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Author Topic: Russian/Greek Orthodoxy  (Read 4724 times) Average Rating: 0
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David Young
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« on: November 28, 2011, 01:47:00 PM »

My more immediate impressions of Orthodoxy come from our annual holiday in Greece and my many visits with work to southern Albania, but most of my reading (other than the early Fathers) comes from Russian Orthodoxy, because there seems to be more material translated from Russian than from Greek (or written in English by Russians than by Greeks). Are there differences in what is often today called "spirituality", what perhaps used to be called "piety" - maybe one could simply say ethos - between Russian and Greek Orthodoxy?
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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2011, 08:11:50 PM »

In the Greek Church, six-inch leopard print heels and giant hoop earings are considered suitable attire for Liturgy.
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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2011, 08:16:02 PM »

In the Greek Church, six-inch leopard print heels and giant hoop earings are considered suitable attire for Liturgy.

You obviously haven't been to any Russian churches.  laugh
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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2011, 08:30:20 PM »

In the Greek Church, six-inch leopard print heels and giant hoop earings are considered suitable attire for Liturgy.

I am REALLY getting tired of these kind of comments about Greek parishes. Immodesty exists EVERYWHERE. As someone who has taught Sunday school in a Ukrainian parish, trying to get the girls and (their mothers) to realize how inappropriate this is gives you a whole new understanding of the plight of Sysyphus.

Some of the most caring, spiritual, and pious people I have met have been in Greek parishes, so David Young, please take akimori makato's comments with a grain of salt. 

In regards to the OP, as someone who's been around the many different styles of Orthodoxy within the US, here are my thoughts: I have heard it said that there is a greater level of piety within Russian parishes versus Greek, but I don't believe that to be true. After all, can any human read another human's heart? Can any human judge the love of God a person has based on their ethnicity? I think not.

Russians tend to be more demonstrative with their piety, and Greeks are more subtle with theirs. For example, when I visit the local OCA parish by me which is made up of mostly Slavic descendents, it is customary for people to make many bows and prostrations in front of all of the various icons in the parish while crossing themselves in a very large fashion. Since almost everyone in the parish does this, it's not done to show off, this is simply their custom.

When I visit a Greek parish, people tend to bow and prostrate less, and use smaller motions while crossing themselves.

Do I think the Russians love God more because they cross themselves in a larger fashion? No. I just think it's a cultural difference that cannot be explained. 
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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2011, 08:48:48 PM »

Some of the most caring, spiritual, and pious people I have met have been in Greek parishes, so David Young, please take akimori makato's comments with a grain of salt.

Yes, please do. I was only joking (I hope that much is obvious?) and agree with everything Handmaiden has said above.
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« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2011, 03:38:46 PM »

Perhaps I should explain my question a little more fully, deeply, or clearly.

Maybe an illustration will help. If you read Anglo-Saxon Christian writings, you get a huge emphasis on creation, and on wonder and praise for creation - also on the theme of exile, and thus of logning for heaven. If you read Wesleyan writings, you get an ardour for holiness. If you read certain Calvinist writings (I think mainly of the perhaps regrettably named Strict and Particular Baptists) you get a deep trust in God's sovereignty and overruling care for his children. When you move on to the Primitive Methodists of the 19th century, you get expansive outward-looking evangelistic zeal. When you look at the early Moravians, an emphasis on the unity of various Christians, as well as a world-wide vision. The Welsh churches yearn for Revival and its overwhelming sense of God's ubiquitous presence, and look back to 1904, 1859 and earlier with longing.

What would I find special about real Orthodox Christian writers - and especially, what difference would I find between Russian and Greek? I am thinking about areas like prayer, mystery, growth in inner holiness... whatever. There lies the marrow of my question.
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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2011, 04:11:35 PM »

Perhaps I should explain my question a little more fully, deeply, or clearly.

Maybe an illustration will help. If you read Anglo-Saxon Christian writings, you get a huge emphasis on creation, and on wonder and praise for creation - also on the theme of exile, and thus of logning for heaven. If you read Wesleyan writings, you get an ardour for holiness. If you read certain Calvinist writings (I think mainly of the perhaps regrettably named Strict and Particular Baptists) you get a deep trust in God's sovereignty and overruling care for his children. When you move on to the Primitive Methodists of the 19th century, you get expansive outward-looking evangelistic zeal. When you look at the early Moravians, an emphasis on the unity of various Christians, as well as a world-wide vision. The Welsh churches yearn for Revival and its overwhelming sense of God's ubiquitous presence, and look back to 1904, 1859 and earlier with longing.

