ON RESTRAINING THE BELLY
I will firstly speak of the restraint regarding foods - which opposes
gluttony - and about the manner of fasting and the quantity of foods
And these things do not originate from me; they are what we received from
the Holy Fathers.
Now then: they did not give us any Canon for fasting, or any method
of sustenance - nor the same measures for everyone, for not everyone has
the same strength, either due to age or infirmity, or on account of better habits
of the body. However they
did give a purpose for everyone: to avoid abundance, and to abhor the
satiation of the belly.
They had seen in practice that it is more beneficial – and helpful for
cleansing – to eat once a day, rather than eat every three or four or seven
days. Because -they said- those
who extend their fasting inordinately, will afterwards eat inordinately. And
after that, either because of excessive abstinence from food, the body
becomes listless and less willing for spiritual labours, or, after filling
themselves, the weight of the foods consumed causes them to become neglectful
and weakens their soul.
And again, the holy Fathers had tested and concluded that a strictly vegetable or
legumes diet is not for everyone, nor can everyone be sustained with
only dry bread. Also others (as
the Fathers had said), even after eating two portions of bread can still
feel hungry, whereas others may eat one portion or even six ounces and feel
So, as I said, the Fathers had given us one Canon for continence:
to not be fooled by the satiation of the belly
(1), nor be carried away by the
pleasure of taste. Because it is not only the difference in the quality of
foods but also the quantity that ignites the fervid arrows of fornication. (2)
Because when the belly is filled up with whichever food, it begets the seed
of corruption. Again, it is not just the superfluous quantity of wine that
brings on drunkenness to the mind; the abundance of water and the excessive
use of every kind of food also make the soul dizzy and bring on sleepiness.
The reason for the Sodomites’ obliteration was not their debauchery due to
wine and the variety of foods, but rather “the abundance of bread”, according to
the Prophet. (3)
The infirmity of the body does not conflict with the purity of the heart
when the body is given the things that its infirmity demands – and
NOT whatever hedonism demands.
We use foods just enough to keep us alive, and not to become enslaved
by the urges of desire.
Sustenance in proper measure and within logical bounds assists the health of
the body; it does not remove holiness. The precise Canon for continence as
delivered by the Fathers is to stop eating
before we are full.
Even the Apostle had said:
“Do not attend to the flesh, on how to satisfy its desires”(4);
he did not obstruct the things necessary for governing life, but prohibited
the sensual catering thereof.
Besides, for the perfect purification of the soul, it is not enough to be
restrained only with foods, unless other virtues are also contributors.
Therefore, humility through obedience and the exertion of the body are greatly
beneficial. Abstaining from avarice – not only by possessing money, but by not even
desiring it – will lead to the cleansing of the soul.
Abstaining from rage, from sorrow, from vainglory, from pride... all
these things cause a general cleanliness to the soul.
Partial cleansing of the soul through prudence can be particularly
achieved through fasting and continence, because it is impossible for the one
whose belly is full to wage a noetic war against the spirit of fornication.
Therefore, let our first struggle be to restrain our belly and to
subjugate the body. Not only with fasting, but also with night-vigils and toils
and spiritual reading, and to contain our heart with the fear of “hell
” and the
yearning for the Heavenly Reign.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The one who says to the irreverent “you are righteous” will be cursed by
peoples, and the nations will abhor him; but to those who will check him, it
will mean Grace, and the blessing of bounty will come upon them.
Ephesians 6, 16.
Above all, by taking the shield of faith, in which you shall be able to
quench all the fiery arrows of the wicked.
Ezekiel 16, 49. Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She
and her daughters were arrogant, overfed
4. Romans 13, 14.
Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not make provision
for the flesh to satisfy its lusts.