Repentance. Austerities. Fasting.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Matthew 3:2, 4:17

"O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil." Holy Qur'an 2:183

If God afflicts you with adversity, there is none who can relieve it except He. And if He blesses you with something good, He is omnipotent. Quran 6:17

(...) they finally realized that there was no escape from God, except to Him. God then redeemed them, that they may repent. God is the redeemer, the merciful. Quran 9:118

Only those who repent, believe and work righteousness will enter Paradise, and will not be deprived of anything. Quran 19:60

It is because from real repentance and humbleness of heart is born the hope of pardon; the conscience that was troubled is restored to God's favor, the grace that has been lost is returned, and man is shielded from the wrath to come. God and the penitent soul run to meet each other with a holy kiss. Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III.52.3

When we endow man a blessing, he becomes heedless and turns away; but when adversity touches him, he implores loudly. Quran 41:51

And I prayed earnestly to the Lord God, pleading with him, fasting, wearing sackcloth, and sitting in ashes. Daniel 9:3

Through fasting and prayer one can stop wars, one can suspend the laws of nature. Our Lady of Medjugorie, July 21, 1982. Words from Heaven, P.33. OGN #745, 2017-02-26.

You who have believed, fasting is decreed for you as it was  for those who came before you, with a view to a deep sense among you of devotion to God (...). When anyone, of his own free will, outdoes what is enjoyed that is certainly to his own good. For when you fast, you do good to yourselves, did you but realise it. Medinan Sura 2, quoted after: Novak Philip, The World's Wisdom, P.286.

When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. (...) put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:17

And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. Isaiah 29:4

Let your broken heart show your sorrow; tearing your clothes is not enough. Joel 2:13

It is wiser to control your sense organs and thoughts in the first instance than be repentant after doing an evil deed. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 1309.

Austerity of the body consists of offering worship to the Supreme Lord, to brahmans, to the spiritual master and to the superiors like the father and mother. Cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy and nonviolence are also austerities of the body. Austerity in relation to the tongue consists of saying what is dear and truthful, not agitating others, and engaging in the study of the Vedas. Austerity in relation to the mind consists of satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, purity and control. Gita 17:14-16

(...) all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless, except as they serve to arrive at the union with God by love; (...).(...) all possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of God, could not efface a single sin. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, P.20-21.

You must be careful never to strain your body or spirit irreverently. Simply sit relaxed and quiet and plunged and immersed in sorrow. The sorrow I speak of is genuine and perfect, and blessed is the man who experiences it. Every man has plenty of cause for sorrow but he alone understands the deep universal reason for sorrow who experiences that he is. (...) He alone feels authentic sorrow who realizes not only what he is but that he is. (...) This sorrow purifies a man of sin and sin's punishment. Even more, it prepares his heart to receive that joy through which he will finally transcend the knowing and feeling of his being. The Cloud of Unknowing, P.103.

And yet in all this, never does he desire to not-be, for this is the devil's madness and blasphemy against God. In fact, he rejoices that he is and from the fullness of a grateful heart he gives thanks to God for the gift and the goodness of his existence. At the same time, however, he desires unceasingly to be freed from the knowing and feeling of his being. The Cloud of Unknowing, P.104.

For the love of God (...) be careful and do not imprudently strain yourself in this work. Rely more on joyful enthusiasm than on sheer brute force. For the more joyfully you work, the more humble and spiritual your contemplation becomes, whereas when you morbidly drive yourself, the fruits will be gross and unnatural. The Cloud of Unknowing, P.106-7.

Our seeking of God is not all a matter of our finding him by means of certain ascetic techniques.  it is rather a quieting and  ordering of our whole life by self-denial, prayer, and good works, so that God himself, who seeks us more than we seek him, can "find us and "take possession of us. Merton, Thomas.  Life and Holiness. P.29. Submitted to L-Center Discussion Group by Gary Horn

(…) Repeated prayers and fasting reduce punishments from God. Our Lady of Medjugorie, November 6, 1982. Words from Heaven, P.53.

Do penance! Strengthen your faith through prayer and the sacraments. Our Lady of Medjugorie, August 8, 1981. Words from Heaven, P.97.

(…) If you do not have the strength to fast on bread and water, you can give up a number of things. It would be good to give up television, because after seeing some programs, you are distracted and unable to pray. You can give up alcohol, cigarettes, and other pleasures. You yourselves know what you have to do. Our Lady of Medjugorie, December 8, 1981. Words from Heaven, P.117.

Cistercian asceticism, and indeed all the asceticism of the monastic Fathers, is simply the recovery of our true self, man's true "nature," created for union with God.  It is the purification, and liberation of the divine image in man, hidden under layers of "unlikeness."  Our true self is the person we are meant to be - the man who is free and upright, in the image and likeness of God.  The work of recovery of this lost likeness is effected by stripping away all that is alien and foreign to our true selves
- shedding the "double garment" of hypocrisy and illusion by which we try to conceal the truth of our misery from ourselves, our brethren and from God. Merton, Thomas. The Silent Life. P.22. Submitted to L-Center Discussion Group by Gary Horn  <>

Fasting is a natural method of healing. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.86.

