Fasting and Humility of Soul

March 01, 2013

Fasting and Humility of Soul

An Excerpt from the Writings of St. Athanasius the Great

Many, crowding to the fast, pollute themselves in the thoughts of their hearts, sometimes by doing evil against their brethren, sometimes by daring to defraud. And, to mention nothing else, there are many who exalt themselves above their neighbours, thereby causing great mischief. For the boast of fasting did no good to the Pharisee, although he fasted twice in the week1, only because he exalted himself against the publican. In the same manner the Word blamed the children of Israel on account of such a fast as this, exhorting them by Isaiah the Prophet and saying, ‘This is not the fast and the day I have chosen, that a man should humble his soul; not even if thou shouldest bow down thy neck like a hook, and shouldest strew sackcloth and ashes under thee; neither thus shall ye call the fast acceptable2.’ That we may be able to show what kind of persons we should be when we fast, and of what character the fast should be, listen again to God commanding Moses, and saying, as it is written in Leviticus, ‘And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, In the tenth day of this seventh month, there shall be a day of atonement; a convocation, and a holy day shall it be to you;and ye shall humble your souls, and offer whole burnt-offerings unto the Lord3.’ And afterwards, that the law might be defined on this point, He proceeds to say: ‘Every soul that shall not humble itself, shall be cut off from the people4.’

St. Athanasius of Alexandria. Select Works and Letters. Edited by Archibald Robertson. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series. Vol. 4. 2nd ed. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999. pp. 507-8. Online text available at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

  1. Luke xviii. 12.
  2. Is. lviii. 5.
  3. Levit. xxiii. 26, sq.
  4. Levit. xxiii. 29.



    Leave a comment

    Comments will be approved before showing up.


    Also in Sermons & Homilies

    Christ Descends - A Sermon for the Sunday after Theophany (2021)
    Christ Descends - A Sermon for the Sunday after Theophany (2021)

    January 24, 2021

    We must call upon Christ Who has gone before us, showing us that He descended in humility, from beyond the heights of heaven, down to earth, and further than the earth, into its depths, into hades, seeking out His lost sheep, bringing them gladness and light, taking them by the hand and raising them up out of darkness into Paradise again.

    Continue Reading

    Zealous of Good Works - A Homily for the Feast of Theophany (2021)
    Zealous of Good Works - A Homily for the Feast of Theophany (2021)

    January 19, 2021

    Let us make this yearly renewal of the vows we took in baptism, for Christ did not shed His Spirit upon us so abundantly to no purpose, but rather that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Tit. 2:14).

    Continue Reading

    The Fullness of Time - A Homily on Patient Endurance for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (2021)
    The Fullness of Time - A Homily on Patient Endurance for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (2021)

    January 07, 2021

    God has made promises and continues to make promises. Whether the promises relate to the coming of the Messiah, the Second Coming of the Lord, or in response to our prayers, He will fulfill His promises in his own time.

    Continue Reading