The Grace of Fasting


Before fasting passes into prayer, and the one can no longer do without the other, it will have to burrow out new depths in a person's heart.

This technique of fasting has to be completely subsumed within a spiritual dynamism if it is to succeed in bearing a fruit which only the Holy Spirit can give: namely, prayer. Of course, Christian fasting is not primarily a sort of dieting that functions to the benefit of someone's physical or psychological equilibrium. That is hardly adequate. The physical hunger must point directly to hunger of a different kind: for God. Bodily and spiritual hunger are harmoniously conjoined in a fasting which is undergone in the Spirit and only then can make any claim to being a technique of prayer ...

Before fasting passes into prayer, and the one can no longer do without the other, it will have to burrow out new depths in a person's heart. Fasting affects him in one of his most vital rhythms: the dual rhythm of nourishment, occurring alternately as need and as satisfaction. From the very first moments of his existence outside the womb, man's being is structured by the sequence of these two factors. In this way he is able to stay alive and is gradually enabled to locate himself vis-a-vis everything around him. The newborn child feels hungry or is sated. Want and satisfaction, hunger and satiety, each with its characteristic aspect of pain and pleasure, are constantly alternating.

The more the adult person develops towards the ground of his existence, the deeper the need becomes and the less he is in fact satisfied by the material sustenance served up to him. The day comes when a hunger and thirst for the living God are born within him and, over and above all earthly sustenance, are engraved into his body.




Father Andre Louf, OCSO. "The Grace of Fasting." excerpt from Mercy in Weakness (Cistercian Publications, 1998).

Cistercian Publications is now being distributed by Liturgical Press.

Originally preached to his monks at the abbey of Mont-des-Cats in northern France, the homilies contained in Mercy in Weakness draw on years of lectio divina and reflection, and concentrate on the theme of God's mercy in reaching out to humankind. The words of Jesus revealed in the gospels are central to his message and he shows how we must allow these words to transform us, inspiring praise and bearing witness to others.

Excerpt provided by permission of Liturgical Press.


Father Andre Louf, OCSO (1929-2010) was a Trappist monk of Mont-des-Cats and a prominent theologian and retreat master. Born in 1929 in Leuven, Belgium he entered the monastery in 1947 and was elected abbot in 1963, a ministry he exercised for 34 years. Upon retirement in 1997 he lived as a hermit and served for a while as a chaplain to a group of nuns in the south of France. Famously he was the author of the 2004 meditations of the Way of the Cross at the invitation of Pope John Paul II. Father Andre Louf, OCSO is the author of Mercy in Weakness, The Cistercian Way, Grace Can Do More, Tuning in to Grace, and The Way of Humility.

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