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Author Topic: How to think about fasting...  (Read 3938 times) Average Rating: 0
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JohnC
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« on: May 13, 2008, 09:44:45 PM »

I was listening to one of Dr. Nassif's podcasts, and he was saying that he doesn't know anybody who fully keeps the fasts. Neither do I know of anyone, with the exception of our bishop, who I believe does keep them.

I'm always rather conflicted about what I ought to do. It's not a matter of whether to be a legalist - there is no danger of me becoming that, but rather how hard I ought to actually try keeping it.

I self-confessedly don't feel like I have much will power, and funnily, I find it hard to get clear in my mind why I'm bothering to fast when I'm hungry :-). I don't know whether I should or shouldn't feel guilty about giving in and breaking the fast. I don't know if I should be aiming in any sense to keep the entire set of rules (seems like that is for monks). I don't know how hard I should attempt to keep the fast (e.g. I'm out at a cafe at lunch break at work. Do I order something I hate, because it is lentin? Or do I order something in the middle (not strictly fasting, but breaks less rules than other things), or do I say hang it, I can't keep the rules here anyway, so just get what I like. Or do I have to drive down the road until I find something that checks all the boxes?

Some people seem to take the view that if it has cheese but not meat, well at least it's better than having meat. Or if it has fish, at least it doesn't have red meat. My inclination is more towards, hey if it has cheese it's not fasting  anyway, so what difference does it make if it has meat? It's fasting or its not.

My priest is a bit vague also. I think he's happy if I make some attempt at the fast, but that is also vague.

I realise there is not going to be any hard and fast answer to these questions, but does anyone have any advice on acquiring the right mindset?




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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2008, 10:53:01 PM »

 Fasting is supposed to be difficult because it interupts our hedonistic desires.  We want what we want when we want it and when something prohibits us from getting what we want, we become very upset.   Fasting teaches us patience and to put our trust, complete trust, in God Who provides everything we need; "Give us this day, our daily bread..." as our Savior has taught us to pray.  And speaking of prayer, this is ultimately, if not the best, way to approach fasting. 
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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2008, 11:21:46 PM »

I'm horrible at fasting.  But my wife and 2 oldest children, 7 and 8, basically keep a pretty strict fast.  And as a family when we've simplified our lives and focused on preparing for a fast, i.e. buying plenty of the foods we'll need ahead of time, etc. rather than being a chore that is hard to do, it becomes something we look forward to and enhances the rest of our lives. 
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2008, 12:31:33 AM »

A sickening form of the fast I recently heard is that in Greece Mcdonalds has a lenten menu (Mc nistia ?) and that is completely contrary to our faith, supporting a corperation like Macdonald's in Lent seems unchristian.
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JohnC
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2008, 02:13:29 AM »


I don't see the problem with a McDonalds lentin menu. In fact it sounds wonderful to me to live in a country where corporations are forced to cater to lent.


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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2008, 04:52:22 AM »

"Simple foods, simply prepared".

I get more concerned with feasting on fasting foods. THAT is not fasting no matter how much 'rules' seem to be followed.

Depends of what is on that McD menu.
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2008, 05:48:39 AM »

Mc Donald´s in Greece as well as other fast food chains, as well as bakeries, cater for people who fast through Lent and it actually, I believe, does quite a bit to encourage someone with a weaker will or less practice in faith to consider fasting for a longer period. The last novelty in McDonald´s menu for Lent was a burger with shrimp -basically burger bread with shrimps, salad and fries. Other options are seafood and vegetable salads, onion rings, veggie burgers, potato wedges etc. I would not go as far as to say it is unchristian to support fast food chains , because each one of us has individual needs and circumstances that cannot always be judged in this light.A lot of people are forced to spend the entire day out-and I mean from 07 to 22h.


