August 21, 2022

Homily for the Tenth Sunday of Matthew - Prayer and Fasting (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homily for the Tenth Sunday of Matthew

Prayer and Fasting

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The miracle we heard today refers to the healing of a demon possessed young man, who when possessed by demons fell into fire and water, had tendencies of self-destruction. Christ cast out the demons and the young man became well. To a related question from the disciples, Christ answered: "This kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:21). Christ cast out the demon with the power of His divinity, the disciples could cast it out with the power of Christ, however, after they pray and fast.

In this answer of Christ, the great value of prayer and fasting can be seen. It is not about autonomous virtues, but about human actions that are done by the Grace of God and offer man great energy, since then man becomes a sharer of Christ's gifts. I will briefly mention prayer and fasting.

Prayer is praise, thanksgiving, confession and supplication to God, it is an offering of all the powers and energies of the human soul to God, and of course it is an infusion of divine Grace. Through prayer, the human soul is healed, primarily the noetic part of the soul and then all its other actions, such as the intellectual, incensive and desiring. It is about a transformation of the inner world of man, restoring it to its original state. Because all these powers of the soul from the beginning were created to have a direction and impulse towards God, but with sin they lost this original purpose and turned towards creation. Now, with prayer, this situation is restored.

Fasting is the liberation of bodily energies from enslavement to creation. Just as there are passions of the soul (pride, egoism, vanity, etc.), so there are passions of the body (gluttony, greed, avarice, etc.). Passions of the body show the enslavement of man to creation, to material goods. Thus, fasting manifests man's desire and effort, with the Grace of God, to release himself from this dependence and return the body to its original state, as it was created by God.

Of course, we are talking about prayer that is connected to the soul and fasting that is connected to the body. However, these two are not completely separate, but there is a great relationship between them. Man is a unity of soul and body, so there are joint actions between soul and body. The soul does not act independently of the body, nor the body independently of the soul. Thus, prayer also sanctifies the body, since the Grace of God through the soul is channeled into the body as well, just as fasting heals not only the body, but also the soul, so the whole person is sanctified.

However, the whole person must have the Holy Spirit together with the soul and the body. Of course, man has a soul and a body, but this unity should also be graced with the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul speaks of a man of the body and a man of the soul, but also of a man of the spirit, which indicates the person who is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This means that prayer and fasting are observed in all religions and can be done by people formally, mechanically or for other reasons. However, the Christian must fast, because he wants to gain unity with Christ, to attract His Grace, to be transformed by the Grace of God. Thus, man with Christ-like prayer and fasting is illumined, brightened, transformed psychically and physically, and in this way he expels the devil and his actions, which devil is a dark spirit and darkens those who are associated with him.

If we want the nous, the soul and the body to be illumined, and to transform our whole existence, to be freed from all psychic and physical dependence, we must pray and fast, with all the theological perspective that our Church sets.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.