What would I find special about real Orthodox Christian writers - and especially, what difference would I find between Russian and Greek? I am thinking about areas like prayer, mystery, growth in inner holiness... whatever. There lies the marrow of my question.

Mr Young, what differences you find will all depend on where you look. If you're reading the works of monastics you will find very few differences at all- the Russian practice is very much descended from the practices of Mount Athos, so you will read a lot about inner stillness, hard work, perseverance, chastity, etc.

Outside of the monasteries you will find greater variation in practice. From what I've seen here in the States the Russians tend to be a little stricter with the fasting rules, the Russian prayers during Confession are a little different, there are different hymns in the antiphons in the Liturgy, Russians like prostrations a little more often, though not during the epiclesis and Greeks like to kneel during the epiclesis. There will be some slight differences in what prayers you might find in the Prayer Books (the Russian ones tend to be longer). In short, the differences are much the same as the differences in Russian and Greek literature- Russians tend to be more austere and depressed while Greeks tend to be celebratory and lax, at least for the purposes of a simplistic generality.

Now, American Orthodox writers, whether of an Orthodox ethnic background or not, are turning out to be a whole different ball of wax.
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2011, 04:59:55 PM »

Russian writers tend to be much more literalistic and direct, while Greeks are normally more philosophical, which reflects their respective cultural traits. You will also find among Russians a much greater focus on external observances. If you attend a monastery on Mount Athos, you'll notice the sign of the Cross is made fairly infrequently during services and that there is little bowing and few prostrations. These things are reserved for the cells, where the monk prays in private and out of sight. From my personal experience, contrary to what most people say on this board, I've found that pious Greeks tend to observe fasting rules much more strictly than their Russian counterparts. Russians rarely abstain from oil (and especially not alcohol!) during days of strict fasting, and fish is often consumed on days where the rules do not permit this. Presumably, this has to do with the harshness of the Russian climate. During services, you will also find that Russians generally make less abbreviations to the Typikon. However, they also read and sing much quicker than in Greek churches, where things tend to be more elaborate. Quantity vs. quality.
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2011, 01:46:07 PM »

Russians don't open as many restaurants.
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2011, 02:17:34 PM »

From my personal experience, contrary to what most people say on this board, I've found that pious Greeks tend to observe fasting rules much more strictly than their Russian counterparts. Russians rarely abstain from oil (and especially not alcohol!) during days of strict fasting, and fish is often consumed on days where the rules do not permit this. Presumably, this has to do with the harshness of the Russian climate.
The Eastern Slavic fasting traditions differ from the Greek ones as you have seen.  Fish & oil are allowed.  It has always been that way if you go back to early days of Slavic Christianity and the Council of Vladimir of 1249.
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« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2011, 04:10:57 PM »

Putting your posts together, I think I can extract this (though you have also said more): Greek Orthodox are going to emphasise divine mystery and philosophy more, whilst Russian might seem more gloomy or sombre, perhaps for having endured the Stalin years and the rest of Communism. Greeks would look for God in the heights of glory and mystery, Russians would find him in the depths of prolonged suffering. But their doctrines are the same.

Have I made any sense of what you have suggested?
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« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2011, 04:27:53 PM »

You're on the right track.

The Russians of the 19th century seemed to consider themselves the heirs to the desert fathers.
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« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2011, 05:17:15 PM »

Putting your posts together, I think I can extract this (though you have also said more): Greek Orthodox are going to emphasise divine mystery and philosophy more, whilst Russian might seem more gloomy or sombre, perhaps for having endured the Stalin years and the rest of Communism. Greeks would look for God in the heights of glory and mystery, Russians would find him in the depths of prolonged suffering. But their doctrines are the same.

Have I made any sense of what you have suggested?


Pretty much, but the Russians were gloomy and sombre long before Stalin! Read (or re-read) some Dostoevsky (especially the Brothers Karamazov)!
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« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2011, 05:52:23 PM »

Putting your posts together, I think I can extract this (though you have also said more): Greek Orthodox are going to emphasise divine mystery and philosophy more, whilst Russian might seem more gloomy or sombre, perhaps for having endured the Stalin years and the rest of Communism. Greeks would look for God in the heights of glory and mystery, Russians would find him in the depths of prolonged suffering. But their doctrines are the same.

Have I made any sense of what you have suggested?