JohnC, I believe our Church gives us guidelines we are asked to follow according to our circumstances, thus not legalistically.It is in the Bible, that not everyone can or does fast in the same way and that nobody should be judging their brother for fasting more or less than oneself. Your priest may be a bit vague because he does not want to condition your freedom.Sometimes fast can get to be too much by the letter of the Law and not by its spirit. During Passion Week, a priest visited my mother and, taking the opportunity, I asked something about proper fasting and I got a look for wanting to get a strict guideline on foods, whereas I was told I should be fasting from thoughts, actions and words and that food should not be getting in the way of interpersonal relationships because it could do more harm than good to me as well as to others.

You want a guideline? I use the Online Chapel Calendar of the GOArch: http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/calendar.asp where fast days and their type are appointed.
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2008, 06:08:02 AM »

"Simple foods, simply prepared".

I get more concerned with feasting on fasting foods. THAT is not fasting no matter how much 'rules' seem to be followed.

Depends of what is on that McD menu.

From what I hear, our bishop would not so much as look at a cube of cheese on a fast day. However he is quite happy to eat soya ice-cream.

As far as I see, it's tough enough following the actual rules without making up some unwritten rules. What canon mentions "simple foods"?


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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2008, 06:59:52 AM »

Canons? Must there be a canon for everything?
http://www.oca.org/QA.asp?ID=93&SID=3

http://www.abbamoses.com/fasting.html
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2008, 08:05:06 AM »


Well... if there's no canon, then you're pitting my bishop and priest against your web sites.

I'd rather eat simply with steak and vegetables and give up soda-pop, lobsters, prawns, beer and desert. But the canons say I can't eat steak but can have soda-pop, lobsters, prawns, beer and (some) deserts.

When the bishop comes, the church goes all out to make the nicest food they can, whether it be fast food, if a fast day or not.

So what's a simple food? If you're a fisherman, maybe lobster is a simple boring food. Some people cook so well they can cook a vegetarian meal that puts my meat meals to shame without batting an eyelid or even thinking it is anything other than simple. What's simple to other people may not be simple to me. Someone above thinks that vegetarian McDonalds is probably not simple. McDonalds strikes me as dead simple food to me, in all its incarnations.

If you're saying to go beyond the canons, you're making it even more complicated. How simple is simple is simple?

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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2008, 08:52:29 AM »

Wonder what the Lenten fare is on Mt. Athos?
If you find the official OCA website not to be of your liking, fine with me. Far as I'm concerned, you are an Internet website opinion as well - and one I don't agree with.
But you'll never convince me (who is not a lobster fisherman) that consuming extremely costly lobsters, prawns, crabs, other shellfish, oh, may as well add escargot with maybe some truffle sauce, to be 'fasting'.
If McD's helps you control your passions- be my guest.
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« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2008, 09:18:25 AM »


Okay... the official OCA web site versus my bishop (who happens to be a Metropolitan, BTW).

So what is a simple food then? One that tastes bad perhaps? McDonalds would certainly qualify on that score. No seriously, I want to know.


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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2008, 10:10:53 AM »

Wonder what the Lenten fare is on Mt. Athos?
If you find the official OCA website not to be of your liking, fine with me. Far as I'm concerned, you are an Internet website opinion as well - and one I don't agree with.
But you'll never convince me (who is not a lobster fisherman) that consuming extremely costly lobsters, prawns, crabs, other shellfish, oh, may as well add escargot with maybe some truffle sauce, to be 'fasting'.



Αριστοκλή, the sites YOU have mentioned as well as other Orthodox sites (e.g. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8125.asp) DO include invertebrate shellfish in the permissible lenten foods. I remember being told it actually used to be  poor men´s food in the long past. I understand your objections regarding the cost and the preparation of shellfish nowadays, but then again you do not have to eat it nor do you have to make it sound as the rest of us who may do consume "costly food"-aka shrimps, prawns, octopus etc. during Lent period, do not fast. This is how your post reads I am afraid.
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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2008, 10:13:23 AM »

When I initially became an Orthodox Christian, the Bishop over our Diocese was Bishop Kallistos of Denver who has now reposed. In my journal I noted something he had said when asked about fasting.  He said the canons clearly say what one may and may not eat. As with all things economia may be granted for special cases (ie. diabetics, special diets etc) by preist, spiritual father, bishop, or patriarch.  The key, he noted, was all foods should be prepared simply and economically.  The cook needs time to pray---simple meals assist the cook to have more time to pray.  Expense should be kept down so that the surplus food budget can be given as Alms. Do these things and you will have met the  purpose of the fast---to fast (deprive yourself -ascesis), Pray (for others and the world), give Alms (Charity to those in need---i.e. thinking and doing for other people in the name of Jesus Christ).

