“There were those among them who received a reputation for piety and behaved shamefully without being noticed, decorating themselves on the outside and gaining a reputation of gentleness. They undertook fasts and made prayers, thinking that through this they could turn aside God’s anger.…”1
“But it is unusual that those wishing to receive mercy in another way should annoy the legislator and provoke him to wrath by not liking to do the things commanded. For it is necessary that all saints who wish to draw near to God not only do the good works to be done but also that they be free from all reproach.”2
“If you have fasted two or three days, do not think yourself better than others who do not fast. You fast and are angry; the other eats and wears a smiling face. You work off your irritation and hunger in quarrels. He uses food in moderation and gives God thanks.”3
‘You see then that fasting is certainly not considered by the Lord as a thing that is good in its own nature, because it becomes good and pleasing to God not by itself but by in conjunction with other works. Again, in light of surrounding circumstances it may be regarded as not merely vain but actually hateful, as the Lord says: “When they fast, I will not hear their prayers.”’4
“[…] we should demonstrate, along with abstinence from food, abstinence also from whatever is harmful, and should give close attention to spiritual duties. The person fasting ought to be reserved, peaceful, meek, humble, indifferent to the esteem of this world.”5
“In this way, in humility and charity, by fasting and giving, by restraining ourselves and forgiving, by paying out good deeds and not paying back bad ones, by turning away from evil and doing good, our prayer seeks peace and obtains it.”6
“If you feel no devotion and your heart is dry, continue to pray: call and cry without ceasing until your prayer wins a scrap or drop of grace to restore you; you need Me; I do not need you”7
“The reason the disciples did not fast was not because of gluttony but because of the dispensations of providence in fulfilling prophecy.”8
‘“Why do we and the Pharisees often fast, whereas your disciples do not fast?” Why? Because with you, fasting is a matter of the law and not of the will. Fasting does not reflect the one who fasts but the one who orders the fast. And what is the fruit of fasting to you who fast unwillingly?’9
‘It is with the words of John, your own teacher, whom you esteem so highly, that I answer you. Keep it in mind, and you will have the answer to your question. When John bore witness concerning me, he said, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom.” So, if I am the bridegroom and you don’t make a liar out of your own teacher, you know in advance that it is important for my disciples, while they are the children of the marriage … to be gay and joyful and not to become upset or miserable over fasting. In certain respects, fasting is a source of annoyance and can also be arduous for those without a mature disposition.’10
- Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Isaiah 188.8.131.52.
- Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Isaiah 184.108.40.206–4.
- Jerome, Letter 22.37.
- John Cassian, Conference 21.14.
- Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 8.15.
- Augustine, Sermon 206.3.
- Thomas à Kempis, De imitatione Christi, 12, 3.
- Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 30.4.
- Peter Chrysologus, Sermons 31.2.
- Severus, Cathedral Sermons, Homily 92.