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Author Topic: The Use of Physical Pain in Orthodoxy?  (Read 2344 times) Average Rating: 0
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PoorFoolNicholas
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« on: April 23, 2009, 11:25:33 AM »

I was wondering what the stance is exactly in Orthodoxy concerning physical suffering? Especially in regards to the cilice? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cilice
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« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2009, 12:12:38 PM »

A thread where this is discussed, albeit in a way subservient to the topic of that thread:  Opus Dei: Controversial Inside and Outside the Catholic Church

BTW, are you talking about self-inflicted suffering or about the suffering that will come to us through sickness, sorrows, afflictions, persecution, etc.?
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2009, 12:14:05 PM »

Yeah, I've read all of those. But they really didn't deal with the cilice in any detail. Anyone? Thoughts?
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« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2009, 12:17:05 PM »

Yeah, I've read all of those. But they really didn't deal with the cilice in any detail. Anyone? Thoughts?
Related to another recent discussion about this apparent infatuation with Roman Catholic practices:  Why do you want to know?  Are Orthodox practices not enough for you?  Please forgive me for being so dismissive, but this is getting old.
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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2009, 12:18:58 PM »

Yeah, I've read all of those. But they really didn't deal with the cilice in any detail. Anyone? Thoughts?
Related to another recent discussion about this apparent infatuation with Roman Catholic practices:  Why do you want to know?  Are Orthodox practices not enough for you?  Please forgive me for being so dismissive, but this is getting old.
No, I just am interested in these practices, and wonder if they are part of Orthodoxy, or if there are parallels in Orthodoxy to the cilice.
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2009, 12:39:35 PM »

Hairshirts, yes. Some ascetic saints are documented as wearing such in emulation of John the Baptist and ancient Jewish repentance practices (sackcloth and ashes). I have no idea how common it is among Orthodox monastics, but any monk who wanted to do so would need a blessing from his spiritual father.

However, a hairshirt is not painful--its uncomfortable, like wearing a heavy woolen sweater directly against your skin.

Actual deliberate infliction of pain/damage, like the metal barbs illustrated in the wiki article has no tradition or place in the Church.
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2009, 12:52:25 PM »

PFN, I think you should go for it!  But before you jump right into self-mutilization, go to a hair salon and ask them for a bag of hair clippings.  Then, pour the clippings down your back and front (underneath your clothes!).  Next, pick a busy road and go skipping up and down it.  Oh, and make sure it's a hot day outside to get the full benefits as the heat will open up your skin pores and allow the hair clippings to prick you all over.  This will please God and show Him how much you love Him.  If you're not sure what skipping is, here is a short clip on the lost art of skipping.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4xLwK4IUaE
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2009, 03:19:19 PM »

Hairshirts, yes. Some ascetic saints are documented as wearing such in emulation of John the Baptist and ancient Jewish repentance practices (sackcloth and ashes). I have no idea how common it is among Orthodox monastics, but any monk who wanted to do so would need a blessing from his spiritual father.

However, a hairshirt is not painful--its uncomfortable, like wearing a heavy woolen sweater directly against your skin.

Actual deliberate infliction of pain/damage, like the metal barbs illustrated in the wiki article has no tradition or place in the Church.
The cilice is uncomfortable as well, not painful/mutilating as some may think. Thanks.
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2009, 03:50:19 PM »

Hello! 

As someone fairly new here, I must admit that I am kind of sad at some of the responses you have received.  Certainly not written in a kind and loving tone.  I hope you didn't take offense.

I personally don't think there is anything wrong with the mortification of the flesh in and of itself.  The metal cilice pales in comparison to the mortification that St. Mary of Egypt, the Stylites, and other "extreme" ascetics participated.  However, I think you should be careful because extreme mortification can bring about extreme pride.  I don't know about you, but fasting in body often brings about terrible pride for me.  I can't imagine what kind of pride would manifest if I began more extreme mortification.  All that to say, I think it is important to do these sorts of things for the right reasons.  And also to put them into the hands of our spiritual fathers and mothers who know our weaknesses and know whether or not we are mature enough to take on more severe ascetic practices. 

And mortification in and of itself does not save the soul.  The mortification is to bring us into closer relationship to God.  So the person who uses a metal cilice is not necessarily in any better position than the person who fasts in spirit and body every Wednesday and Friday of the year.  With the help of your spiritual father, you two should be able to find the proper mortification for you. 

