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Author Topic: Is corporeal mortification part of Western rite tradition?  (Read 2462 times) Average Rating: 0
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PoorFoolNicholas
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« on: May 26, 2011, 11:56:19 AM »

I am going to start off by saying that I know precious little about this. Even Eastern examples. I know St. Seraphim wore a heavy chain constantly. But does the Western rite lay claim to the more western forms of bodily mortification, or is this more a Middle Ages Roman Catholic thing?
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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2011, 10:20:12 PM »

I guess that a person in the Western tradition can practice some type of mortification if they so desire (And their spiritual director approves).  No Western Christian has to go beyond the types of mortification that the Church already perscrip-es (Such as the Lenten fasting period).  A mortification doesn't necessarily have to be something severe like wearing a heavy chain.  It can be something as simple as skipping lunch one day or fasting until noon, etc...  I'm pretty sure that most priest these days would be against one of their parishioners practicing such severity's as you describe and probably would forbide them from doing so. 
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2011, 11:52:03 PM »

Yeah I would assume that the more extreme mortifcations would be sparingly used/practiced, and even forbid. Where is the line drawn? Is it usually the saints/monastics that are seen to wear chains, or hairshirts, or in some cases stand in towers? There seems to be more of the extreme measures seen among monastics. Why? Is it because they are much more pious?
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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2011, 11:52:49 PM »

I nominate this thread for most hilarious title of the year.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2011, 12:09:41 AM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2011, 12:08:39 AM »

Christ is risen.

It is hard to say where a line should or would be drawn regarding asceticism, whether in an Eastern rite context or a Western rite context. "How much fasting would a parish priest permit a parishioner to engage in?" is, for example, a question not possible to answer.

I would caution that the odd picture of some kind of mediaeval torture suit labeled "Western rite vestments?" proceeds from an impious spirit which is very close to blasphemy. What is in, and of, the Church of Christ, should not be mocked, denigrated, or likened to what is evil.
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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2011, 12:16:11 AM »

I would caution that the odd picture of some kind of mediaeval torture suit labeled "Western rite vestments?" proceeds from an impious spirit which is very close to blasphemy. What is in, and of, the Church of Christ, should not be mocked, denigrated, or likened to what is evil.

Father, bless. I removed the picture, but the point stands. Some of us consider it blasphemous to claw at the body to with tools of torture in trying to reach for God. It seems to border on the pathological or sadistic; it seems akin to a sort of perverse sadomasochism. The body is made in the image and likeness of God, and to willfully mar that image is to treat the body as the heathen do; as if it were a mere receptacle of the soul. Our bodies will raise from the dead, and Christ's healing and salvation are for our bodies as well as our souls. It makes no sense to willfully harm the body. It's not a prison we're trying to escape from, it is an essential part of our very being. This is why we do not burn our bodies after death, etc.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2011, 12:16:59 AM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2011, 12:35:51 AM »

The Lord bless.

It is not out of a Manichaean spirit of "anti-matter" or "anti-body" that we practice mortification. It is rather a way to subject the body to the spirit and restore it to its handmaiden role in that relationship. This is mentioned in the Gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who said, "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it." This means those blessed Christians who do violence to themselves in killing the passions and afflicted their bodies. Fasting is not evil, although it afflicts the body. Hairshirts are not evil; they were beloved by many saints of the Church. Chains were beloved by many Russian saints. St. Basil of Ostrog, a luminary of your Serbian Church, saddled himself with every austerity and bodily affliction he could think of, as the Holy Spirit led him. The stylite saints endured horrible conditions and intense bodily suffering, sometimes worms even eating away their legs, just as God inspired. And through this, many found salvation in Jesus Christ. I'm not aware of any saints, Eastern or Western, "taking the discipline," that is, scourging themselves, but I could be overlooking something. Still, the idea of bodily mortification is at the very heart of Orthodox ascesis and an essential part of our theosis. Don't laugh at or despise that which the Lord Himself has blessed and has recommended to mankind in the words of His gospel!
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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2011, 11:33:46 AM »

What if every time I have a lustful thought, I cut myself? Does this honor God?
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« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2011, 11:41:19 AM »

Christ is Risen!

