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Chapter XX.

How a monk should not overstep the proper hours for taking food, if he wants to proceed to the struggle of interior conflicts.

A monk therefore who wants to proceed to the struggle of interior conflicts should lay down this as a precaution for himself to begin with: viz.: that he will not in any case allow himself to be overcome by any delicacies, or take anything to eat or drink before the fast859859    Statio. This is properly the term for the weekly fasts on Wednesday and Friday, observed by the early Church in memory of our Lord’s betrayal and crucifixion. See Tertullian on Prayer c. xix.; on Fasting c. i. x. In this place the word appears to be used by Cassian for the close of the fast; while elsewhere he uses it for fasting generally (not specially on Wednesday and Friday,) as in c. xxiv. of the present book, and in the Conferences, II. xxv.; XXI. xxi. The origin of the word is somewhat uncertain (a) because the fast was observed on stated days (stasis diebus); or (b), as S. Ambrose suggests, because “our fasts are our encampments which protect us from the devil’s attacks: in short, they are called stationes, because standing (stantes) and staying in them we repel our plotting foe” (Serm. 25). See Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, vol. ii. p. 1928. is over and the proper hour for refreshment has come, outside meal times;860860    Extra mensam. nor, when the meal is over, will he allow himself to take a morsel however small; and likewise that he will observe the canonical time and measure of sleep. For that self-indulgence must be cut off in the same way that the sin of unchastity has to be rooted out. For if a man is unable to check the unnecessary desires of the appetite how will he be able to extinguish the fire of carnal lust? And if a man is not able to control passions, which are openly manifest and are but small, how will he be able with temperate discretion to fight against those which are secret, and excite him, when none are there to see? And therefore strength of mind is tested in separate impulses and in any sort of passion: and if it is overcome in the case of very small and manifest desires, how it will endure in those that are really great and powerful and hidden, each man’s conscience must witness for himself.

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