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March 23, 2016 + Thoughts on Fasting and Temperance, Part II

By St. Sebastian Dabovich of Jackson and San Francisco

Do you not know that angels are the constant watchers and guardians of those that fast, just as the demons, those very friends of greasy stuffs, those lovers of blood and companions of drunkards, are the associates of those that give themselves up to debauchery and orgies during such a holy time as Lent? The angels and saints, as also the evil spirits, ally themselves with those they love; they become related with that which is pleasing to them. Every day in our life God points out a lesson to us concerning the eternal life, but we very seldom heed it; in a word, we generally don't care! Oh, is this not terrible to think of? And yet no one man will deliberately, so to speak, attempt to slight the Almighty Creator, no one who is capable of using his understanding in the very least degree. But yet, beloved brethren, we do it! We, day after day, in our worldly habits unconsciously say: "I don't care!" Have we a right to do anything at all unconsciously, when He, in Whose hand the very breath of our life flutters as a very weak, little thing, when He, I say, bestowed upon us this conscience? Over and over again we dare to directly disobey God's commands. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Heb. 10:31). But the Lord of Hosts is long-suffering, and to repentant Christians He is the Father of Mercies. Yet it behooves us, Christians, to zealously watch every step we take, to be sure that we are walking in the path that our Holy Church not only pointed out, but, as it were, even cut out for us by the stream of martyrs' blood, by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit abiding in the sainted bishops of the universal Councils, the night labor of praying and fasting fathers, and a host of pure, self-sacrificing, obedient women, such as Mary, Thecla, Barbara, Macrina. The Church says that in the time of Lent we must fast, and we should not disobey, because our Holy Church is the Church of God, and she tells us what God Himself wills that we should do. If we have all the learning of the nineteenth century, it will appear as a blank before the simple words of the Church, spoken in the power of the Spirit of God. We cannot, and we have no right (for who gave us such a privilege?), to excuse ourselves. We are with good intention, in simplicity of heart, to obey the commandments of the Church, and not worry about adapting ourselves to the ways of the Church, for when we obey with our whole heart, with a strong desire to fulfill the holy commandments, then our Holy Mother Church adapts herself to the weakness of her faithful children.

But let us turn back to the lesson pointed out for us. We may every day learn a new lesson about the next life, which is of so much importance, that the examples in this life are inexhaustible. Look around and observe. In this instance look into the kingdom of animals and birds. See the clean dove hovering over places that are clean, over the grain field, gathering seed for its young. Now look at the unsatiated raven, flapping its heavy wings around the meat market. And so we must strive to love a temperate life, that we may be beloved by angels, and hate all unnecessary luxury, so as not to fall with it into communion with demons.

Let us return with our memory to the commencement of our race, and experience will testify to that which we sometimes make light of. The law of fasting would not be given to us, had not the law of the first abstinence been transgressed. The stomach would not be named as an evil-minded thing, had not the pretext for pleasure entailed after it such consequences of sin. There would be no need of the plow and the laboring oxen, the planting of seed, the watering shower, the mutual change of the seasons of the year, the winter binding in fetters and the summer opening up all things. In a word there would be no need of such periodically repeating toil, had not we, through the mistaken pleasure of our first parents, condemned ourselves to this round of labor. Yet we were on the way of leading another kind of life, in comparison with what we see now, and which we hope to regain once more, when we are liberated from this life of passion by the resurrection. Such is the mercy of God's condescension towards us, that we should be again restored to the former dignity, which we had enjoyed through His love to man, and which mercy we did not carefully keep. Fasting is a type of the future life, an imitation of the incorruptible existence. There are no feastings and sensual gratifications over there.

Do not flee from the difficulty of fasting, but set up hope against the trial, and you will obtain the desired abstinence from food. Repeat to yourself the words of the pious: "Fasting is bitter, but paradise is sweet; thirst is tormenting, but the spring, from which he who drinks will thirst never again, is at hand." The body is importunate, but the immaterial soul is much stronger—strength is dead, but nigh is the resurrection. Let us say to our much-craving stomach what the Lord said to the tempter: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Luke 4:4). Fasting is not hunger, but a little abstinence from food, not an inevitable punishment, but a voluntary continence, not a servile necessity, but a free selection of the wise. Pray and you will be strengthened; call, and a prompt helper will come to your assistance.

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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