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From the Desert Fathers’ Wisdom: On Fasting

Cave-dwelling ascetic

*1. A certain demoniac once went to Sketis. He was not cured, however, even though he spent a long time there, since the Fathers declined, out of extreme humility, to heal him. But one of the Elders, taking pity on him, made the sign of the Cross over the demoniac and at once the man was healed.

When the demon came forth, having tired himself in resistance to no avail, he said to the Elder: “Now that you have cast me out of this man, I will assail you.” “Come,” replied the Elder, “it would be my pleasure.”

The demon then immediately entered him (I think that the Elder had asked God for this). The Elder had the demon for twelve years, crushing him by his asceticism. For he used to nibble on twelve date pits every day. Thereafter, the demon departed from him. When the Elder saw him coming out of himself, he said: “Why are you fleeing? Stay here longer.” “May God destroy you,” the demon replied, “because apart from Him, no one else has the power to do anything to you.”

*2. Abba John the Dwarf said: “If a king wants to capture an enemy city, first of all he deprives it of water and food (by laying siege to it), and in this way his enemies, perishing from hunger, are subjugated to him. So it is with carnal passions: if a man spends his life in fasting and virtual starvation, then his adversaries, the passions and the demons, flee, enfeebled, from his soul.

*3. Again, the same Elder said: “Who is as strong as the lion? And yet, for the sake of his belly, he falls into a trap and all of his strength is laid low.”

*4. Abba Poimen said: “If Nabuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had not come, the Temple of God would not have been burnt down; that is, in allegorical termns, had not the respite afforded by gluttony come into the soul, the mind would not have been overcome in its war with the spiritual enemy.”

*5. Again, the same Elder said: “When David wrestled with the lion, he grabbed it by the throat and immediately slew it. If we, then, grab our throats and our stomachs—if, that is, we flee from hedonism and gluttony—then we will overcome the invisible lion, with God’s help.”

*6. The same Elder said: “I cannot entirely cut off these three things: food, clothing, and sleep; I can only cut them off partially.”

*7. Again, he said: “The soul is humbled in no other way than by reducing its allowance of bread; that is, by restricting it only to that sustenance which is absolutely essential.”

*8. Various individuals related to Abba Poimen, regarding a certain mon, that he did not drink wine. And the Abba answered, “Wine is not at all suitable for monks.”

*9. Abba Hyperechios said: “For the monk, fasting is a bridle against sin; one who discards fasting is like a wanton stallion.”

Source: St Paul Evergetinos, The Evergetinos, Book II, Hypothesis 15

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