Justification by Fast

“Since we were wounded by sin, we must treat it with penance. But penance without fast is worthless. Then by fasting justify yourselves before God!”

—St. Basil, Homily on Fast I, 3

One supposes that St Basil was not arguing that such justification would be “by fast alone”?

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10 Responses to Justification by Fast

  1. Vicci says:

    “One supposes that St Basil was not arguing that such justification would be “by fast alone”?”

    I’m not sure why one would suppose that. What is written appears to be quite clear and unambiguous. (and, being penned by a Saint of the Church, is worthy of respect?)

    (St) James wrote that ‘faith without works is dead’. Why then would St Basil’s directive on achieving justification be treated dismissively?

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  2. Tony says:

    I think the basic assumption is more worthy of critical analysis:

    Since we were wounded by sin, we must treat it with penance.

    Must we?

    What does ‘sin’ mean in this context? Original sin? Are we meant to do penance for that?

    Does it mean our sins? If so, wouldn’t we be better off spending our energy on working at ways to become more aware of and eliminate that sin?

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  3. Vicci says:

    So Tony,
    are you suggesting that St Basil was geographically challenged, and thought East and West are actually very close together?

    Or does ‘forgiveness’ actually mean just that?

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  4. An Liaig says:

    One must be careful of applying concepts and arguments from much later in history to patristic writers such as St. Basil. For St. Basil, fasting is a necessary and natural part of penance, penance is a necessary and natural part of repentance and repentance is the only proper response to the awarness of sin. Indeed, he would have considered repentance the greatest task of human life. “This life is given to you for repentance, do not waste it on anything else.” This is the meaning of what he wrote. At the time of St. Basil there was no sharp division between east and west.

  5. William Weedon says:

    Yup, the SAME Basil who wrote:

    “Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ.” – St. Basil the Great (Homily on Humility, PG 31.532; TFoTC vol. 9, p. 479)


    “But we all escape the condemnation for our sins referred to above, if we believe in the grace of God through His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who said: ‘This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.’” – St. Basil the Great (Concerning Baptism, TfoTC vol. 9, p. 344)

  6. Vicci says:

    Ah, I geddit.
    That naughty Catheran (LutherCat?) Mr Schutz is selectively quoting again with a view to trick people?

    Thanks for the Good St Basil, WW !

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  7. Schütz says:

    Good grief, you guys, I hope you haven’t all lost your sense of humour!

    I posted the St Basil quote with a smile on my face – the sort of smile a young boy has just before he lets the cat go among the pigeons!

    If there was a serious point, it was taken up best by Pastor Weedon – because what ever else he said, there ain’t no way a Lutheran would ever have been able to say that we justify ourselves by fasting. For that matter, few Catholics would ever dare suggest such a thing.

    Which just goes to show ya. The 4th Century wasn’t the 16th and sure as eggs ain’t the 21st.

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  8. Tony says:

    Ahem. Now I know how the pigeons feel.

    Being accused of losing my sense of humour is … how can I put it? … a little ‘below the belt’!

    Off for some Monty Python immersion therapy and a dark ale!

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  9. Schütz says:

    Anyone who enjoys Monty Python can’t be all that bad. Perhaps there is hope for you yet, Tony?

    (Now go and write out “Romans go home” 100 times).

  10. Joshua says:

    To fondly imagine that by our own human effort alone we can “become more aware of and eliminate… sin” is Pelagianism!

    As a collect confesses, “we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves” and naturally lie prostrate, utterly burdened and bowed down by sin, enslaved to Satan and bound for hell unending.

    Of course, baptism joins us to the death and resurrection of Christ; and, if we lapse again into mortal sin, confession and absolution is the “second plank after shipwreck” that restores the pristine robe of baptismal innocence to the worst sinner.

    Only by God’s gratuitous gift of grace (merited for us by Christ on His Cross, and grafted into our hearts by His Holy Spirit Who is given to us in Christ’s dying breath) can we have hope to have the power to slough off vice and be decked out in virtue, thus by our free cooperation freely doing what God leads us to do and which we could not have done but for His gift: and only by grace can we walk in such works as God is pleased for us to accomplish, thus by His gift winning supernatural merit.

    Hence, fasting “justifies” in the sense that, if it is done by the grace of God, this purely natural work is raised to a new and supernatural level. In the strict sense, if one is out of the state of sanctifying grace, but receives the actual grace to fast, and that this by God’s gift prepares the heart to repent, believe and love, then this bodily fast is utilized by the Lord as a factor in a man casting off obstacles so as to receive in freedom the gratuitous gift of Divine justification, lest he resist the Spirit and grieve Him by reason of an impenitent hard heart.

    (I should add that – I think this is right – justification itself, and also final perseverance for utterly the same reason are unmeritable gifts: nothing merely human can deserve either.)

    All is grace. (St Therese of Lisieux)

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