I got this reading for the day, and I guess I never saw this one. I know..
I know he's arguing that we don't need to follow the Jewish law anymore, but how does this square with how the Orthodox developed their own dietary restrictions, e.g. , Lent? "No value", really? I don't buy into some arguments I've heard that the Jewish law was just empty adherence, while ours is more spiritual. I think any laws can become empty or be spiritually useful depending how it's thought of. One of the things I liked about this church was the emphasis on physical and not just mental/inner discipline, because, well, we are physical matter. How can we deny that.
The reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians 2:20-23; 3:1-3
BRETHREN, if with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe,
why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you
submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"
(referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human
precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in
promoting rigor of devotion and selfabasement and severity to the body, but
they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh. If then
you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on
things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have
died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
(C) 2009 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
We do not need to deny that. Nor does St. Paul:
I Corinthians 8:1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge.a Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.
4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
9:1Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephasa? 6Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
7Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”b Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 13Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. 16Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
So he is not against ascetism (ἄσκησις, áskēsis, "exercise" or "training" in the sense of athletic training), just one on a false premise. Fasting is supposed to be in the image of Christ, who assumed our poverty so that we could partake of the riches of His divinity. So too when we fast, we go without, but it is not complete unless the money saved from the food is given in alms. Hence the reason why the Buddha living off a grain of rice of day was not engaged in Christian fasting, though he was disciplining himself. Fasting is never an end in itself: the classic example is lobster. To the Jew it is always non-kosher in and of itself. To the Christian, although it is technically Lenten now, when the cost cuts into almsgiving it is to be avoided. (Such was not always so: workers used to strike having to eat it more than once a week). Same thing with all the talk of St. Paul against circumsicion, yet he circumcized Timothy(while refusing to circumcize Titus), because his effective ministry amongst the Jews required it. Again, the principle is what will preach Christ.