Fasting Without Force


The following is taken from Wounded by Love: the Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios 

You don’t become holy by fighting evil. Let evil be. Look towards Christ and that will save you. What makes a person saintly is love – the adoration of Christ which cannot be expressed, which is beyond expression, which is beyond… And such a person attempts to undertake ascetic exercises and to do things to cause himself to suffer for the love of God.

No monk became holy without ascetic exercises. No one can ascend to spirituality without exercising himself. These things must be done. Ascetic exercises are such things as prostrations, vigils and so on, but done without force. All are done with joy. What is important is not the prostrations we will make or the prayers, but the act of self-giving, the passionate love for Christ and for spiritual things. There are many people who do these things, not for God, but for the sake of exercise, in order to reap physical benefit. But spiritual people do them in order to reap spiritual benefit; they do them for God. At the same time, however, the body is greatly benefited and doesn’t fall ill. Many good things flow from them.


  1. Michael Bauman says

    Since I’m an old crumudgeon, I have a difficult time with “loving God”, it is a little too vague for me. I can just begin to maybe love Jesus, and other people. It seems easier for me to love the Church somehow unless I’m really delusional. So Father, I would find it helpful if you could comment on what it means to love God.

  2. Scott M says

    It seems to me that much of what Jesus taught and lived incorporated the idea that you love God as you love your fellow human being. And as you learn to love others, you love God more.

  3. Karen C says

    I’m sure Father will have wise words for you. For me to love God means to adore Christ both in worship of Him in Church and by prayer and in loving service to others for His sake, especially those who cannot return our love. It is not something I work up within myself, but an answering love in response to the revelation of the depth, breadth, height and width of God’s love and condescension in the Incarnation which comes through prayerful contemplation of the same–and through participation in the mysteries. Sometimes, in loving God (the Trinity in Christ) all I have to offer Him is my need–but that, too, is love, and it is enough for Him if it is all I have.

  4. says

    “Ascetic exercises are such things as prostrations, vigils and so on, but done without force. All are done with joy.”

    I don’t understand what is meant by “force” in this context. If I’m tired and would rather go to bed than pray, isn’t that “forcing” it? But at the same time, it seems to me that it’s beneficial to my spirit to deny myself sleep and first pray, for in that way I would learn discipline. I have no sources, but I’m nearly certain I’ve seen in various Orthodox books that we must pray even when we don’t want to.

    I think I’m missing the point here!

  5. James says