St Seraphim of Sarov On Gluttony
Why does the Orthodox Church place such an emphasis on eating during the spiritually intense Lenten period? Food is a blessing. Jesus shared many meals with his disciples and followers. Enjoying food is not a sin. However, one can reach a point where eating becomes excessive, and distorted as merely pleasure, or even as a comfort. Food can even become an addiction. This is not an exaggeration considering the obesity epidemic in developed countries. The medical profession has long called for temperance.
The Church regards gluttony as a sin. The Holy Fathers have not given us only one single rule for fasting or one single rule for eating, because not everyone has the same strength. Age, illness or delicacy of body create many different needs. But the Holy Fathers have given us all a one goal: to avoid over-eating and over-filling our bellies. Seraphim of Sarov states that “everyday we should partake of just enough food to allow the body, being fortified, to be a friend and helper to the soul in performing the virtues. Otherwise with the body exhausted the soul may also weaken” (Little Russian Philokalia).
The Holy Fathers regard the control of the stomach as one of the early steps in the spiritual life. This is echoed by St Seraphim of Sarov, who said that “one should not think about the doings of God when one’s stomach is full; on a full stomach there can be no vision of the Divine mysteries.” St Seraphim goes on to say that we need to learn about God in order to truly love Him. When our stomach is full to overflowing, the intellect becomes sluggish making it difficult to learn about God. Let us take up the challenge of the fast. Let us see it as an opportunity to deny ourselves, search for the deeper meaning of things and ascribe glory to God. “Come, O ye people, and today let us accept the grace of the Fast as a gift from God” (Monday Matins in the first week of Lent).
Source: Lychnos February/March 2020