February 7, 2010

The Childhood Fasting of Hosios Loukas

St. Luke the Righteous of Mount Steirion (Feast Day - February 7)

Saint Luke, as a child, cannot be compared to other youngsters. While other boys love to play, laugh, and run hither and thither, Luke was quiet and well-behaved, and showed himself in every activity as one with the gravity of an old man. The child also manifested sober habits and a strong love for continence and self-control.

From his earliest years he rejected rich dishes. He refrained from eating not only meat, but also cheese and eggs. Any pleasing or fattening foods were refused by him. He even gave up eating fruits. He lived only on barley bread, and vegetables and legumes with water. On Wednesday and Friday, he abstained from everything until the setting of the sun. What was most marvelous about his diet and ascesis was that he learned such strictness from no one, but was moved from within himself to avoid fatty foods and sweets which please the palate. Of his own volition, he chose those labors that mortified his flesh. Though he often went hungry, he loved the fire of abstinence which reduced to ashes the fuel of the passions.

Now on one occasion, as the divine Luke was sitting at table with his parents, they did not perceive that his shunning of foods was done by him for the sake of God and bringing his mind and body under subjection. They imagined that he did it out of childish levity and ignorance. Nevertheless, they decided to put their son to the test in the following manner. They placed meat and fish together in one pot and prepared it. The pot was then placed on the table. Luke, meanwhile, was unaware of his parents' experiment. When the father put the fish on his son's plate, the lad partook of it. Luke then began sensing in the fish the presence of meat, which heaviness had been imparted when the foods were cooked together. Luke then perceived the artifice that his parents wrought upon him. He was so saddened and grieved by the ruse that he started vomiting that which he ate. As further proof of his long-suffering and patience, he remained fasting for three days. He wept all that time, as though he had willingly committed the act. His parents, thereupon, finally understood their son's intention and aim, which they did not deem human but divine. As a result, they left him to tread his own path as God enlightened him. And despite his exacting life, Luke did not neglect showing his parents proper respect and love and obedience in his daily chores.

Saint Luke continued and increased his strict mode of abstinence and fasting throughout his life.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
God, Who by judgments known to Him chose thee from when thou wast formed, that thou, O Luke, mightest be right well-pleasing unto Him; from the womb made thee His own and He sanctified thee; as His own true faithful servant hath He shown thee forth and hath set aright thy footsteps, ever guiding thee as the Friend of man; thou rejoicest before Him now.

From The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church - February 7.