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March 16, 2016 + Thoughts on Fasting and Temperance, Part I

By St. Sebastian Dabovich of Jackson and San Francisco

Man, having received his present being, consisting of a visible body and an intellectual, immaterial soul, is a being complex. But the nature and worth of both the just-named parts are not of equal value. The body is made as an instrument that is moved by the order of a ruler; the soul is designed to govern and command it, as the superior of an inferior. The soul, receiving from the intellect and reason the means by which it makes distinctions, may, possessing such a quality of distinction, separate the truly beautiful from its common imitation; it may perceive God as the Creator and Designer, not only of that which is underneath our feet and received by our senses, but that, also, which is hidden from the eyes, and which the immaterial mind may contemplate, having the power of imagination at its command.

Practicing, as the godly one, in righteousness and virtue, it aspires unto divine wisdom, and, obeying its laws and commands, withdraws as much as possible from the desires of the flesh, comes nearer to God, and strives by all its strength to ally itself with the good. The particular and most importantobjectofthissacredphilosophyis temperance; as it is the mind, which is not disturbed, but free of all influences of pollution, arising from the stomach or other senses, that has a continual action and contemplates the heavenly, the things pertaining to its own sphere.

And so it behooves us, the lovers of all things pure, the lovers of the word of God, yea—even Christians, to love the present time, which our holy Church has set apart for a special opportunity of obtaining greater grace in the sight of God. We should hail with joy such an opportunity! The time I refer to is Great Lent. We should love this fast as the teacher of sobriety, the mother of virtue, the educator of the children of God, the guardian of the unruly, the quiet of the soul, the staff of life, the peace that is firm and serene. Its importance and strictness pacifies the passions, puts out the fire of anger and wrath, cools and quiets the agitation produced by overeating. And, as in summer time, when the sweltering heat of the sun hangs over the ground, the northern breeze proves a blessing to the sufferers, scattering the closeness by its pleasant coolness, so does likewise fasting, destroying the overabundance of heat in the body, which is caused by gluttony. Proving to be of so much benefit to the soul, Lent brings the body no less benefit. It refines the coarseness of matter, releases the body of part of its burden, lightens the blood vessels that are often ready to burst with an overflow of blood, and prevents them from becoming clogged, which may happen as easily as it occurs with a water pipe, that, when being forced to maintain the abundance of water pressed into it by a powerful machine, bursts from the pressure. And the head feels light and clear when the blood vessels do not nervously beat, and the brain does not become clouded by the spreading of evaporations. Abstinence gives the stomach ease, which relieves it from a forced condition of slavery, and from boiling like a boiler, working with a sickly effort to cook the food it contains. The eyes look clear and undimmed, without the haze that generally shadows the vision of a glutton. The activity of the limbs is stable, that of the hand firm; the breath is regular and even, and not burdened by pent-up organs. The speech of him who fasts is plain and distinct; the mind is pure, and then it is that the mind shows forth its true image of God, when, as if in an immaterial body, it quietly and undisturbedly exercises the functions belonging to it. The sleep is quiet and free from all apparitions. Not to extend unnecessarily, we may sum up by saying that fasting is the common peace of the soul and body. Such are the beneficent results of a temperate life; and such are the precepts of a Christian life. It is a law of the Holy Church, which prescribes that we should fast during the Lenten season.

From the Saint Herman Calendar 2008, pp. 3-4. Posted on 3/23/2008 with the blessing of Abbot Gerasim. Accessed from the Orthodox Christian Information Center on 3/10/2016.


Martyr Sabinus of Egypt

Troparion, Tone 1

With godliness you preached to the ungodly
that the Creator of all took flesh without undergoing change.
You excelled in your holy contest,
for by meeting death in the river you attained to the Source of incorruption.
Therefore, we praise you, blessed Sabinas. 

Kontakion, Tone 2

God-bearing Sabinas,
you are a divine root, an unfading blossom,
a branch heavily-laden with fruit.
Fill with gladness those who honor your memory,
and unceasingly pray for us all!

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