August 29, 2019
Fasting and Prayer
that either heals or brings on death
“However this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt.17:21)
Isaac the Syrian stresses that fasting is the spring of prudence and mindfulness. One cannot heal if one does not have these two elements, regardless if one obtains knowledge of his or her specialty. By fasting, we attain inner freedom and a clearness of perception; we are not bound to the forces of human nature and to material processions. Fasting is the champion of every virtue. It is the mother of prayer, of one’s encounter with Christ, the road to Divine Grace that heals every sickness and all weakness. With prayer and fasting, we come to understand the profound mystic perception of the movements of the mind; we obtain the gifts of discretion and the ability to diagnose hidden abnormalities that exist in human life. In fasting and prayer, slothfulness and heedlessness are cut off. The flame of zeal, which ignores every danger and bypasses every fear, is contained, together with the passion that erases the remembrance of all that has taken place in the past: how humans were separated from God; how Christ saved us with His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection; the ways we continue to sin and how God remains merciful.*
Yet if someone neglects these two virtues, one should know that he or she is not only harming one’s self but that this neglect undermines the therapeutic process that is based on the communion of the Holy Spirit – the Church. Such neglect does not only take place when someone does not fast or does not pray. It takes place when these virtues are incorporated into an individualistic attempt to earn a type of “spiritual achievement”; when fasting and prayer take on the characteristics of being a fad or a novelty approach to spiritual disciple, so as to secure a better and healthier life; when one uses these virtues to delight in having an ecstatic “spiritual” experience so as to alleviate one’s inner sorrow; when these virtues are used for the self-cleansing of guilt and imperfections.
The contradiction which is evident today is that all of the above are done in the name of Jesus Christ, the holy canons and a legalistic pharisaic religiosity. This cultivates nothing but spiritual illusion and psychological pathology that leads to spiritual and psychological death, and even more.
*Isaac the Syrian, Homily 35.12, 26,2-3