I think the western tradition does have a few more means of mortification some of which are still in use the discipline, the celice, and the hair shirt come to mind there are also western saints who were in the practice of wearing chains.  I would say that the discipline and the celice are probably more of a middle age development.
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« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2011, 02:32:19 PM »

Truly He is risen!

Alveus Lacuna (is that meant to mean "Empty Riverbed/Tray..."?) wrote: "What if every time I have a lustful thought, I cut myself? Does this honor God?"

The difference between that sort of self-harm which indicates something is wrong with a person, and self-affliction which glorifies God, is not always immediately apparent. Much discretion, wisdom of humility, and simple obedience is required to distinguish these. Generally the godly kind of self-aflliction aims more at stifling passions, than causing actual damage to the structures of the body. I can't, for example, think of any saints (Orthodox) who actually cut themselves with a sharp instrument (I can think of some Roman-catholic examples, but they're not in the true faith, so... no wonder).

The possessed boy's father said of the devil, "and oftentimes hath he [the devil] cast him [the poor boy] into the fire and into waters to destroy him. But if thou [Christ] canst do any thing, help us!" There, we see a destructive and devilish harm to the body, symbolising specific forms of harm to the soul. On the other hand, we read in St. Gregory Dialogist's life of St. Benedict the Great: "There was a certain woman whom he had once seen, the memory of whom the evil spirit placed in his mind. By the representation of her, he [the devil] mightily inflamed the soul of God's servant with concupiscence, which so increased that--almost overcome with pleasure--he [St. Benedict] was of a mind to have left the wilderness. But, suddenly helped by God's grace, he came to himself, and seeing many thick briers and nettle bushes were growing nearby, he took off his clothes and threw himself into the midst of them. He rolled around there so long that when he got up, all his flesh was pitifully torn. And so, by the wounds of his body, he cured the wounds of his soul. For he turned pleasure into pain, and by the outward burning of extreme smart, he quenched that fire which was burning inwardly in his soul, being fed by the fuel of carnal thoughts. So by this means he overcame sin, because he made a change in the [type of] fire. From that time forth, as he himself afterwards told his disciples, he found all temptation of pleasure so subjugated that he never experienced any such thing. Many, after this, began to abandon the world, and to become his pupils."

How horrific is the former case, how inspiring the latter!
 
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« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2011, 02:41:45 PM »

To answer the OP, I don't see that "corporeal mortification" is any more severe in the Orthodox West than it is in the Orthodox East. Christianity is ascetic, but not for its own sake.
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« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2011, 11:26:50 PM »

To answer the OP, I don't see that "corporeal mortification" is any more severe in the Orthodox West than it is in the Orthodox East. Christianity is ascetic, but not for its own sake.
I suppose you are right. I guess I wonder where the more bizarre forms of it's expression went within Orthodoxy. Is anyone aware of these forms being in existence still? On Mount Athos perhaps? I know we like to say we don't practice the more Western/Roman Catholic mortifications, but they are easily found in Orthodox monastic literature.
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« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2011, 12:10:49 PM »

To answer the OP, I don't see that "corporeal mortification" is any more severe in the Orthodox West than it is in the Orthodox East. Christianity is ascetic, but not for its own sake.
I suppose you are right. I guess I wonder where the more bizarre forms of it's expression went within Orthodoxy. Is anyone aware of these forms being in existence still? On Mount Athos perhaps? I know we like to say we don't practice the more Western/Roman Catholic mortifications, but they are easily found in Orthodox monastic literature.

Ascetics have done a lot of things which would appear to us to be weird and excessive. But, I think, we sort of have to mind our own business. Our ascesis in the world full of temptations is quite different than those who are on another level, doing another kind of battle. While we may not have self flaggelaters in Eastern or Western Orthodox experience, we have Russian and Celtic saints who pray the Psalter all night naked in mosquito-infested bogs. Others have lived in trees and on pillars. I suppose what differentiates legitimate mortification from excess is whether there is delusion, a lack of humility, a lack of guidance, zeal not according to knowledge, or the damaging of the health.
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« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2011, 11:09:45 PM »

Amen! Very well put!
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