And to be completely honest, I am newly converted and very young (24), so I hardly carry the wisdom to adequately address such a question.

Christ is Risen!

Seth 
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« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2009, 03:53:41 PM »

Hello! 

As someone fairly new here, I must admit that I am kind of sad at some of the responses you have received.  Certainly not written in a kind and loving tone.  I hope you didn't take offense.

I personally don't think there is anything wrong with the mortification of the flesh in and of itself.  The metal cilice pales in comparison to the mortification that St. Mary of Egypt, the Stylites, and other "extreme" ascetics participated.  However, I think you should be careful because extreme mortification can bring about extreme pride.  I don't know about you, but fasting in body often brings about terrible pride for me.  I can't imagine what kind of pride would manifest if I began more extreme mortification.  All that to say, I think it is important to do these sorts of things for the right reasons.  And also to put them into the hands of our spiritual fathers and mothers who know our weaknesses and know whether or not we are mature enough to take on more severe ascetic practices. 

And mortification in and of itself does not save the soul.  The mortification is to bring us into closer relationship to God.  So the person who uses a metal cilice is not necessarily in any better position than the person who fasts in spirit and body every Wednesday and Friday of the year.  With the help of your spiritual father, you two should be able to find the proper mortification for you. 

And to be completely honest, I am newly converted and very young (24), so I hardly carry the wisdom to adequately address such a question.

Christ is Risen!

Seth 
Thank you brother. God Bless, and welcome to the forum!
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« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2009, 04:53:48 PM »

I thought this was an interesting site. http://cilice.co.uk/

Cilices available for purchase! I'd be tempted to purchase one, but I know my spiritual director would not allow me to wear it---and he knows better. I know exactly what he'd tell me---getting up early to go to Mass every day is far more efficacious, and if I'm not doing that, forget about a cilice.
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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2009, 04:57:04 PM »

I thought this was an interesting site. http://cilice.co.uk/

Cilices available for purchase! I'd be tempted to purchase one, but I know my spiritual director would not allow me to wear it---and he knows better. I know exactly what he'd tell me---getting up early to go to Mass every day is far more efficacious, and if I'm not doing that, forget about a cilice.

That seems to me to be pretty wise advice.  If we're not doing the simpler, more accessible things like just going to services or praying or giving alms, why would we think taking more extreme measures would help? 
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2009, 05:03:00 PM »

Welcome Seth! Smiley

I admit my reply was a little harsh, but it was meant tongue-in-cheek.  As of late, PFN has been asking the Eastern Orthodox views on all sorts of RC practices.  He gets serious answers but proceeds to continue to press the issue; almost as if he's really wanting EO's to adopt these practices because he wants to adopt them.  Honest questions are appreciated but asking "why why why" over and over gets irritating.  If PFN wants to recite the Rosary or wear hair shirts or cilices then he should go for it.  No one here is trying to stop him.  Just don't get upset if we don't join in.  
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2009, 05:11:44 PM »

Why would one want to cause such extensive physical suffering on their bodies as what Opus Dei does? Isn't the body meant to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit? In Orthodoxy, I don't think our bodies are meant to be a sacrifice. It's our desires that are meant to be a sacrifice, and one can chain those through fasting, prayer and repentance, not bloody lashings and self-mutilations. Christ's physical suffering was enough of a sacrifice for us without our self-injury.
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2009, 06:09:07 PM »

I personally don't think there is anything wrong with the mortification of the flesh in and of itself.  The metal cilice pales in comparison to the mortification that St. Mary of Egypt, the Stylites, and other "extreme" ascetics participated. 

I agree with much of what you say, but I have to disagree with your comparison of the practices of the ascetic saints with the metal cilice and its barbs (or even the OP's specific reference to pain). It's not that one is harder than the other, it's that the two are completely separate things. Orthodox mortification of the flesh is actually about control of the passions. One deprives the flesh of what it wants (whether it be of food in fasting, of the comforts of nice clothing or a warm bed, or even of freedom of action) in order to control the appetites which desire out of porportion to what is actually needful. This is completely different, in fact, one could argue completely *opposed* to the deliberate causing of pain. In the former, one controls and rises above sensation, in the latter one actually seeks out additional sensation.

