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Renewal of the Inner Before the Outer

Fri­day. [Rom. 5:17–6:2; Matt. 9:14–17] The Lord was asked why His dis?ciples did not fast. He answered that the time for them has not yet come. Then in a para­ble he showed that in gen­er­al, the strict­ness of out­er as?ceticism must be in keep­ing with the renew­al of inner pow­ers of the spir­it. First kin­dle the spir­it of fer?vour, and then take on aus­ter­i­ties; for then there will be a new inner pow­er capa­ble of endur­ing them prof­itably. If you take them on with?out first hav­ing this fer­vour, be?cause you were either impressed by the exam­ple of oth­ers, or want­ed to make a show of your own ascet?icism, then it will bring no prof­it. You will sus­tain this aus­ter­i­ty for a bit, and then you will weak­en and drop it. And you will be worse off than before. Aus­ter­i­ty with­out the inner spir­it is like a patch of new linen on an old gar­ment, or new wine in old wine­skins. The patch will fall off and the rent made even worse; and the wine will burst the wine­skin, and the wine will be lost, and the wine­skin ruined. This, by the way, does not mean that austeri?ty is bad, but only sug­gests that one must begin it in the prop­er order. The need for it must come from with­in, so that it might con­tent the heart, and not just press from the out­side like a weight.

Saint Theo­phan the Recluse