You summed it up rather well.  Russians are much different people than Greeks, in as much as someone who grew up in the USA are much different than people who grew up in Mexico.  But we are all people, nations are man-made, borders are imaginary lines that turn brothers into enemies.
Not withstanding, I do enjoy my pysanky and wooden clappers on Good Friday.. 
Come to where I live, it's only sunny 65 days of the year and see if people are excited and easy going. 
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« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2011, 01:22:58 PM »

You summed it up rather well.  Russians are much different people than Greeks,...  it's only sunny 65 days of the year

Your posts are helpful, folk. It seems to me that Greeks inhabit a land of warm sun, turquoise sea, abundant wine, honey, olive oil, and women whose beauty was renowned before the Greeks even arrived in Greece; whereas Russians (quite apart from Stalin, the KGB etc) live in a land of vast tundra, snow, cold and dark forests. Presumably history and geography, whilst not effecting doctrine, have affected the ethos, the "feel", of their Orthodoxy.

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« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2011, 12:18:57 PM »

You summed it up rather well.  Russians are much different people than Greeks,...  it's only sunny 65 days of the year

Your posts are helpful, folk. It seems to me that Greeks inhabit a land of warm sun, turquoise sea, abundant wine, honey, olive oil, and women whose beauty was renowned before the Greeks even arrived in Greece; whereas Russians (quite apart from Stalin, the KGB etc) live in a land of vast tundra, snow, cold and dark forests. Presumably history and geography, whilst not effecting doctrine, have affected the ethos, the "feel", of their Orthodoxy.


Stalin was Georgian.  Look at the culture, church and people of Georgia.  I'd rather live in Georgia than Greece.  Please let's not stoop to ethnic stereotypes.
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« Reply #16 on: December 08, 2011, 09:45:53 AM »

You summed it up rather well.  Russians are much different people than Greeks,...  it's only sunny 65 days of the year

Your posts are helpful, folk. It seems to me that Greeks inhabit a land of warm sun, turquoise sea, abundant wine, honey, olive oil, and women whose beauty was renowned before the Greeks even arrived in Greece; whereas Russians (quite apart from Stalin, the KGB etc) live in a land of vast tundra, snow, cold and dark forests. Presumably history and geography, whilst not effecting doctrine, have affected the ethos, the "feel", of their Orthodoxy.


Stalin was Georgian.  Look at the culture, church and people of Georgia.  I'd rather live in Georgia than Greece.  Please let's not stoop to ethnic stereotypes.

I don't think that's what he was getting at. Certainly, different cultures have different lenses through which they view life (your very native tongue affects the way you think); it has nothing to do with stereotypes.
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« Reply #17 on: December 08, 2011, 11:40:00 AM »

I don't think that's what he was getting at... it has nothing to do with stereotypes.

Thank you: you are quite right. To give another illustration, if you go back 180 years, the Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyan Methodists held the same doctrines, but their ethos was different. Similarly I suspect Russian and Greek Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2011, 10:37:57 PM »

Putting your posts together, I think I can extract this (though you have also said more): Greek Orthodox are going to emphasise divine mystery and philosophy more, whilst Russian might seem more gloomy or sombre, perhaps for having endured the Stalin years and the rest of Communism. Greeks would look for God in the heights of glory and mystery, Russians would find him in the depths of prolonged suffering. But their doctrines are the same.

Have I made any sense of what you have suggested?


David:  I think you are dealing in stereotypes and generalities here. I've been a member of a Russian Orthodox Church for 15 years, and the Russians I know I would not describe as gloomy or somber people.  If anything, they have quite varied personalities.  Some are very warm and affectionate and out-going.  Others are a bit more quiet and reserved until they get to know you.  Some are very polished and refined people and well-educated.  Others are manual laborers and barely speak any English. They smile, they laugh, they get sad just like regular Americans do.  While they do come from a different culture than I do ( I am an Anglo American and English is my native language), I can't say that they are that different from me. Other than the language difference between us, I have always found it very easy to relate to the Russians in my parish.  I have found that on the whole, they tend to be very pious people and they take their Orthodoxy seriously.  But a lot of them have a great sense of fun too, esp. at holidays. They also tend to be very hospitable people, and are quite willing to share whatever they have with you, esp. their food, drink and fellowship.  They almost never bring up the subject of Russian history with me, but if I bring it up they are very eager and DELIGHTED to share with me the history of their country. They are the same way about the Russian language.  They speak Russian amongst themselves, but if I sit down at the table with them they will switch to English so that I don't feel excluded.  There were a number of us  (Americans)in the choir that wanted to learn how to sing services in Slavonic and when our Russian parishioners found out about this, they were quite moved. It really touched them that we cared enough to do that.  I have found the Russian people I know at church to be very down-to-earth, humble, pious and very willing to treat everyone like a family member.  Gloomy is a word I just don't associate with Russians. 

