As has been said fasting is the beginning of the spiritual life, thus it is considered the pavement on which virtues are obtained; it opens the door for virtue and it ornaments the soul. St Filoxinus says: “The more ascetic the body is, the stronger the Spirit. Little food makes the body light and subdues it to the authority of the soul.”
In the past, holy books were written on scripts made of animal skin. These skins had to be cleaned, flattened and made ready for writing, otherwise they would not be used. It is the same with the human soul. The soul needs to be cleaned and prepared through fasting and asceticism, otherwise God will not engrave His words onto it.
Isaiah the Prophet says, “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts?” (Is. 28: 9). Who are those weaned from milk and who are those drawn from the breast? They are those who give up the luxuries of the world and subdue themselves to fasting and uprightness.
Any wind can lift up a feather. However if the feather is wet or still attached to the animal it belongs to, the wind can never blow it away. In the same way, a person who is indulged with lust and tied up to bodily desires can never lift his soul and mind to heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ warns us of this saying, “But takes heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life and that Day come on you unexpectedly.” (Luke 21:34)
Our spiritual life could also be compared to the branch of a tree. If a fresh branch is thrown into a fire it takes a while before it catches fire, however the branch which has dried out will immediately catch fire and burn easily. The fresh branch represents the beginners on the spiritual path and those of whom it is said in Revelations are “lukewarm”, those who have not yet practised the subjection of the body mentioned by St Paul and are still hard of heart, not yet able to be enflamed by the fire of Divine Love. The dry branch is the individual who has humbled themselves and softened their heart through the removal of their bodily desires, through the ascetic practice of fasting – the mother of all virtues.