Post-Apostolic Asceticism

I think the Peter and Paul fast starts tomorrow. I don’t know. I lose track. My menalogion software is on the computer that’s not working so well.

If there is one thing the Orthodox Church likes to do, it is fast. I’m not sure why there is so much fasting. Apparently following fasting rules suited to an ancient Mediterranean culture makes us more spiritual.

The only truly Apostolic fasting is the Wednesday/Friday fast days. Great Lent started as a recommended discipline for catechumens who would be baptised at Pascha, though the very early Church may have fasted for 40 hours in preparation. The Christmas fast could not have preceded the origins of the Christmas feast. The Dormition fast and the Apostles Fast are more recent.

The number of fasting days varies from year to year, depending on the date of Pascha. And early Pascha cuts short the normal time after Theophany and extends the Apostles’ Fast. In 2010, by my rough calculation, there are 195 fasting days. By fasting days, I mean days when meat is not allowed, so I’m including Cheesefare week. For a carnivore such as me, any day without meat is a day of severe asceticism.

This leaves 170 normal, regular, meat and potatoes days. Fasting seems to lose it value if it is actually more of the norm than normal eating. And when a fast and a feast conflict, the fast wins. The feast of the Annunciation is an example of this. This is the true feast of Incarnation, but it is trumped by Great Lent.

Observed more strictly than I am able, Orthodoxy seems like a vegetarian religion with occasional omnivorous moments. If our sacramental theology says that all of creation is sacramental and that everything we eat is sacramental, because we bless it and it is a gift from God, why do we spend so much time not eating it?

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Christ is Risen!

I may be one of the first in the Ortho-blogosphere to say it, being on the eastern side of the Atlantic and missing the Vigil. Everyone else will just be transitioning from Matins to Liturgy about now.

I wanted to go tonight, but I was afraid I would fall asleep at the wheel on the way, not to mention on the way back. With the Unnamed Woman needing to stay home with the Unnamed Children, I would be on my own. After pulling an all-nighter marking pupil folders on Thursday/Friday, I still have not fully recovered. I’m not sure and hour and a half starting at 3:00 am on a winding two-lane A-road already known for fatal accidents is a place to be.

But I’m sure if I wanted to go bad enough, I would have made it happen. I suppose I could have pulled off the road if necessary.

Lent has been a washout, really. My usual lack of fasting after the first week and spiritual uselessness. I had the chance to attend Liturgy twice locally and managed to oversleep both times. The only significant reading I’ve done, other than in my new Orthodox Study Bible, is a book on St Columba.

But Christ is Risen. Whether or not I’m a spiritual washout, Christ is Risen.

Christ is Risen, and life reigns.

The Rod of Correction

Thanks to the young fogey for this quote from Rod Dreher which reflects my own sentiments:

I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but more of this gaggy Dear Leader stuff from Obama worshipers I have to watch, the more I appreciate Hillary Clinton’s plain old milk-curdling nastiness.

Actually, thanks to the young fogey for the link to Rod generally. I like the Orthodoxy with attitude, even with commenters who suggest that his scathing analysis of society is somehow not compatible with his Lenten fast.

Lenten Guilt

All my Orthodox blogging friends are excited that Lent is almost here. We Orthodox really do Lent. None of that giving up chocolate or just going teetotal. That’s not to deny that chocolate is off the menu – thanks to dairy in the ingredients. Alcohol is reserved for weekends and all of the fifth week. We even give up meat for an extra week before Lent, before going totally vegan for the duration.

I say “we” in the sense of being a member of the Orthodox Church. I don’t do Lent very well. For most Orthodox it is a time of spiritual renewal and cleansing. For me it is mostly a time of guilt. I sometimes get through the first week without meat. Forget Cheesefare Week. I mean the first week starting on Clean Monday (the Orthodox version of Ash Wednesday). I am a carnivore. Not an omnivore. Okay, I eat the vegetables that take up a small area of my plate next to the meat. Left to my own devices – i.e., unless my wife cooks my meals – I’m perfectly happy to just eat meat.

The only mitigation is fruit. I do like fruit. But you can only eat so much of it. I don’t think I could be a fruitarian for six weeks. I’d eventually have to have it on top of a meringue, covered in cream. Neither are fasting foods.

I’m the second person St John Chrysostom was talking about in his Paschal Homily. “Ye sober and ye slothful, honor the day. Ye that have kept the fast and ye that have not, be glad today.” And I am very glad when Pascha arrives. I love singing “Christ is Risen”. And at least for Bright Week the rest of the Church is fast-free like me.

Missing the Point of Lent

I sat down to write something else, but I checked my email and an saw one of the most ridiculous things in the history of Christianity. I say that realising that there have been some pretty ridiculous things.

The Anglican bishops of Liverpool and London have decided that it is not enough to give up chocolate for Lent. That Anglicans give up chocolate for Lent should tell you something about how far they’ve drifted from Holy Tradition, but I suppose they’re a step better than those who have given up Lent altogether. So maybe you are thinking the good bishops are moving in a positive direction. Wrong.

The Rt Revs James Jones and Richard Chartres want us to give up carbon. Not all carbon, mind you, given that we are carbon-based life-forms. And not actually the eating of carbon – or anything else for that matter. No, it’s much more convoluted than that. They want us to give up a light bulb. Here’s how it works: Light bulbs require electricty; electricity has to be produced; producing eletricity result in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; Al Gore says that’s bad.

Put differently, the Bishop of Liverpool’s logic is this, “It is the poor who are already suffering the effects of climate change. To carry on regardless of their plight is to fly in the face of Christian teaching.” The poor are suffering the effect of climate change? Seems to me the warmer weather makes it easier to sleep rough. People in substandard housing with poor insulation are paying less for heating. How are the poor suffering?

I’m not particular good at doing Lent (which for Orthodox Christians doesn’t start until March 10), but I won’t be using it for making a political statement based upon specious science. I hope you won’t either.