I will say that for me personally, after I converted to Orthodoxy, it has been easier for me to get to know Russians than it has been to get to know Greeks. I found the Russians more direct, more affectionate, and more excited about getting converts.  The Greeks I've met were more cautious about receiving converts and a little more cold and distant in the beginning.  However, I found if I persisted with the Greeks, they began to drop some of their reserve and become more welcoming and familiar with me.  At risk of having other Orthodox criticize me here, I would say my experience of the Greek Orthodox is that they can be a bit clannish and suspicious of outsiders at the beginning. However, if you persist you can indeed chip away at the "Byzantine ice" that some people experience.  What really worked for me with the Greeks, was when I took an interest in their history.  I began reading about the Turkish yoke and the forced expulsion of the Greeks from Asia Minor in the 1920s.  I suddenly found MANY Greeks that eagerly wanted to share their stories with me. Most of them still had grandparents that lived through the period and remembered it well. I also took an interest in the Greek language and got some Greek Orthodox friends of mine to teach me the Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed in Greek.  They were really impressed that I wanted to learn their language. I have also sung in Greek Orthodox choirs and had some of their chanters teach me some Byzantine chant.  One I did these things, I found that the Greeks really opened up to me and accepted me as one of their own, no longer just a "convert" but a real fellow Orthodox Christian.

I took me a while, but now I really appreciate the Russianess of the Russians, the Greekness of the Greeks and the Americaness of the Americans.
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« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2011, 10:42:38 PM »

Putting your posts together, I think I can extract this (though you have also said more): Greek Orthodox are going to emphasise divine mystery and philosophy more, whilst Russian might seem more gloomy or sombre, perhaps for having endured the Stalin years and the rest of Communism. Greeks would look for God in the heights of glory and mystery, Russians would find him in the depths of prolonged suffering. But their doctrines are the same.

Have I made any sense of what you have suggested?


David:  I think you are dealing in stereotypes and generalities here. I've been a member of a Russian Orthodox Church for 15 years, and the Russians I know I would not describe as gloomy or somber people.  If anything, they have quite varied personalities.  Some are very warm and affectionate and out-going.  Others are a bit more quiet and reserved until they get to know you.  Some are very polished and refined people and well-educated.  Others are manual laborers and barely speak any English. They smile, they laugh, they get sad just like regular Americans do.  While they do come from a different culture than I do ( I am an Anglo American and English is my native language), I can't say that they are that different from me. Other than the language difference between us, I have always found it very easy to relate to the Russians in my parish.  I have found that on the whole, they tend to be very pious people and they take their Orthodoxy seriously.  But a lot of them have a great sense of fun too, esp. at holidays. They also tend to be very hospitable people, and are quite willing to share whatever they have with you, esp. their food, drink and fellowship.  They almost never bring up the subject of Russian history with me, but if I bring it up they are very eager and DELIGHTED to share with me the history of their country. They are the same way about the Russian language.  They speak Russian amongst themselves, but if I sit down at the table with them they will switch to English so that I don't feel excluded.  There were a number of us  (Americans)in the choir that wanted to learn how to sing services in Slavonic and when our Russian parishioners found out about this, they were quite moved. It really touched them that we cared enough to do that.  I have found the Russian people I know at church to be very down-to-earth, humble, pious and very willing to treat everyone like a family member.  Gloomy is a word I just don't associate with Russians. 

I will say that for me personally, after I converted to Orthodoxy, it has been easier for me to get to know Russians than it has been to get to know Greeks. I found the Russians more direct, more affectionate, and more excited about getting converts.  The Greeks I've met were more cautious about receiving converts and a little more cold and distant in the beginning.  However, I found if I persisted with the Greeks, they began to drop some of their reserve and become more welcoming and familiar with me.  At risk of having other Orthodox criticize me here, I would say my experience of the Greek Orthodox is that they can be a bit clannish and suspicious of outsiders at the beginning. However, if you persist you can indeed chip away at the "Byzantine ice" that some people experience.  What really worked for me with the Greeks, was when I took an interest in their history.  I began reading about the Turkish yoke and the forced expulsion of the Greeks from Asia Minor in the 1920s.  I suddenly found MANY Greeks that eagerly wanted to share their stories with me. Most of them still had grandparents that lived through the period and remembered it well. I also took an interest in the Greek language and got some Greek Orthodox friends of mine to teach me the Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed in Greek.  They were really impressed that I wanted to learn their language. I have also sung in Greek Orthodox choirs and had some of their chanters teach me some Byzantine chant.  One I did these things, I found that the Greeks really opened up to me and accepted me as one of their own, no longer just a "convert" but a real fellow Orthodox Christian.