Or, to use Myrrh23's image, there is an enormous difference between purifying the temple and deliberately defacing its walls.
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« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2009, 06:18:05 PM »

Why would one want to cause such extensive physical suffering on their bodies as what Opus Dei does? Isn't the body meant to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit? In Orthodoxy, I don't think our bodies are meant to be a sacrifice. It's our desires that are meant to be a sacrifice, and one can chain those through fasting, prayer and repentance, not bloody lashings and self-mutilations. Christ's physical suffering was enough of a sacrifice for us without our self-injury.

An iconographic perspective:

It is no accident that there is a world of difference between true iconography, and much western devotional art. Icons of the Crucifixion, for instance, show Christ freely giving His life for the salvation of mankind, yet still remaining God as well as Man. By contrast, particularly in certain cultures within the RC church, we see statues or paintings of a bloodied Jesus tied at a pole and flogged, His eyes raised upwards almost in terror, or the magnificent but uncompromisingly graphic Isenheim Altarpiece which shows a ravaged, mutilated corpse on the cross. Powerful imagery, but it does not sit well with the balanced, dispassionate nature of iconography, which strives to present Christ as equally God and Man.
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« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2009, 06:35:11 PM »

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that all these obscure RC customs with which we are currently being bombarded have something  remarkable in common,namely, they all begin with the letter "C"?? As in Chaplet, Cilice and Confraternities of the Cord?  Could this mean that the "C section" of the  Catholic Encyclopedia is being perused presently, or am I slowly going insane? Huh
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« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2009, 06:43:17 PM »

Yeah, I've read all of those. But they really didn't deal with the cilice in any detail. Anyone? Thoughts?
Related to another recent discussion about this apparent infatuation with Roman Catholic practices:  Why do you want to know?  Are Orthodox practices not enough for you?  Please forgive me for being so dismissive, but this is getting old.
No, I just am interested in these practices, and wonder if they are part of Orthodoxy, or if there are parallels in Orthodoxy to the cilice.
My fear, though, is that you may be looking to us on this forum to give you justification to experiment with Catholic forms of piety, or any form of piety for that matter, without the consent of your spiritual father.  No specific practice of prayer, even if it be an Orthodox practice, should be undertaken apart from the pastoral oversight of your spiritual father.  The reason for this is that your spiritual father/confessor knows best what sins you struggle with and how your constant struggle against the soul-destroying passion of pride is progressing.  With our practices of prayer come temptations, and you and your spiritual father need to make sure you're mature enough in your faith and dependence on the Holy Spirit to resist these temptations.  I would hate for you to get from this forum the idea that it's okay to engage in a particular practice, such as the cilice or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or the Rosary, only to hear from you that this practice led you into a temptation for which you were not prepared and that derailed you in your striving for salvation, because you engaged in it apart from the guidance of your spiritual father.  I would feel in some way complicit with your downfall if something I said on this forum helped push you over the edge in this way.
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« Reply #18 on: April 23, 2009, 07:01:57 PM »

Thank you for the welcome, Gabriel.  I see where you are coming from, and I can certainly understand why you wold be frustrated with these posts.  I would probably approach this issue differently, but that's what makes you, you and me, me.  Smiley

And Nicholas, I do think that I have to agree with Peter on his last post.  As a fellow Christian who suffers from the plague known as pride, I think it is essential that you submit yourself to your spiritual father in things pertaining to your spiritual life.  Yes, even when your spiritual father is probably wrong on an issue, providing that he isn't promoting heresy or an immoral action.  Obedience is a liberation that cuts pride at its roots.  So humbly approach your spiritual father, and let him carry the burden of your sin.  St. John Climacus says some wonderful things about the role of your spiritual father and the importance of obedience.  BTW, if you haven't read that book, I would recommend it provided that your spiritual father feels that your heart is ready for such a difficult work. 

God bless. 

Seth
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« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2009, 09:26:55 AM »

I agree with much of what you say, but I have to disagree with your comparison of the practices of the ascetic saints with the metal cilice and its barbs (or even the OP's specific reference to pain). It's not that one is harder than the other, it's that the two are completely separate things. Orthodox mortification of the flesh is actually about control of the passions. One deprives the flesh of what it wants (whether it be of food in fasting, of the comforts of nice clothing or a warm bed, or even of freedom of action) in order to control the appetites which desire out of porportion to what is actually needful. This is completely different, in fact, one could argue completely *opposed* to the deliberate causing of pain. In the former, one controls and rises above sensation, in the latter one actually seeks out additional sensation.

Or, to use Myrrh23's image, there is an enormous difference between purifying the temple and deliberately defacing its walls.

