In monasteries, there are no questions about fasting, but people living in the world are often at a loss: how to fast when colleagues or family do not fast, when it is necessary to work full-time and have a lot of time to get to work, when diseases and infirmities prevail, fatigue and stress?
The Optina old men considered the post very important and gave many instructions on fasting and abstinence.
The Monk Ambrose wrote about the necessity of observing posts:
Temptations of Christ in the desert. Fresco of Mount Athos monastery Dionisiat
"We can see the need for fasting in the Gospel and, first, from the example of the Lord Himself, who fasted 40 days in the desert, although He was God and did not need it. Secondly, to the question of His disciples, why they could not drive the demon out of man, the Lord answered: "By your unbelief" - and then added: - "This kind can not get out except by prayer and fasting" (Mark. 9: 29).
In addition, there is an indication in the Gospel that we must observe fasting on Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesday the Lord was betrayed to the crucifixion, and on Friday was crucified. "
The old man explained why we abstain from fast food:
"Fast food is not defilement. It does not defile, but makes the human body fat. And the holy apostle Paul says: "If our outward man is decaying, the inner one is renewed from day to day" (2 Corinth 4: 16). He called the outer man the body, but the soul inside. "
The Monk Varsonofy reminded that if we please the flesh, then its needs grow incredibly fast and suppress any spiritual movement of the soul:
"The saying is true:" The more you eat, the more you want. " If we just quench our hunger and thirst and get down to business or pray, we will not be torn off from our occupation. I myself experienced it myself.
If we please the flesh, then its needs grow immensely quickly, so that suppress any spiritual movement of the soul. "
The elder Ambrose instructed:
"Of course, it's a different matter if someone breaks fast by illness and bodily weakness. And those who are healthy from fasting are healthier and kinder and, in addition, are more durable, although seemingly skinny. With fasting and abstinence, and the flesh does not rebel so much, and sleep does not so prevail, and empty thoughts into your head get less and more willingly spiritual books are read and more understood. "
The Monk Varsonofy also explained to his children that fasting not only does not harm health, but, on the contrary, preserves it:
"But the commandments of the Lord are not painful. The Orthodox Church is not our stepmother, but our mother is kind, loving. It enjoins us, for example, to observe a moderate fasting, and it does not in any way harm health, but, on the contrary, preserves it.
And good doctors, even unbelievers, now argue that it is harmful to eat meat all the time: you need vegetable food at times - that is, in other words, you are prescribed a fast. Now in Moscow and other big cities, vegetarian dining rooms are set up so that the stomach rests on meat. On the contrary, because of the constant use of meat food, all sorts of diseases happen. "
There are cases of such bodily infirmities, when fasting is not harmful, but, on the contrary, is useful. The elder Varsonofy cited an example from his pastoral practice, when the patient did not observe the posts, fearing deterioration of health and even death. But when she began to fast on the advice of the elder, not only did she not die, but fully recovered:
"Two couples from a merchant family came to me, leading a pious life. He is a healthy man, but his wife was always ill and never kept fasting. I tell her:
"Start fasting, and it will all go away."
"What if I die of fasting?" This experience is terrible.
"You will not die," I answer, "but you will recover."
And indeed, the Lord helped her. She began to observe the posts established by the Church and is now perfectly healthy, as they say - "blood with milk."
To the sick child, who did not want to break the fast, the elder Ambrose answered:
"Your letter has been received. If your conscience does not agree, in order to consume you in fasting, although by illness, you should not despise or force your conscience. Fast food can not heal you of illness, and therefore afterwards you will be embarrassed that you have acted contrary to the good suggestions of your conscience. It is better to choose from lean food for yourself nutritious and digestible by your stomach.
It happens that some patients use fast food as a medicine and after that they bring repentance in this, that they violated the rules of the holy Church about fasting. But everyone needs to look and act according to their conscience and consciousness and in accordance with the mood of their spirit, so as to embarrass themselves even more embarrassed and double-headed. "
However, illnesses and infirmities are different for different people, and with one you can limit yourself, and with others it is better not to violate the prescriptions of doctors. The lack of taste of this or that food should not be an end in itself. Fasting is for people who are healthy, for the sick, fasting is the disease itself. From a post usually are released pregnant women, sick people, small children.
