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Fasting begins the Christian Life

When Our Lord preached the Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount, He repeated the call of St. John the Baptist to penance. As John called upon men to “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance” in the desert, Jesus called His disciples to three penitential acts: fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

John Cassian, the spiritual master who lived in the 5th century, wrote:

The first conflict we must enter upon is that against gluttony.

Cassian, Institutes 5.3

If it is true that the spiritual life begins with the destruction of gluttony in our souls, then fasting must be the means of beginning the Christian life.

In fasting, we do not need to do anything. We do not need to go anywhere. We actually need to stop doing something. We need to rest from sin, just as we need to rest from work on the Lord’s Day. Fasting is easy. We simply need to stop.

If we find fasting to be difficult, our problem is revealed. We are out of control. This is what must be changed first–and it is the easiest of the things that need to be changed in us.

Gluttony is the first of the eight principal faults Cassian writes of:

“First, Gluttony or the pleasures of the palate; secondly, Fornication; thirdly, Covetousness, which means Avarice, or, as it may more properly be called, the love of money; fourthly, Anger; fifthly, Dejection; sixthly, Accidie, which is heaviness or weariness of heart; seventhly, kenodoxia which means foolish or vain glory; eighthly, Pride.”

Cassian, Institutes 5.1


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