Facebook YouTube

Welcome to St. Mina and St. Abanoub Coptic Orthodox Church

Home arrow Spirituality arrow Holy Great Fast arrow The Holy Great Fast and Spiritual Discipline
The Holy Great Fast and Spiritual Discipline PDF Print
Written by H.G. Bishop Youssef   
Saturday, 08 March 2008
Article Index
The Holy Great Fast and Spiritual Discipline
Page 2

"The true fast is that in which sins, anger, tongue, and instincts are under control." (St Basil the Great)

The Holy Great Fast is often referred to as "The Spring of Our Spiritual Life". Spring being the most beautiful season of the year and a time of spiritual renewal.

The 55 days of the Holy Great Fast are considered the most Holy days of fasting of the Coptic Church. Fifty-five days include the forty days, which were fasted by the Lord Himself, the Passion Week, and the first initial week to prepare us spiritually before this great season of renewal. We fast to commemorate His sufferings on the Holy Cross, for spiritual discipline and our salvation.

Much has been written regarding fasting associated with foods. Yet, fasting is not only abstaining from certain foods. It is a time for us to have our hearts filled with the Holy Spirit. How can our hearts be filled with the Holy Spirit and guarded against all sin?

When we fast we exercise self-control. Fasting provides an occasion to enrich the soul and elevate it to a higher level of spiritual discipline. St Isaac said, "Having control of what we say is better than having control over our bodies, and guarding our hearts against sin is best of all."

St. John Cassian wrote, "We should not be confident that the outside fasting of food is enough alone for the purity of the heart and body, unless it is accompanied by the fasting of the soul." He further said that, "Fasting is an important means which leads to purity of heart and not as a goal in itself."

Fasting of the soul is spiritual discipline. The importance of spiritual discipline can be found in the Holy Book of Proverbs 25:28, "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control." This tells us that a man without self-control and discipline is defenseless and disgraced.

St. Paul believed that spiritual discipline prepared a Christian to exercise faith and enter the Kingdom of God:

"Do you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus not with uncertainty. Thus I fight not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it under subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should not become disqualified" (I Corinthians 9:24-27).

Self-control incorporates dominance over desires including the physical desires of food and sex. Psychological desires of fame and love of praise must also be quenched.

Periodic ascetic practices are good within marriage. This includes temporary abstinence from sexual relations for the sake of prayer during fasting. The Holy Book of I Corinthians states, "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (I Corinthians 7:5).

Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 April 2017 )
< Prev