I took me a while, but now I really appreciate the Russianess of the Russians, the Greekness of the Greeks and the Americaness of the Americans.
My experience has been that there are two types of Greeks, those who don't care if you are not Greek, and those for whom it makes all the difference in the world (although I've gotten by in Greek and know a lot of their history, so I've never dealt with them from scratch, as it were).
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« Reply #20 on: December 19, 2011, 03:52:53 AM »

Russian writers tend to be much more literalistic and direct, while Greeks are normally more philosophical, which reflects their respective cultural traits.

Yes. Golden age Russian writing and philosophy evolved within their intellectual class, who had a gestalt view of themselves and their lives. Religion and philosophy was inseparable from their greatest literature and their moral codes. Greece has a very long history of philosophy, intellect, cultural evolution, etc...whereas most of the culture we know as Russian was solidified in their post-nomadic crunch from 1400 onwards. This accounts for the cultural differences and perhaps the relaxation that people associate with Greeks.
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« Reply #21 on: December 19, 2011, 07:07:18 AM »

A lot of the perception that the Russians are stricter, in my opinion, derives from the fact that the Russian Church Abroad was a "traditionalist" Church up until recently. Therefore, they kept more of the older, stricter piety than the "modernist" churches, like the New Calendar Greek Church. But I've been to Greek Old Calendar churches, like St Mark of Ephesus in Roslindale, MA, and they are on the whole just as strict and pious as the Russians, e.g. standing through the whole Liturgy. St Markella's in Astoria is a bit of an oddball, since most of the congregation there are former New Calendarists, so they're somewhat less strict, e.g. in the formality of their dress for liturgy, whether the women cover their heads, not standing through the whole service etc. The older Old Calendarist core of the congregation I observe to be more strict, e.g they're the ones who make a real effort to make it in time for Sunday morning Orthros, or at any rate before the Liturgy begins, to stay on their feet as much as they can bear, and so on.

Aside from this, there are some real differences in the two traditions. E.g. the Greeks have a custom of kneeling through the whole Epiclesis on weekdays, while the Russians stand and make a prostration at the end. But these are fairly minor differences. Someone noted that in fact the Russians have for a long time observed the traditional fasting rules more laxly, e.g. the ban on oil is mostly a dead letter even in very pious households. Again, the perception that the Russians are stricter in fasting seems to come from the fact that they remained more traditional in general, and therefore continued to observe the fast days long after most Greek New Calendarists stopped doing so.
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« Reply #22 on: December 19, 2011, 08:17:44 AM »

Yes, stopping fasting and no headcoverings. All that is due to the calendar change.
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« Reply #23 on: December 19, 2011, 08:46:43 AM »

Yes, stopping fasting and no headcoverings. All that is due to the calendar change.

I didn't say the calendar change caused that, at least not directly. I'm just observing that the churches which adopted the calendar change tend to have innovated in other ways, as well. Hardly a controversial observation.
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« Reply #24 on: December 19, 2011, 05:15:19 PM »

Russian writers tend to be much more literalistic and direct, while Greeks are normally more philosophical, which reflects their respective cultural traits.

whereas most of the culture we know as Russian was solidified in their post-nomadic crunch from 1400 onwards. This accounts for the cultural differences and perhaps the relaxation that people associate with Greeks.
don't you mean from the time of Peter the great onwards?
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« Reply #25 on: December 19, 2011, 06:57:13 PM »

You summed it up rather well.  Russians are much different people than Greeks,...  it's only sunny 65 days of the year

Your posts are helpful, folk. It seems to me that Greeks inhabit a land of warm sun, turquoise sea, abundant wine, honey, olive oil, and women whose beauty was renowned before the Greeks even arrived in Greece; whereas Russians (quite apart from Stalin, the KGB etc) live in a land of vast tundra, snow, cold and dark forests. Presumably history and geography, whilst not effecting doctrine, have affected the ethos, the "feel", of their Orthodoxy.



