Saturday, March 15, 2008

Inward and Outward Fasting

From the talks of the Elder Barsanuphius of Optina:
Fasting is twofold: outward – abstinence from forbidden foods, and inward – abstinence in all the senses, especially sight, and from everything impure and foul. The one and the other are indissolubly connected to each other. Some people understand only outward fasting. So, for instance, one person joins a group of people and in conversation the judging of his neighbors begins. He takes an active part in it, and steals much from the honor of the neighbor. Dinnertime comes. The guest is offered cutlets, suckling pig, and so on. He resolutely declares that he will not eat non-fast foods. "Go ahead, eat," his hosts persuade him, "after all, not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth" (Matt. 15:17). "No, I'm strict about that," he declares.

Such a man doesn't even understand that he has already broken the inward fast, in judging his neighbor.

And this is why sobriety is so important. Laboring for his salvation, a man little-by-little purifies his heart from envy, hatred and slander, and love is instilled in it.
One wonders if it wouldn't be a good idea to add ingredient labels not only to foods, but to conversations as well.

Illustration: Portrait of St Barsanuphius.

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