His wisdom has been repeated over and over by bishops  in GOA, AOCA, and ROCOR that I have heard personally from. In summary we must remember:
1) I am to look at the food on our own plate and not on the plate of our wife, friend, priest or Bishop.
2) I am not to use my own judgement in relationship to the cost of food that others purchase ( I am originally from the Gulf Coast and shrimp, crabs, crawfish,etc ---all good fasting foods---are very cheap there but inland they become very expensive)
3) I look at myself not others during great Lent and other fasting periods---I must become very "I" or "me" focussed in looking at what I can change.
4) Pray! Pray! Pray!
5) Think and take actions that simplify  my life.
6) I must reach out to others in good works and acts of charity.

Thomas

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« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2008, 10:13:35 AM »

Thanks for the lecture. It is consistent with what I've tried to follow.
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« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2008, 10:37:04 AM »

Just thought I'd join in. I'm by no means an expert on fasting and have somewhat limited experience, but here are some quotes from our priest (from our newsletter) that may or may not be helpful.

"... the Church gives no instructions on what to eat or not to eat, it only gives instructions on how
to celebrate – how much of the fast to break. Now we enter a very complex topic. To give you an example:
the 18 th Canon of the Council of Gangra (345 or 365 AD) states: “If anyone fasts on the Lord's day or on
the Sabbath, let them be cast out (anathema)”. Seems clear doesn't it? Except it's as clear as mud – the 55th
Canon of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council (692 AD (Gangra was a local Council) ) states that anyone
who fasts on a Sunday or Saturday (except for one only – Holy Saturday) is to be deposed if clergy,
anathematized if lay.” Seems to agree.... Then the 56th Canon of the same Council says: “There are some
who eat eggs and cheese on the sabbaths and Lord's days in Lent. It is determined that the whole world
shall abstain from these – if not, let the offender be deposed if clergy, anathematized if lay.” SO, if you
fast on Sunday or Saturday, you are anathematized, but if you eat eggs or cheese or meat, you are also
anathematized. That leaves fish. It also gives us some principles that I will discuss below. (Deposition is the
removal from the clergy, sometimes called laicization, anathematization is the excommunication of an
individual from the Church.)

First, anyone who says 'The canons say' and gives you absolutes, is rarely right. The canons say many
things, much of them contradictory, and unless you have studied them at length, quoting them can only get
you into trouble.

Second, different people fasted differently. There has NEVER been a single rule of fasting for all.

●Children, the elderly and the ill should not do a strict fast for the entire 40 days and Holy Week.
●Vegetarians should not continue eating as they always had believing themselves to be following the
fast already.
●Everyone should attempt to follow a strict fast several times in their lives.
●No one must fast on pain of damnation.
●Early Christians abstained from eating during the day – just as Moslems do now during Ramadan.
●The strict or”monastic” Fast was developed by and for monks – who did not have children to raise
or daily occupational work to be done. In the Byzantine tradition it came to be the only type of fast
in the last 150 years but the Slavic traditions still differentiate between lay fasting and monastic
fasting

...

The end result is – you need to consider your health, your spiritual dedication, and the circumstances of
your work. It makes perfect sense to abstain from meat (only) during the day and abstain from more in the
evening when you are home and have more control over your food. Just as there is a rhythm through the
week you can create a rhythm through the day.

Or, perhaps, you cannot abstain from meat, then find something else. Or you're a vegetarian, abstaining
from meat is not a fast for you. In each case you can find a food – ice cream, meat flavored tofu, etc. that
you regularly eat, but that you can use as a method of abstaining during the fast. Perhaps you can restrict
yourself to one sort of meat or replace tofu with nuts or beans, or, or, or – the list is endless, restricted
only by your creativity.

