John Chrysostom: Why Do We Fast? Saturday, Feb 25 2012 

During this Lenten season each of the faithful would undergo a thorough purification by means of prayer, almsgiving, fasting, watching, repentant tears, confession, and every other remedial measure.

Then when they had done all in their power to cleanse their consciences, they could approach the sacraments.

It is certain that the fathers did well to use such lenience in their desire to establish us in the habit of fasting.

As we know, we could proclaim a fast throughout the whole year, and no one would pay any attention.

But now, with a set time for fasting of only forty days, even the most sluggish need no exhortation to rouse themselves to undergo it; they accept it as a regular observance and recurring encouragement.

So, when someone asks you why you fast, you should not answer: because of the Passover, or because of the Cross. Neither of these is the reason for our fasting.

We fast because of our sins, since we are preparing to approach the sacred mysteries.

Moreover, the Christian Passover is a time for neither fasting nor mourning, but for great joy, since the Cross destroyed sin and made expiation for the whole world.

It reconciled ancient enmities and opened the gates of heaven.

It made friends of those who had been filled with hatred, restoring them to the citizenship of heaven.

Through the Cross our human nature has been set at the right hand of the throne of God, and we have been granted countless good things besides.

Therefore we must not give way to mourning or sadness; we must rejoice greatly instead over all these blessings.

Listen to the exultant words of Saint Paul: God forbid that I should boast of anything but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And elsewhere he writes: God shows his own love for us because when we were still sinners Christ died for our sake.

Saint John’s message is the same. God loved the world so much, he declares, and then, passing over every other manifestation of God’s love, he comes at once to the crucifixion.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that is, he gave him up to be crucified, so that those who believed in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

If, then, the Cross has its foundation in love and is our glory, we must not say we mourn because of the Cross.

Far from it. What we have to mourn over is our own sinfulness, and that is why we fast.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Oratio 3 Adversus Iudaeos (PG 48, 867-868);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Ash Wednesday, Year 2.

Aelred of Rievaulx: “They shall Beat their Swords into Ploughshares and their Spears into Sickles” Friday, Dec 2 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

Our way of life is a strongly fortified city surrounded on all sides by sound observances which, like walls and towers, rise up to prevent our enemy from deceiving us and enticing us away from our Emperor’s army.

What a wall poverty is! How well it defends us against the pride of the world, against harmful and ruinous vanities and superfluities.

What a tower silence is! It repels the assaults of contention, quarrelling, dissension, and detraction.

What about obedience, humility, cheap clothing? What about a restricted diet? They are walls, they are towers against vices, against the attacks of our enemies.

In this city we declare ourselves, not Romans, but angelic beings. For these observances demonstrate that we belong to the fellowship of the angels and are not among the slaves of the Romans.

When we make profession of this way of life the words of Isaiah are fulfilled: They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles.

Then he goes on: Nation shall not lift sword against nation nor ever again be trained for war.

[…] Let us think about the sword of which the Lord said: Everyone who takes up the sword will perish by the sword, and the ploughshares by which the earth of our heart is broken, in accordance with the text: Rend your hearts and not your garments.

And we shall see at the present time countless persons changing their swords into ploughshares.

The sword is wrongdoing. With this sword a person wounds himself before he does anyone else; as Saint Augustine says:

‘Every person who is a wrongdoer harms himself before he harms anyone else because, even before he injures the other person, by making up his mind to injure someone else he injures himself, slaying himself with the sword of wrongdoing.

This is the sword of which the Lord says to Peter: Everyone who takes up the sword will perish by the sword.

How many there are, brothers, who at the present time are beating this sword of wrongdoing into the ploughshare of compunction!

Many who have previously killed their soul with the sword of sin now rend their heart by the compunction of penance.

Many today are also changing their spears – that is, the subtlety of their wits by which they used to drag many others down into sin with them – into sickles with which they are reaping a spiritual harvest so that they may come to meet the Lord bearing in their hands the sheaves of justice and salvation.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): The Liturgical Sermons 3.7-13, tr. Berkeley & Pennington (2001), from Cistercian Fathers 58, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday in 1st Week of Advent, Year 2.

John Chrysostom: Christ is Risen, and the Demons are Fallen! Christ is Risen, and the Angels Rejoice! Christ is Risen, and Life Reigns! Sunday, Apr 24 2011 

If any man be devout and loveth God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!

[…] If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.

If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.

If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings.

Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.

If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.

And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, will accept the last even as the first.

He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.

[…] Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord.

Receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second.

You rich and poor together, hold high festival!

You sober and you heedless, honour the day!

Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast.

The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.

The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal Kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.

He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.

He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.

And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.

It was embittered, for it was mocked.

It was embittered, for it was slain.

It was embittered, for it was overthrown.

It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.

It took a body, and met God face to face.

It took earth, and encountered Heaven.

It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen, and life reigns!

Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Paschal Homily @ Pravoslavie.

Francis de Sales: Perseverance Springs from God’s Mercy, His Most Precious Gift Saturday, Mar 26 2011 

Perseverance is the most desirable gift we can hope for in this life, and the one which…we cannot have but from the hand of God, who alone can assure him that stands, and help him up that falls.

