Thursday, March 1, 2012

Talks on Fasting

Yesterday night we had the chance to listen to two great talks on fasting, by Fr. Savvas David Vasileiadis ("Fasting according to the Church Fathers and Healthy Diet") and Fr. Chrysostomos Grigorios Timpas ("Fasting and Health"). 
Fr. Savvas referred to three modern scourges that exist in our society: 
a) overconsumption
b) the hunt for material wealth and happiness 
c) obesity. 
Obesity is currently evident in 5-10% of the global population. The U.S. is first in obesity (globally) whilst the United Kingdom is first in Europe. However, we should not stigmatize obese people, since it prevails due to the weakness of consumption that exists in our modern epoch, not only quantitatively but more importantly due to the degradation of the quality of food available to us. Nevertheless, the solution given is the Mediterranean Diet, considered to be the best diet one can follow.
Fasting is an important part of Christian life. Symeon the New Theologian explains how fasting is the doctor of the soul and of the body, contributing to the development of the soul. Nikodemos the Agioritis explains that fasting is Pleasure and Pain; the soul's pleasures bring us closer to Christ, whilst the body's pleasures drive us away from Him.
Fasting should not be a mean of showing of, or of exterminating our bodily powers, whilst it is not a universal custom. It should be considered a personal objective, a way of battling bodily temptations, a way of living the Passions of Christ towards His Resurrection, a step to spiritual perfection, which will protect us from the 'dictatorship' of our passions and emphasise the fact that we are in control of our own abilities.
Fr. Chrysostomos pointed out the fact that fasting is a bodily and spiritual virtue. Despite being a bodily exercise, it has an effect on the spiritual and psychological side of a person. However, during Lent, it is not only important to specify what we eat, i.e. what enters our mouth, but also what comes out of it, i.e. our words. The key objective is not the fasting of food but a change in character. In the presence of evil, fasting and prayer are powerful tools. Fasting is being, in general, moderate in our actions, our thoughts and our life.
Fr. Chrysostomos towards the end of his talk referred to the medical side of fasting, explaining how there should be a gradual induction to meat and dairy products, when Lent ends. He also spoke about the fact that we should not push our bodies further from its limits. According to St. John Climacus the biggest virtue that exists is discrimination, that each Christian should have when it comes down to fasting, which does not kill our body but our passions. His final point emphasised how "Saturday and fasting was established for man and not man for fasting". If, however, one cannot fast then more prayer could take its place, in order to take part in the Passions and the Resurrection of Christ.    

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