Sometimes when controlling and restricting food is not an option, there are other things that can be done.
One of my favorites is to turn off the TV – I used to unplug it for the entire period until after Pascha –
thus reducing the “noise” in my life. Turn off the radio when you drive, or turn it off when you're home.
Put away the romance novels or the science fiction or the murder mysteries, and read something from the
fathers, or even that course of study for your job that you've been putting off.
The most basic purpose of the fast is to bring us closer to God. Do whatever it takes to accomplish it."

Sorry for the length, but I hope it might be helpful to some. This is basically what I've tried to keep in mind in my own (admittedly limited) fasting.

Bridget
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« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2008, 10:38:07 AM »

Thanks for the lecture. It is consistent with what I've tried to follow.

Αριστοκλής , I was not addressing my response to you  but responding to the board in general and especially to  idou747 , sophie posted while I was doing my response. My response was not directed at you and was not intended as a lecture to anyone, it was sharing from my experience and some excerpts from my journal from a bishop who set me on the right course to fasting. Please forgive me if I offended you, no offense was intended.

Thomas
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« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2008, 10:58:20 AM »

Actually, Thomas, your post came through as I was responding to Sophie. As I have little patience with our warning feature which is very annoying when one is trying to post into a 'hot' topic, I posted anyway, saw your post, found it consistent with my thinking, and edited mine.
I am not offended - neither by you nor by Sophie.
I was offended by my own past when I realized that many, myself included, were adhering to fasting 'rules' and still 'feasting'. Came home to me when I was preparing a Coconut Milk Shrimp dish a few years ago (recipe form our pani-matushka) and found it to be sinfully delicious. When wifey says, "You've got to make this more often!" I think I missed a mark somewhere, so to speak.
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« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2008, 11:35:10 AM »

Actually, Thomas, your post came through as I was responding to Sophie. As I have little patience with our warning feature which is very annoying when one is trying to post into a 'hot' topic, I posted anyway, saw your post, found it consistent with my thinking, and edited mine.
I am not offended - neither by you nor by Sophie.
I was offended by my own past when I realized that many, myself included, were adhering to fasting 'rules' and still 'feasting'. Came home to me when I was preparing a Coconut Milk Shrimp dish a few years ago (recipe form our pani-matushka) and found it to be sinfully delicious. When wifey says, "You've got to make this more often!" I think I missed a mark somewhere, so to speak.

I am glad you were not offended because it was not in my intentions and it was not a lecture I gave you either, which only goes to show how our statements and posts can read irrespective of our intentions. Thomas has put it much much better, I admit.
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« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2008, 11:59:21 AM »

Fasting is supposed to be difficult because it interupts our hedonistic desires.  We want what we want when we want it

I don't know how you eat, but I haven't been able to gorge myself like that in 20 years, at least not without an immediate gastrointestinal "waitaminute there, bub."

The challenge in our home is finding fast-free food that does not demand extra time and attention, since nearly everything in U.S. stores seems to be made with some sort of meat or dairy product, as listed in the ingredients.  Shellfish and nuts, the usual Lenten protein sources, are out due to allergic reactions.  And I do not know many who can maintain a full-time work schedule eating the smaller, less frequent portions prescribed in the fast rules.

My regular diet is already an interruption of hedonistic desires.  The Lenten diet, if I were to follow it, would place an inordinate amount of attention on food, which seems to be at odds with its underlying purpose.
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« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2008, 12:50:51 PM »

^^TC, please forgive me for offending you.  I will try to explain myself later tonight when I return from work.
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« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2008, 12:59:05 PM »

not gonna think about it until the apostles fast or dormition fast.
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« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2008, 01:53:24 PM »

I was offended by my own past when I realized that many, myself included, were adhering to fasting 'rules' and still 'feasting'. Came home to me when I was preparing a Coconut Milk Shrimp dish a few years ago (recipe form our pani-matushka) and found it to be sinfully delicious. When wifey says, "You've got to make this more often!" I think I missed a mark somewhere, so to speak.
I see it a little differently. I've found that when I make good things, I eat less and feel better afterward. So to me, making delicious things is not sinful but rather helps me to keep the fast. In addition, I consider cooking for others part of almsgiving. Making meals my wife enjoys is one way of serving her, and therefore the better I cook, the better I am able to serve.