Simply beautiful. Thank you.
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« Reply #20 on: April 24, 2009, 09:29:39 AM »

My fear, though, is that you may be looking to us on this forum to give you justification to experiment with Catholic forms of piety, or any form of piety for that matter, without the consent of your spiritual father.  No specific practice of prayer, even if it be an Orthodox practice, should be undertaken apart from the pastoral oversight of your spiritual father.  The reason for this is that your spiritual father/confessor knows best what sins you struggle with and how your constant struggle against the soul-destroying passion of pride is progressing.  With our practices of prayer come temptations, and you and your spiritual father need to make sure you're mature enough in your faith and dependence on the Holy Spirit to resist these temptations.  I would hate for you to get from this forum the idea that it's okay to engage in a particular practice, such as the cilice or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or the Rosary, only to hear from you that this practice led you into a temptation for which you were not prepared and that derailed you in your striving for salvation, because you engaged in it apart from the guidance of your spiritual father.  I would feel in some way complicit with your downfall if something I said on this forum helped push you over the edge in this way.
Very wise. Thank you. And no, I am not sneaking around on my Spiritual Father. Everyone is right to tell me to be obedient to him, which I am. God Bless You All!
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« Reply #21 on: April 24, 2009, 01:31:55 PM »

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that all these obscure RC customs with which we are currently being bombarded have something  remarkable in common,namely, they all begin with the letter "C"?? As in Chaplet, Cilice and Confraternities of the Cord?  Could this mean that the "C section" of the  Catholic Encyclopedia is being perused presently, or am I slowly going insane? Huh

No, I completely agree.
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« Reply #22 on: April 24, 2009, 01:39:33 PM »

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that all these obscure RC customs with which we are currently being bombarded have something  remarkable in common,namely, they all begin with the letter "C"?? As in Chaplet, Cilice and Confraternities of the Cord?  Could this mean that the "C section" of the  Catholic Encyclopedia is being perused presently, or am I slowly going insane? Huh

No, I completely agree.
No, its because Illuminati has a secret plan to take over the letter "C". Ever notice how the Catechism of the Catholic Church is abbreviated? : CCC.... dun dun DUN!!!!!

Actually, the Rosary was recently brought up and it doesn't start with a C. But maybe that's because the Rosary is also an Orthodox practice.  Wink  .... <Papist ducks>
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« Reply #23 on: April 24, 2009, 04:55:49 PM »

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that all these obscure RC customs with which we are currently being bombarded have something  remarkable in common,namely, they all begin with the letter "C"?? As in Chaplet, Cilice and Confraternities of the Cord?  Could this mean that the "C section" of the  Catholic Encyclopedia is being perused presently, or am I slowly going insane? Huh

No, I completely agree.
No, its because Illuminati has a secret plan to take over the letter "C". Ever notice how the Catechism of the Catholic Church is abbreviated? : CCC.... dun dun DUN!!!!!

Actually, the Rosary was recently brought up and it doesn't start with a C. But maybe that's because the Rosary is also an Orthodox practice.  Wink  .... <Papist ducks>

[gasp] CCC even rhymes with Illuminati!!  Shocked

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« Reply #24 on: April 24, 2009, 11:56:04 PM »

I was wondering what the stance is exactly in Orthodoxy concerning physical suffering?

Well, why don't you tell me, after undergoing a 55-day (yes, that's how long we give up meat) fast, doing multiple prostrations during each Lenten service, working hard at the job and coming home to lenten meals, volunteering (cleaning at Church, cooking, decorating - all after work), etc...  See the grandmothers with their varicose veins from standing in Church - and when they weren't standing, they were in mid-prostration. Grin
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« Reply #25 on: April 24, 2009, 11:59:47 PM »

I was wondering what the stance is exactly in Orthodoxy concerning physical suffering?

Well, why don't you tell me, after undergoing a 55-day (yes, that's how long we give up meat) fast, doing multiple prostrations during each Lenten service, working hard at the job and coming home to lenten meals, volunteering (cleaning at Church, cooking, decorating - all after work), etc...  See the grandmothers with their varicose veins from standing in Church - and when they weren't standing, they were in mid-prostration. Grin
Add to that kneeling on a hard wood floor for the entirety of the first of the twelve Passion Gospel readings--that reading from the Gospel of John must be at least ten minutes long.
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« Reply #26 on: April 25, 2009, 12:12:01 AM »

I was wondering what the stance is exactly in Orthodoxy concerning physical suffering?

