Hierarch John Chrysostom
Whosoever rejects the fasts, deprives himself and others of weapons against his own
much-suffering flesh and against the devil, who have power over us especially as the
result of our intemperance.
Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt
The greatest of the virtues is prayer, while their foundation is fasting.
Hierarch Ignaty Brianchaninov
If thou, O man, dost not forgive everyone who has sinned against
thee, then do not trouble thyself with fasting. If thou dost
not forgive the debt of thy brother, with whom thou art angry
for some reason, then thou dost fast in vain God will not
accept thee. Fasting will not help thee, until thou wilt become
accomplished in love and in the hope of faith. Whoever fasts
and becomes angry, and harbors enmity in his heart, such a one
hates God and salvation is far from him.
Ephraim the Syrian
It is necessary most of all for one who is fasting to curb anger,
to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite
heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his
conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good
has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency
we have corrected in ourself in the present week. This is true
Saint John Chrysostom
A excellent faster is he who restrains himself from every impurity,
who imposes abstinence on his tongue and restrains it from idle
talk, foul language, slander, condemnation, flattery and all manner
of evilspeaking, who abstains from anger, rage, malice and
vengeance and withdraws from every evil.
Seest thou what fasting does: it heals illnesses, drives out
demons, removes wicked thoughts, makes the heart pure. If someone
has even been seized by an impure spirit, let him know that this
kind, according to the word of the Lord, "goeth not out
but by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:21).
Athanasius the Great
By fasting it is possible both to be delivered from future evils
and to enjoy the good things to come. We fell into disease through
sin; let us receive healing through repentance, which is not fruitful
Saint Basil the Great
The strictness of the Quadragesima [the Forty Days] mortifies
the passions, extinguishes anger and rage, cools and calms every
agitation springing up from gluttony. And just as in the summer,
when the burning heat of the sun spreads over the earth, the northern
wind renders a benefaction to those who are scorched, by dispersing
the sultriness with a tender coolness: so fasting also provides
the same, by driving out of bodies the burning which is the result
Saint Asterius of Amasia
As bodily food fattens the body, so fasting strengthens the soul;
imparting it an easy flight, it makes it able to ascend on high,
to contemplate lofty things and to put the heavenly higher than
the pleasant and pleasurable things of life.
Fasting is the mother of health; the friend of
chastity; the partner of humblemindedness (illnesses are
frequently born in many from a disorderly and irregular diet).
Simeon, the New Theologian
Give the body as much food as it needs, and
thou shalt receive no harm, even if thou shouldest eat three
times a day. If a man eats but once a day, but undiscerningly,
what benefit is there to him from that. The warfare of
fornication follows excess in eating - and after this the enemy
weighs down the body with sleep in order to defile it.
Saints Barsanuphius and John
As a flame of fire in dry wood, so too is a
body with a full belly.
Venerable Isaac the Syrian
Always establish one and the same hour for
taking food, and take it for fortifying the body and not for
Venerable Anthony the Great
Do not neglect the Forty Days; it constitutes an imitation of
Christ's way of life.
Saint Ignatius the Godbearer
The point is not only that we should come to church each day,
that we should continually listen to one and the same thing, and
that we should fast for the whole Forty Days. No! If we, from
continually coming here and listening to the teaching, do not
acquire anything and do not derive any good for our soul from
the time of the fast all this does not procure for us any
benefit, but rather serves for our greater condemnation, when
despite such concern for us by the Church we remain just the same
Do not say to me that I fasted for so many days, that I did not
eat this or that, that I did not drink wine, that I endured want;
but show me if thou from an angry man hast become gentle, if thou
from a cruel man hast become benevolent. If thou art filled with
anger, why oppress thy flesh? If hatred and avarice are within
thee, of what benefit is it that thou drinkest water? Do not
show forth a useless fast: for fasting alone does not ascend to
Saint John Chrysostom
Let thy mind fast from vain thoughts; let thy memory fast from
remembering evil; let thy will fast from evil desire; let thine
eyes fast from bad sights: turn away thine eyes that thou
mayest not see vanity; let thine ears fast from vile songs
and slanderous whispers; let thy tongue fast from slander, condemnation,
blasphemy, falsehood, deception, foul language and every idle
and rotten word; let thy hands fast from killing and from
stealing another's goods; let thy legs fast from going to evil
deeds: Turn away from evil, and do good.