The physical results and spiritual experiences of fasting are wonderful. The spirit within becomes disassociated from the demands of the body as the body itself is freed from gross habits. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.101.

Fasting is one of the great ways of approaching God: it releases the life force from enslavement to food, showing you that it is God who really sustains the life in your body. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.104.

A one-day fast on fruit each week, or a three-day fast on orrange juice each month, are good ways to accustom oneself to fasting. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.105.

Without truth, non-injury, continence, non-stealing, cleanliness, and austerity (...) there could be no spirituality. Vivekananda, quoted in: Nikhilananda, Vivekananda, A Biography, P.83.

Hungry, you're a dog, angry and bad-natured.
Having eaten your fill, you become a carcass;
you lie down like a wall, senseless.
At one time a dog, at another time a carcass,
how will you run with lions, or follow the saints?

Your thinking is like a camel driver,
and you are the camel:
it drives you in every direction under its bitter control.

Rumi, Mathnawi I, 2873-2875, quoted in: Helminski, Kabir (2000). The Rumi Collection. P.19.

(...) The elder said: Three thoughts are troubling me. The first impels me to withdraw somewhere into the wilderness. The second, to seek a foreign land where no one knows me. The third, to wall myself into this cell and see no one and eat only every other day. Abbot Ammonas said to him: None of these three will do you a bit of good. But rather sit in your cell, and eat a little every day, and have always in your heart the words which are read in the Gospel (...)("Lord have mercy on me a sinner"), and thus you can be saved. Thomas Merton. The Wisdom of the Desert, P.41

Be attentive to yourself, so that nothing destructive can separate you from the love of God. (...) For when a man abandons his sins and returns to God, his repentance regenerates him and renews him entirely. St. Isaiah the Solitary (died in Gaza in 491 C.E.), quoted in: The Philokalia, Vol. I., P.26

Fast before the Lord according to your strength, for to do this will purge you of your iniquities and sins; it exalts the soul, sanctifies the mind, drives away the demons, and prepares you for God's presence. St. Evagrios the Solitary (345-399 C.E.), quoted in: The Philokalia, Vol. I., P.36

I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule for fasting (...), because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies. They also found a day's fast more beneficial and of greater help toward purity than one extending over a period of three, four, or even seven days. St. John Cassian (360-435), quoted in: The Philokalia, Vol. I., P.73.

It is not only too much wine that besots our mind: too much water or too much of anything makes it drowsy and stupefied. St. John Cassian (360-435), quoted in: The Philokalia, Vol. I., P.74.

Bodily illness is not an obstacle to purity of heart, provided we give the body what its illness requires, not what gratifies our desire for pleasure. Food is to be taken in so far as it supports our life, but not to the extent of enslaving us to the impulses of desire. To eat moderately and reasonably is to keep the body in health, not to deprive it of holiness. St. John Cassian (360-435), quoted in: The Philokalia, Vol. I., P.74.

A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied. St. John Cassian (360-435), quoted in: The Philokalia, Vol. I., P.74.

Do not devote all your time to your body but apply to it a measure of asceticism appropriate to its strength and then turn all your intellect to what is within. 'Bodily asceticism has only a limited use, but true devotion is useful in all things' (1 Tim 4:8). St. Hesyhios the Priest (8th or 9th Century), quoted in: The Philokalia, Vol. I., P.175.

When you fall from a higher state, do not become panic-stricken, but through remorse, grief, rigorous self-reproach and, above all, through copious tears shed in a contrite spirit, correct yourself and return quickly to your former condition. St. Theognostos (VIII Century of the C.E. ?), quoted in: (1981). The Philokalia. Vol. II., P.370.

Fasting (sawm) carries a two-fold meaning - two seemingly opposing definitions combined into a single word. (...) The primary meaning is to hold back, to refrain from, to abstain - the further meaning is to rise beyond, to move past former limits. The month of Ramadan is a time in which we hold our bodily compulsions and instincts under strict control, together with our thoughts and our mental states, our moods and desires. (...) The body and it's appetites are held back and through this holding back an elusive and subtle but profound awakening begins. We are provided the means by which to alter our reality, to shape what we ourselves are. (...) moments of stillness, of silence, are obtained - moments in which self-perception sharpens and deepens and spirit awakens and the (spiritual) form with which God created man begins to unfold itself. Irshaad Hussain – “And fast until the onset of night” – retrieved from: on 7 July 2013. OGN #583.

Last updated: 2017/02/28

See the related subjects: Alertness, Chastity, Discipline, Holiness, Humbleness, Patience, Pilgrimage, Purity, Proper Life, Renunciation, Silence, Suffering, Vegetarianism.