As we draw closer towards the end of the Nativity fast, I find these words especially important in making sure that the point of the fast is not lost on we who are called to practice it.
“For the value of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works! Is it said by what kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you see in enemy, be reconciled to him! If you see a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If you see a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.” — St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3, On the Statues
Here I offer my own humble and modern thoughts. We must never let our spiritual beliefs or thoughts become the entire focus of what we think our faith is. For indeed, “Faith without works is dead,” (James 2:14-26). Our very own hands and feet must become the hands and feet of Christ in the world. Our faith must inspire us to action.
This means we cannot sit idle. It also means this will be active work. It means we have to seek out opportunities to give and make ourselves available to others, breaking out of habitual circles and comforting routines.
What does that look like? For me, it definitely means more patience with others, most especially my children. It means to refrain from jealousy of others’ achievements or wealth recognizing how truly wealthy I am, and to give out my gifts, time, and talents to my church and other causes that clothe the needy, heal the sick, and visit those in prison.
And of course, I must always (and I am) seeking new ways to do this in my own life. We cannot sit idle, as there’s always room to grow in this. If I stick to any habit, it must be a habit of looking for how to put my faith into action.
For the question remains, “Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works!”