Saint Tichon of Zadonsk
The holy fasters did not approach strict fasting suddenly, but
little by little they became capable of being satisfied by the
most meagre food. Despite all this they did not know weakness,
but were always hale and ready for action. Among them sickness
was rare, and their life was extraordinarily lengthy.
To the extent that the flesh of the faster becomes thin and light,
spiritual life arrives at perfection and reveals itself through
wondrous manifestations, and the spirit performs its actions as
if in a bodiless body. External feelings are shut off, and the
mind that renounces the earth is raised up to heaven and is wholly
immersed in the contemplation of the spiritual world.
Seraphim of Sarov
The more days of fasting there are, the better the healing is;
the longer the period of abstinence, the more abundant the gain
of salvation is.
We are told: It is no big deal to eat non-Lenten food during Lent. It is no big deal if
you wear expensive beautiful outfits, go to the theater, to parties, to
masquerade balls, use beautiful expensive china, furniture, expensive carriages
and dashing steeds, amass and hoard things, etc.
Yet what is it that turns our heart away from God, away from the Fountain
of Life? Because of what do we lose eternal life? Is it not because of
gluttony, of expensive clothing like that of the rich man of the Gospel story,
is it not because of theaters and masquerades?
What turns us hard-hearted toward the poor and even toward our relatives?
Is it not our passion for sweets, for satisfying the belly in general,
for clothing, for expensive dishes, furniture, carriages, for money and other
things? Is it possible to serve God and mammon, to be a friend to the world and a friend to God, to serve Christ and
Belial? That is impossible.
Why did Adam and Eve lose paradise, why did they fall into sin and death?
Was it not because of one evil? Let us attentively consider why we do not care about the salvation of our soul,
which cost the Son of God so dearly. Why do we compound sin upon sin, fall endlessly into opposing to God, into a life of
vanity? Is it not because of a passion for earthly things and especially for earthly pleasures?
What makes our hearts become crude?
Why do we become flesh and not spirit, perverting our moral nature?
Is it not because of a passion for food, drink, and other earthly
comforts? How after this can one
say that it does not matter whether you eat non-Lenten food during Lent? The fact that we talk this way is in fact pride, idle
thought, disobedience, refusal to submit to God, and separation from Him.
Holy Righteous St. John of Kronstadt
Fasting is wonderful, because it tramples our sins like a dirty
weed, while it cultivates and raises truth like a flower.
The reason that fasting has an effect on the
spirits of evil rests in its powerful effect on our own spirit.
A body subdued by fasting brings the human spirit freedom, strength,
sobriety, purity, and keen discernment.
St. Ignatiy Brianchaninov
True fasting lies is rejecting evil, holding one's tongue, suppressing
one's hatred, and banishing one's lust, evil words, lying, and
betrayal of vows.
St. Basil the Great
Fasts do not shorten a man's life. Venerable Symeon the Stylite
lived for 103 years, Saint Cyril the Anchorite lived 108 years,
Saint Alypius the Stylite 118, Venerable John the Silent
104 years, Anthony and Theodosius the Great for
105 years, Venerable Paul of Thebes 113, Paul of Komel
112, Venerable Macarius of Alexandria 100, Venerable
Sergius of Radonezh 78, Venerable Cyril Belozersky
90, Macarius Zheltovodsky 95.
Teachings of St. Seraphim of Sarov on Fasting
Fasting consists not just of eating rarely, but also of eating little. And
not just in eating only one meal, but in not eating much. Foolish is the faster,
who waits for a specific time [to eat a meal], but then at the time of the meal
is completely consumed, body and mind, with insatiable eating.
In proportion to how the body of the faster becomes thin and light, so the
spiritual life attains perfection and reveals itself in wonderful ways. Then the
soul acts as if in an incorporeal body. Carnal feelings are shut off, and the
spirit, released from the world, ascends to heaven and completely immerses
itself in contemplation of the spiritual world.
Every day one should partake of just enough food to permit the body, being
fortified, to be a friend and helper to the soul in performing the virtues.
Otherwise, with the body exhausted, the soul may also weaken.