Fr. Alexander Goussetis
In Webster’s Dictionary, the word discipline is defined as, 'training which corrects, molds, strengthens, or perfects.' It is interesting that when the word discipline is applied in conjunction with the fields of sports or education, we express great admiration for disciplined people.
Yet when we apply the term discipline in the context of the Christian faith, we are often met with skepticism or even derision. Ask ten Orthodox Christians about their opinion on fasting and you will receive twelve responses in return. Yet fasting is not an optional aspect of the Christian journey; it is a discipline that 'corrects, molds, strengthens, and perfects' our faith.
Don't simply take my word for it. Scripture reminds us that the root of the word discipline is disciple, implying that to be a disciple of Christ requires discipline.
Even more persuasively, St. Paul highlights in his letter to the Galatians that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. That's right! To abide in the Holy Spirit means to live a life of discipline and self-control.
The discipline of fasting is not meant to punish or withhold God's blessings. Instead, it leads us to appreciate God’s bounty even more. Fasting provides balance and perspective in one's daily life. Combined with prayer, acts of charity, and participation in the sacramental life of the Church, fasting brings the mind, body, and soul into unity.
With the Dormition fast upon us (August 1-14), we are again invited to apply the teachings and practices of our faith. Commit to the discipline of fasting as instructed by the Church. Do not limit this fast to food, but fasting from gossip, harsh language, sinful activities, and selfish ideals.
Instead, 'feed' yourself: a) by attending one of the nightly Paraklesis services, b) with spiritual reading, c) with a visit to someone in need, d) with more family time, and e) by the counting of blessings from our merciful and loving God. The investment that we make in living a disciplined Christian life will provide phenomenal returns in how we view our- selves, how we interact with others, and how we can invite God into our daily lives.