November 15, 2019

Fasting: "As Old As Humanity"

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

We have entered the Christmas season preparing, through prayer and fasting according to the tradition of our Holy Church, to celebrate the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Who today talks about fasting? Who cares about this ancient institution of our Church? Few perhaps, such as clergy, monastics and certain others whom the majority call outdated and backward.

Even the Shepherds of the Church do not refer to fasting, nor do they speak about it, in order to not be classified as too serious or anachronistic, who think with the mind of someone old fashioned.

Let us allow Basil the Great, who was not only a social father of the Church, but was also a great ascetic, who experienced fasting, was nourished by it, and taught it to his flock in Caesarea, to speak about it. His words have a lot to offer us:

"Do you think that I am resting the origin of fasting on the Law? Why, fasting is even older than the Law. If you wait a little, you will discover the truth of what I have said. Do not suppose that fasting originat­ed with the Day of Atonement, appointed for Israel on the tenth day of the seventh month. No, go back through history and inquire into the ancient origins of fasting. It is not a recent invention; it is an heirloom handed down by our fathers. Everything distinguished by antiquity is venerable. Have re­spect for the antiquity of fasting. It is as old as humanity itself; it was pre­scribed in Paradise. It was the first commandment that Adam received: 'Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall not eat.'1 Through the words 'ye shall not eat' the law of fasting and abstinence is laid down. If Eve had fasted from the tree, we would not now be in need of this fast. 'They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.'2 We have been wounded through sin; we are healed through repentance, but repent­ance without fasting is fruitless."3


1. Gen. 2:17.
2. Matt. 9:12.
3. First Homily on Fasting.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.