Well, why don't you tell me, after undergoing a 55-day (yes, that's how long we give up meat) fast, doing multiple prostrations during each Lenten service, working hard at the job and coming home to lenten meals, volunteering (cleaning at Church, cooking, decorating - all after work), etc...  See the grandmothers with their varicose veins from standing in Church - and when they weren't standing, they were in mid-prostration. Grin
Add to that kneeling on a hard wood floor for the entirety of the first of the twelve Passion Gospel readings--that reading from the Gospel of John must be at least ten minutes long.

Longer than that, my friend, unless your priest read it like a disclaimer on a commercial.
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« Reply #27 on: April 25, 2009, 12:17:10 AM »

I was wondering what the stance is exactly in Orthodoxy concerning physical suffering?

Well, why don't you tell me, after undergoing a 55-day (yes, that's how long we give up meat) fast, doing multiple prostrations during each Lenten service, working hard at the job and coming home to lenten meals, volunteering (cleaning at Church, cooking, decorating - all after work), etc...  See the grandmothers with their varicose veins from standing in Church - and when they weren't standing, they were in mid-prostration. Grin
Add to that kneeling on a hard wood floor for the entirety of the first of the twelve Passion Gospel readings--that reading from the Gospel of John must be at least ten minutes long.

Longer than that, my friend, unless your priest read it like a disclaimer on a commercial.
I generally don't look at my watch during church, so I've never timed how long that reading takes.  It very well could be 15 minutes or longer, AFAIK.  Very likely the single longest reading of the church year.
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« Reply #28 on: April 25, 2009, 02:41:16 AM »

I was wondering what the stance is exactly in Orthodoxy concerning physical suffering?

Well, why don't you tell me, after undergoing a 55-day (yes, that's how long we give up meat) fast, doing multiple prostrations during each Lenten service, working hard at the job and coming home to lenten meals, volunteering (cleaning at Church, cooking, decorating - all after work), etc...  See the grandmothers with their varicose veins from standing in Church - and when they weren't standing, they were in mid-prostration. Grin
Add to that kneeling on a hard wood floor for the entirety of the first of the twelve Passion Gospel readings--that reading from the Gospel of John must be at least ten minutes long.

Longer than that, my friend, unless your priest read it like a disclaimer on a commercial.
I generally don't look at my watch during church, so I've never timed how long that reading takes.  It very well could be 15 minutes or longer, AFAIK.  Very likely the single longest reading of the church year.

I believe that a recording from a past year's service reveal's that it is 19 min read at a decent pace (not too rushed or slow).
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« Reply #29 on: April 25, 2009, 09:31:46 AM »

Very likely the single longest reading of the church year.

It is!  Close second: the Holy Thursday Evening Gospel read at the Vesperal Liturgy that morning.

I believe that a recording from a past year's service reveal's that it is 19 min read at a decent pace (not too rushed or slow).

Sounds about right.
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« Reply #30 on: April 27, 2009, 10:05:49 AM »

Well, why don't you tell me, after undergoing a 55-day (yes, that's how long we give up meat) fast, doing multiple prostrations during each Lenten service, working hard at the job and coming home to lenten meals, volunteering (cleaning at Church, cooking, decorating - all after work), etc...  See the grandmothers with their varicose veins from standing in Church - and when they weren't standing, they were in mid-prostration. Grin
Good point. God Bless. I have read in some Orthodox literature about certain practices on Athos, where pain was inflicted purposely, using a wooden "rod" (probably not what they call it). Is this more of a monastic thing? I have included a link below of the book that I read, it is excellent. Forgive me for not providing more info on it. I can't seem to find it anywhere else (I picked it up at a monastery).
http://www.amazon.com/Haralambos-Dionysiatis-Teacher-Noetic-Prayer/dp/9603515094/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240841045&sr=1-1
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« Reply #31 on: May 04, 2009, 05:40:16 PM »

I have to say I'm more in sympathy with the Orthodox on this sort of thing.  Seems like if we stay alive long enough, we'll get more than our share of "mortification of the flesh" soon enough! Wink
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« Reply #32 on: May 04, 2009, 06:37:00 PM »

I have to say I'm more in sympathy with the Orthodox on this sort of thing.  Seems like if we stay alive long enough, we'll get more than our share of "mortification of the flesh" soon enough! Wink

I agree. I've never had a time in my life where suffering was so lacking that I needed to seek it out specifically...
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