The elders of Optina did not give general recommendations to all patients, but advised to act with reasoning, in accordance with the body forces and the peculiarities of the diseases of each.
So, in connection with the coming post, the elder Ambrose gave instructions to the hostess of the house, burdened with numerous troubles with children and not having good health:
"Attend the upcoming post, try to conduct judiciously, reflecting on the body forces. You must remember that you are the mistress of the house, surrounded by children; in addition, ill health is attached to you.
All this shows that you need to take more care of spiritual virtues; with regard to the use of food and other bodily feats, you must have ahead of all good reasoning with humility ...
The Holy Ladder leads the words: "You can not rest, neither bdeh, nor on the land of the hills; but humbled, and save me, the Lord. " Imagine your infirmity with humility to the Lord, and He is strong enough to arrange everything for the good. "
The Monk warned:
"The weakness and soreness of the body is difficult, and it is difficult to cope with it. Not without reason, the holy Isaac Syrin, the first of the great fasters, wrote: "If we force a weak body more than his strength, then embarrassment comes to embarrassment."
Therefore, in order to be useless not to be embarrassed, it is better to condescend to the infirmity of the body, as much as it will be necessary. "
The elder Anatoly (Zertsalov) wrote:
"You can eat fish, because of weakness. But please do not be angry and do not keep thoughts for long. "
Some people complain that they do not eat lean food. But actually it is not. A sated belly requires more food, but it does not do good. The Monk Joseph advised:
"You write that it's scary to stay without milk. But the Lord is strong in giving strength to the infirm nature. It is good to eat perch and ruff ... "
The old man himself used very little food. Wondering this, one day they asked him if it was difficult for him to achieve such abstinence, or was it already given to him by nature? He responded in these words:
"If a man is not compelled, at least he ate all the Egyptian food and ate all the water of the Nile, his belly will say everything: the grease!"
The Monk Ambrose used to say briefly, as always, but aptly:
"Sweet mouth - a pig's trough."
Here, too, reasoning is required. There are such banquets and holidays, where our presence is absolutely not necessary, and you can safely abandon this celebration without breaking the fast. There are feasts, where you can secretly eat something lean for others, not being extolled by your fasting over others.
In cases of violation of fasting "for the sake of guests" the Monk Joseph taught:
"If when you break abstinence for the sake of guests, then do not be embarrassed, but reproach yourself for this and bring repentance."
The Monk Varsonofy admonished:
"Fasting is twofold: external and internal. The first is abstinence from fast food, the second is the abstention of all our senses, especially the sight, from everything that is unclean and bad. The one and the other post are inextricably linked to each other. Some people pay all attention only to an external post, not understanding the inner one at all.
For example, such a person comes to a society somewhere, conversations begin, in which often - the condemnation of others. He takes active part in them and abducts a lot from the honor of his neighbor. But here comes the time for dinner. The guest is offered a short meal: a cutlet, a piece of piglet, etc. He resolutely refuses.
"Well, eat," the owners persuade, "because what is not entered into the mouth, defiles a person, but what comes out of his mouth!
"No, I'm strict about this," he declares, completely unaware that when he condemned his neighbor, he already violated and even completely destroyed the post. "
There are other situations where we can not fully observe the fast, for example during travel. When we travel, we live in special conditions that do not depend on us.
Although if the journey is short and there is an opportunity to eat lean food, then you should refrain from the fast.
