Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user. He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good. So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail
Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.
In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.
Let the mouth fast from disgraceful and abusive words, because, what gain is there when, on the one hand we avoid eating chicken and fish and, on the other, we chew-up and consume our brothers? He who condemns and blasphemes is as if he has eaten brotherly meat, as if he has bitten into the flesh of his fellow man. It is because of this that Paul frightened us, saying: "If you chew up and consume one another be careful that you do not annihilate yourselves."
Two Concepts of Fasting:
1. Fasting, in its specific meaning, is abstaining from food for a period of time, followed by eating food free from animal fat.
2. Fasting, in its general meaning, involves all kinds of asceticism and overcoming the lust of the flesh.
St. John Tebaysy said, "Fasting for the body is to be hungry for food, but fasting for the soul is to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness, to fast from evil and to remember sin." St. Paul said, "Every man that strives for mastery is temperate in all things. I keep under my body and bring it unto subjection lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be cast away." (1 Cor. 9: 25-27) Therefore, it is better that before we go into detail to discuss the subject of fasting in its special meaning, we discuss it in its general meaning: the subduing of the body because of its close linkage to fasting.
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“The true fast is that in which sins, anger, tongue, and instincts are under control.” (St. Basil the Great)
The Great Holy Fast is often referred to as “The Spring of the Spiritual Life.” Spring refers to the most beautiful season of the year, and a time of our spiritual renewal to be filled with the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). The 55 days of the Great Fast are considered the most Holy days of fasting of the Coptic Church. Fifty-five days include the forty days, which were fasted by the Lord Himself, the Passion Week, and the first initial week to prepare us spiritually before this great season of renewal. We fast to commemorate His sufferings on the Holy Cross for our spiritual discipline and our salvation.