Take possession of your stomach, before it takes possession of you. —St. John Climacus
How early should children begin fasting? According to the teaching of the ancient fathers, a healthy child begins to fast once it no longer takes its mother’s milk, that is, at around age three. (In ancient times, Jewish women breastfed their infants until they reached three years of age).
Along with the need to observe whatever degree of fasting, parents must also take care to prevent their children from forming a habit of overeating, or eating too often, outside of the times established for taking food—eating between meals. St. Theophan the Recluse gives parents advice in this regard: “A child should eat in such a way that while developing and fortifying the body and giving it health, he does not foment flesh-pleasing in the soul. Regardless of how young your child is, he must begin from the earliest years to stabilize the flesh, which leans toward coarse matter, and accustom it to self control, so that in both the childhood and teenage years and beyond, he can easily and freely control this need.”
What Should Be in Every Communicant of the Holy Mysteries Who Received the Lord in Them; and Who Does Not Have the Lord Within5. March 2012 - 10:08
Homily on the first week of Great Lent
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (Jn. 6:56). Rejoice, O reverent communicants! True are the Lord’s words, and so undoubtedly is the Lord within you after you receive His Holy, Pure, and Life-Creating Mysteries. But brothers, the Lord who came to dwell in us cannot remain without witness in this inward activity, just as He cannot remain without witness in His outward Providence—He … gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). He Himself said, If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20). So—do you meet with the Lord, and the Lord with you? I pose this question to you because there is perhaps no one here among you who has not already taken Communion of Christ’s Mysteries. Well then, has what should be the obvious fruit of this most glorious Mystery begun in you?
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites.
Beloved brethren! Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who commanded us to forgive our neighbors all their sins before we enter the podvig of fasting, also asked us to vigilantly preserve the fast itself free from hypocrisy. As a worm born within a fruit consumes what is inside, leaving only the outer covering, so does hypocrisy annihilate the whole essence of virtue. Hypocrisy is born of vainglory (cf. Mt. 6:1, 2, 5, 16). Vainglory is the vain desire and search for temporary human praise. Vainglory comes from a deep ignorance of God, or a deep forgetfulness of God, of eternity and heavenly glory. That is why in its blindness it insatiably strives to acquire earthly, temporary glory. It imagines this glory, as it also imagines earthly life, to be an eternal, inalienable possession. Vainglory, which seeks not the virtue itself but only praise for the virtue, labors diligently only that it might exhibit a mask of virtue before human eyes. Thus the hypocrite stands before humanity dressed in an outer garment of extreme deception: virtue—the essence of which he does not have at all—is seen on his exterior, while in his soul can be seen self-satisfaction and pomposity, because he first of all deceived and deluded in himself. He takes a sick delight in the vainglory that is killing him and in the misleading of his neighbor, and sickly and detrimentally delights in his successful hypocrisy. Along with all of this, he makes himself alien to God, for every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 16:5).
This fast is referred to as Great due to both its significance and duration. It is made up of the Quadragesima (forty days) and Passion Week. The Quadragesima was established by the Church in order to observe the forty day fasting and prayer which our Lord kept after His baptism when He was in the desert – before He began His ministry of preaching the gospel. After the holy Quadragesima, which ends on the Friday of the sixth week of Lent, comes the fast of Passion Week, dedicated to our participation in the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to His command that “the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast...." (Luke 5:35).