The way I see it, whatever inflames the passions is sinful, and whatever dulls them is Lenten. It's quite possible that what would inflame my passions dulls yours and vice-versa.
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« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2008, 06:19:55 PM »

^^TC, please forgive me for offending you.  I will try to explain myself later tonight when I return from work.

No offense taken.  If the tone of my reply read as if I were offended, then I apologize to you.  Smiley
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« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2008, 11:57:46 PM »

Greetings to one and all from a Newbie, and a soon-to-be Catachumen (May 25th),

Well, Great Lent and fasting - can you say PANIC!??

My 92 1/2 yr old father-in-law lives with us and is allergic to onion...yes...onion; and there are other food and religious issues. I understand the concern of the person allergic to other food items. So I was EXTREMELY worried about the fasting part of Great Lent. How on earth was I going to do this? Well, I started in and searched the internet (of course) and found Vegan recipes and alternates to milk, eggs, etc. Since I have to make almost everything from scratch anyway (just try to find a soup or vegetable stock without onion and that is low sodium)

I did the following things:

= Made the main dish vegan and for Papa's plate, added in the canned or cooked chicken or turkey
= Made a vegan/Lenten dish one night and served Papa a left-over of his dish from the previous night, and then reversed it the next day
= Used soy milk in place of animal milk
= Realized, gratefully, that I am not and do not have to be perfect
= Listened to my Priest and my brother-in-law: the point of the fast is NOT to see how strictly I can follow a set of rules/guidelines, but, as a previous poster (Thomas? The Moderator?) put it, to spend time in prayer, almsgiving, and getting my life simpler.

Great Lent was quite a revelation for me - a former Conservative Baptist since birth to 1980, then Episcopal till 2007 and now becoming Orthodox. Great Lent and the fasting, whatever form the fasting is, go together and seem to be integral with each other. The fasting points up my fixation on food and gratifying myself instead of serving God and others. Part of my almsgiving, as my Priest so aptly put it, was taking care of the physical needs of my father-in-law, be that cooking, cleaning, putting on his socks, or being patient when he "helps" me cook.

I don't know that I will ever be able to do the Great Lent fast as the "strict" rules have it. But, on the other hand, I know I will always be striving and growing and praying. Maybe that is really what the fasting time is all about - a time of growing closer to the Trinity.

In Christ, and with many thanks for all the posters to this board,

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

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« Reply #25 on: May 15, 2008, 12:05:00 AM »

Welcome to the forum!

Onions, you say? Shouldn't be a big problem. Now if it's garlic or oregano, we Greeks would be stuck on those.
Cheesy
Very nice first post   Smiley
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« Reply #26 on: May 15, 2008, 01:18:05 AM »

No offense taken.  If the tone of my reply read as if I were offended, then I apologize to you.  Smiley
Nah, I wasn't offended at all, just a bit perplexed.  I thought, "Man, I think this person really misunderstood my post so I better do some damage control." Smiley  Actually what I had in mind is from Dr. Kyriacos Markides' book Gifts of the Desert pgs 310-14.  As in The Mountain of Silence, Dr. Kyriacos discusses many spiritual matters with the Athonite monk (now His Grace Bishop MAXIMOS [ne ATHANASIOS] of Limassol, Cyprus).  Rather than messing things up again, I'll let His Grace do the talking.

