“Why do you fast?”
March 18, 2008
A boy once approached his father, ‘Old man, why do you fast?’
The father stood silent, bringing heart and mind together, and then:
‘Beloved boy, I fast to know what it is I lack.
For day by day I sit in abundance, and
all is well before me;
I want not, I suffer not, and I
lack but that for which I invent a need.
But my heart is empty of true joy,
filled, yet overflowing with dry waters.
There is no room left for love.
I have no needs, and so my needs are never met,
no longings, and so my desires are never fulfilled.
Where all the fruits of the earth could dwell, I have
filled the house with dust and clouds;
It is full, so I am content—
But it is empty, and so I weep.
‘Thus I fast, beloved, to know the
dust in which I dwell.
I take not from that which I might take,
for in its absence I am left empty,
and what is empty stands ready to be
I turn from what I love, for my love is barren,
and by it I curse the earth.
I turn from what I love, that I may purify my loving,
and move from curse to blessing.
‘From my abundance I turn to want,
as the soldier leaves the comfort of home,
of family and love,
to know the barrenness of war.
For it is only amongst the fight, in the
torture of loss, in the fire of battle,
that lies are lost and the blind man
In hunger of body and mind, I see
the vanity of food,
for I have loved food as food,
and have never been fed.
In weary, waking vigil I see
the vanity of sleep,
for I have embraced sleep as desire,
and have never found rest.
In sorrow, with eyes of tears I see
the vanity of pleasure,
for I have treasured happiness above all,
and have never known joy.
‘I fast, beloved child, to crush the wall
that is my self;
For I am not who I am, just as these passions
are not treasures of gold but of clay.
I fast to die, for it is not the living who are
raised, but the dead.
I fast to crucify my desires, for He who was
crucified was He who lived,
and He who conquered,
and He who lives forever.’
— Desert Fathers.