Therefore we must incessantly demand it, making use of the means which Our Saviour has taught us to the obtaining of it: prayer, fasting, alms-deeds, frequenting the sacraments, intercourse with the good, the hearing and reading of holy words.

Now since the gift of prayer and devotion is liberally granted to all those who sincerely will to consent to divine inspirations, it is consequently in our power to persevere.

Not of course that I mean to say that our perseverance has its origin from our power, for on the contrary I know it springs from God’s mercy, whose most precious gift it is.

I mean that though it does not come from our power, yet it comes within our power, by means of our will, which we cannot deny to be in our power.

For though God’s grace is necessary for us, to will to persevere, yet is this will in our power, because heavenly grace is never wanting to our will, and our will is not wanting to our power.

And indeed according to the great S. Bernard’s opinion, we may all truly say with the Apostle that:

Neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).

Yes, indeed, for no creature can take us away by force from this holy love; we only can forsake and abandon it by our own will, except for which there is nothing to be feared in this matter.

So…we ought to place our whole hope in God, who will perfect the work of our salvation which he has begun in us, if we be not wanting to his grace.

For we are not to think that he who said to the paralytic: Go, and do not will to sin again gave him not also power to avoid that willing which he forbade him.

And surely he would never exhort the faithful to persevere, if he were not ready to furnish them with the power.

[…] We must often then with the great King demand of God the heavenly gift of perseverance, and hope that he will grant it us:

Cast me not off in the time of old age; when my strength shall fail, do not thou forsake me (Ps. 70:9).

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Treatise on the Love of God, 3,4.

Leo the Great: We Aim to Keep the Super-Excellent Mystery of the Lord’s Passion with Bodies and Hearts Purified Friday, Mar 11 2011 

There are no seasons which are not full of divine blessings, and access is ever open to us to God’s mercy through His grace.

Nevertheless, at this time – when the return of the day, on which we were redeemed, invites us to all the duties of godliness – the minds of all should be moved with greater zeal to spiritual progress, and animated by larger confidence.

Thus we may aim to keep the super-excellent mystery of the Lord’s Passion with bodies and hearts purified.

These great mysteries do indeed require from us such unflagging devotion and unwearied reverence that we should remain in God’s sight always the same, as we ought to be found on the Easter feast itself.

But few have this constancy, and, so long as the stricter observance is relaxed in consideration of the frailty of the flesh, and so long as one’s interests extend over all the various actions of this life, even pious hearts must get some soils from the dust of the world.

Therefore the Divine Providence has with great beneficence taken care that the discipline of the forty days should heal us and restore the purity of our minds, during which the faults of other times might be redeemed by pious acts and removed by chaste fasting.

[…] Let us take care to obey the Apostle’s precepts, cleansing “ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1).

Let us control the struggles that go on between our two natures, the spirit which, if it is under the guidance of God, should be the governor of the body, may uphold the dignity of its rule.

[…] Our fast does not consist chiefly of mere abstinence from food, nor are dainties withdrawn from our bodily appetites with profit, unless the mind is recalled from wrong-doing and the tongue restrained from slandering.

This is a time of gentleness and long-suffering, of peace and tranquillity: when all the pollutions of vice are to be eradicated and continuance of virtue is to be attained by us.

Now let godly minds boldly accustom themselves to forgive faults, to pass over insults, and to forget wrongs.

[…] The self-restraint of the religious should not be gloomy, but sincere; no murmurs of complaint should be heard from those who are never without the consolation of holy joys.

[…] Forego vengeance, forgive offences:  exchange severity for gentleness, indignation for meekness, discord for peace.

Let everyone find us self-restrained, peaceable, kind:  that our fastings may be acceptable to God.

For in a word to Him we offer the sacrifice of true abstinence and true godliness, when we keep ourselves from all evil.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 42, 1,2,6.

Leo the Great: When the Outer Man is Subdued, Let the Inner Man be Refreshed Saturday, Feb 20 2010 

(Conclusion – continued from previous post…)

Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on these arms, let us enter actively and fearlessly on the contest set before us:  so that in this fasting struggle we may not rest satisfied with only this end, that we should think abstinence from food alone desirable.

For it is not enough that the substance of our flesh should be reduced, if the strength of the soul be not also developed.

When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights.

Let every Christian scrutinise himself, and search severely into his inmost heart:  let him see that no discord cling there, no wrong desire be harboured.

[…] Accordingly, dearly-beloved, being mindful of our weakness, because we easily fall into all kinds of faults, let us by no means neglect this special remedy and most effectual healing of our wounds.

Let us remit, that we may have remission:  let us grant the pardon which we crave:  let us not be eager to be revenged when we pray to be forgiven.

Let us not pass over the groans of the poor with deaf ear, but with prompt kindness bestow our mercy on the needy, that we may deserve to find mercy in the judgment.

And he that, aided by God’s grace, shall strain every nerve after this perfection, will keep this holy fast faithfully.

Free from the leaven of the old wickedness, in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:8), he will reach the blessed Passover, and by newness of life will worthily rejoice in the mystery of man’s reformation through Christ our Lord Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 39,5-6.

« Previous Page