"Satan confronted Jesus with three offers.  They are known as the three temptations... According to the holy elders these three temptations are archetypal and instructive.  They are the three fundamental passions that plague humanity, Hedonism, Philodoxy (love of glory), and Avarice.  The elders claimed further that these three pricipal passions form the womb out of which all other worldly passions are given birth.  The elders felt that Hedonism springs from our need to look after our bodily comforts and pleasures to survive in this world.  So Satan tempts Christ to break his fast and turn stones into bread."....

"...hedonism is healed through hard work and diligence, through philoponia.  Philoponia means that a human being must cultivate an attitude of love for hard work and toil... To get accustomed to cutting off our wishes and desires.  Cultivating philoponia also means working in the fields and spending long hours in liturgies and services and all night vigils... Another example is fasting."

But why do we do all this?  Why does the Church prohibit certain foods during certain times?  His Grace continues,

"The Ecclesia never compromised with the world.  Why?  Because it always acts therapeutically... The aim of the Ecclesia is to exercise human beings spiritually... Philoponia, which is part of the spiritual methodology of the Ecclesia, is offered as a form of healing and as an antidote to the illness of hedonism.  The most beloved child of hedonism is narcissism.  That means that human beings love themselves exessively, they love themselves above everybody and everything else.  This is pathological.  I should also mention that narcissism... is the product of fear.  People are afraid to get sick, to be left alone, to lose their wealth, to have an accident, to lose respect, to be deprived of this or that.  They are like the rich man in the Gospel that Jesus called foolish.  They are obsessed about having it good in this life rather than investing their hopes in eternal life within God."

 

 
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« Reply #27 on: May 15, 2008, 01:20:08 AM »

Welcome to the forum, TocMom! Smiley
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« Reply #28 on: May 15, 2008, 12:56:45 PM »

Glad to have you with us TOCMOM. Hope to hear more from you.  May the Lord bless you in the care of your father as he did me with the care of my mother---it is a true blessing.

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« Reply #29 on: May 15, 2008, 03:53:20 PM »

I appreciate the clarification, GtC.  "Hedonism" as used by His Grace is certainly not what I had in mind.  Hedonism that "springs from our need to look after our bodily comforts" is more pervasive and fundamental than the gluttonous or titillating hedonism I took you to mean.

I cannot say I disagree with the assessment "people are afraid to get sick...to be deprived of this or that."  If I were alone --  monos, that is, monastic -- I would probably be less concerned about the effect of fasting on health.

"I want you to be free from anxieties.  The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided."

The diet I strive to follow is designed to promote physical health and general well-being.  It would seem that His Grace would have me disregard that, and instead to "exercise spiritually."  It certainly is a narrow gate we are called to enter.
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« Reply #30 on: May 16, 2008, 12:44:01 AM »

I have just completed my third Lent, and have fasted differently during each of them. I have to say that for me, during my second Lent, focusing too much on what I could and could not eat took my attention and energy away from prayer. I know I am far from perfect, and no one should look to me for any example. I can see already that every fast will be different for me, and I will have work at the concept of "know thyself" in order to work with my spiritual father to choose those fasting behaviors that benefit my soul the most. 
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« Reply #31 on: May 16, 2008, 10:14:54 AM »

^You bring up a good point here.  Fasting is important, yes, but prayer is really the heart of Lent.  I am no expert on fasting but to me, fasting is a way to make us focus on prayer and repentence.  I agree with other posters who have said fasting should be about eating simple, inexpensive foods but again this is to put our focus back to prayer and repentence and spending less time in the kitchen.  To me, simple and inexpensive means beans, rice, vegetable soups, salads, etc.  I also, though, agree with ytterbiumanalyst on making foods that are still filling (and not just because he's cooking it for me  Wink)... we do tend to eat smaller quantities and less often when the food is better quality.  The key, though, is not to get hung up on the rules of fasting but to focus on numbing the passions through prayer and repentence.  [/broken record]  Smiley

Edit:  So far I've only managed to make it through one Lent without being pregnant, so fasting has been a very irregular thing for me since becoming Orthodox.  Once I am able to fast again, it's going to be like starting all over.   laugh
« Last Edit: May 16, 2008, 10:17:13 AM by EofK » Logged

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