One can recall the instructions of the elder Varsonophia on this occasion:
"A young girl, Sophia Konstantinovna, who came to visit the Nilus at Optina Desert, complained to the old man in confession that, living in a strange house, she was deprived of the opportunity to observe fasts. "Well, why are you now being tempted by sausage on a fast-food day?" Asked the elder. S.K. horrified: how could the old man know this? "
Sometimes people deny the importance of fasting, they say that they agree with all the commandments, but they do not want to observe fasting, they can not, they consider it unnecessary, unnecessary. Elder Varsonofy on this occasion said that this is enemy's thoughts: the enemy is so tuned, because he hates the post:
"We know the strength of the post and its significance, if only from the fact that it is somehow particularly hateful to the enemy. They come to me for advice and for confession - I advise you to observe holy fasts. They agree with everyone, but I do not want, I can not, and so on. The enemy is so exciting: I do not want him to observe holy fasts ... "
You also need to remember that even lean food can be satiated to such an extent that it will be gluttony. For people of different physique and having different physical loads, the amount of food will also be different. The Monk Nikon reminded:
"One pound of bread is enough for one person's body, four pounds of bread is needed for the body of another man: he will not be satisfied with less bread. Therefore, St. John Chrysostom says that fasting is not one who consumes a small amount of food, but one who consumes food less than what is required for his body. This is the essence of abstinence. "
On the abstinence and three degrees of satiety, the Monk Ambrose wrote as follows:
"You write about food that it's hard for you to get used to eating a little, so that after dinner you will still be hungry. The holy fathers established three degrees of food concerning food: abstinence - to be somewhat hungry after eating, content - not to be full, or hungry, and satiety - to eat well, not without some burdens.
Of these three degrees, everyone can choose any, in their strengths and in their dispensation, healthy and sick. "
It happens that a person eats fast food on a fast day due to inattention, absent-mindedness, forgetfulness. How to treat such a mistake?
St. Joseph gives an example of a man who ate a fast pie on fasting day, at first he ate, forgetting about the fasting day, and then remembering, he ate all the same, arguing that he had already sinned:
"In the second letter you described the case that happened to you in Petersburg: one half of the short pie on Wednesday was eaten by oblivion, and the other half was eaten, having already recovered. The first sin is excusable, and the other is not excusable. It is as if someone had fled to oblivion in oblivion, but would have come to the middle of the road and still would have continued to run, despising the threat that threatens him. "
Sometimes a person tries to keep a fast, but does not stand, because of a lack of willpower violates and falls into despondency. So the Monk Joseph advised:
"When you can not abstain, then at least we will humble ourselves and reproach ourselves and not condemn others."
Also, the elder Joseph on the affliction of the child, who could not fast as he should, answered:
"You write that you have not fasted well-well, thank the Lord and for the way He helped to resist, remember the word of St. John of the Ladder:" Do not be restrained, but humble, and save the Lord! "
The Monk Ambrose warned against an unreasonable fast, when a man who had never before fasted lays on him an immodest fast, possibly incited by the vanity of vanity:
"And then we had here one example of an unreasonable fast. One landowner who spent his life in bliss wanted to suddenly observe a harsh post: he ordered a hemp seed for himself in the Great Lent and ate it with kvass, and from such a steep transition from bliss to fasting so spoiled his stomach that the doctor did not continue for a whole year could correct it.
However, there is also a patristic word that we should not be murderers of the body, but killers of passions. "
Abandonment of fast food is the external side of the matter. And we must remember that we keep fasting not for the sake of abstinence from food, but in order to reach heights on our spiritual path.
The Monk Lion did not approve of those who, after leaving prudent moderation, went into excessive bodily feats, hoping to be saved as if by them alone:
"I do not refute abstinence, it always has its strength, but not in its essence and strength, so that food can not be eaten, but let out of the heart any memory of memory and the like. This is the true fast, which the Lord most requires of us. "
The elder Varsonofy also reminded:
"Of course, fasting, if not accompanied by prayer and spiritual work, has almost no price. Fasting is not a goal, but a means, a benefit that facilitates prayer and spiritual development. "
The Monk Anatoly (Zertsalov) wrote:
"Do not eat bread and do not drink water or anything else - there is no fasting. For even demons do not eat or drink anything, and yet they are evil ... "
And the old man Nikon aptly and briefly remarked:
"" The true fast is an alienation "(as it is said in one verse of the Lenten)."
During the fast, irritability and anger often wake up in us. The fasting must release our spiritual forces for good deeds.
The Monk Ambrose taught:
"Abstinence needs to be not only from various food and drink, but from passions in general: from anger and irritability, from a twinge and condemnation, from secret and explicit waving, from stubbornness and inappropriate perseverance in one's own and the like."