While this as an important difference between them, the same comparison is bein g made by Southern Italians about the Northern Italians, comparing them to the "dark and gloomy" Germans! One cannot really compare Russians on the one hand with another ethnic group on the other. There are "reform" Russians (the Paris School) that has lead a renaissance in the Liturgical life of the Church, particularly in regard to frequent communion and confession practice. They are in marked contrast to Russians to have kept to the pre-1917 Russian practices regarding Confession and Communion. I suggest you read the writings of Father Alexander Schmemann for the former and any ROCOR catechism for the latter. Surprisingly, in both groups you will find a deep commitment to pass on the deposit of faith unchanged from one generation to another, but the Paris School referred back to earlier practices as it believed the 1917 Russian practices to have been tainted by Roman Catholic influences. You will also find the same level of reverence and awe for the Lord' body and blood. Same sort of divisions also exist in the Greek worlds, as they have had their own Eucharistic renaissance.

The biggest difference that I see in Orthodoxy is perhaps a reaction to the calamities that befell Her in Russia and other countries under Godless Communism; the march of Islam and its pernicious influence around the Mediterranean; the dispersal of Orthodox people all around the world; and the consequent exposure to heterodox POVs. Thus, I see a difference between the haves and the have nots  from a perspective of those Orthodox who are properly catechized and those who are not; those who take advantage of materials available to them (Holy Scriptures, writings of the Fathers, theological works, etc.) and those who either do not have access or interest; those who have pastors who have advanced theological education versus those whose priests only have rudimentary preparation; and, those who are fortunate to be worshiping side by side coverts to Orthodoxy from various backgrounds versus those who are in a cradle cocoon. You will see a greater tendency in the first group to use both mind and spirit in worship and personal piety. However, I cannot say the intensity of worship and depth and breath of personal piety is determined by any of the differences that we have seen explored on this thread.
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« Reply #26 on: December 20, 2011, 02:12:43 PM »

A lot of the perception that the Russians are stricter, in my opinion, derives from the fact that the Russian Church Abroad was a "traditionalist" Church up until recently.

Someone noted that in fact the Russians have for a long time observed the traditional fasting rules more laxly, e.g. the ban on oil is mostly a dead letter even in very pious households.

Maybe you don't know this but the use of olive oil through Russia and Belarus and Ukraine throughout history was rare.  In Ukraine sunflower seed oil has always been popular and oil made from other sources we don't see as common in North America such as walnut oil and so on.  For your information the banning of oil was never enforced by the Eastern Slavic Orthodox Churches.
 You are making assumptions that the same rules apply throughout all the variopus Orthodox churches.
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« Reply #27 on: December 21, 2011, 07:17:17 AM »

A lot of the perception that the Russians are stricter, in my opinion, derives from the fact that the Russian Church Abroad was a "traditionalist" Church up until recently.

Someone noted that in fact the Russians have for a long time observed the traditional fasting rules more laxly, e.g. the ban on oil is mostly a dead letter even in very pious households.

Maybe you don't know this but the use of olive oil through Russia and Belarus and Ukraine throughout history was rare.  In Ukraine sunflower seed oil has always been popular and oil made from other sources we don't see as common in North America such as walnut oil and so on.  For your information the banning of oil was never enforced by the Eastern Slavic Orthodox Churches.
 You are making assumptions that the same rules apply throughout all the variopus Orthodox churches.

Yes, that's what I said. Why are you insinuating that I wasn't aware the Slavs, or at any rate the eastern Slavs in Russia, didn't observe the ban against oil, when that is precisely what I wrote in the post you quoted?

The ban on oil is a dead letter in the Slavic churches, presumably because by "oil" they understood specifically "olive oil" (does Greek perhaps use different words for olive oil and other kinds of oil?). I've heard it argued that really the ban on oil ought to apply to all vegetable oils, since the point behind the rule is that foods cooked with any kind of oil are richer and therefore unsuitable for strict fast days, but in practice this does not seem to be what has been observed. This might be evidence that in fact the ban on olive oil was never just about the richness of the food, but because olive oil in particular was a symbol of rejoicing, and for that reason was unsuitable for strict fast days. Other kinds of vegetable oil do not have the same symbolic significance. Likewise, the ban on wine may have more to do with its significance as a symbol of joy, rather than merely the presence of alcohol, since in practice Slavs have been permitted to drink alcoholic beer on fast days.
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« Reply #28 on: December 21, 2011, 08:30:41 AM »

A lot of the perception that the Russians are stricter, in my opinion, derives from the fact that the Russian Church Abroad was a "traditionalist" Church up until recently.

Someone noted that in fact the Russians have for a long time observed the traditional fasting rules more laxly, e.g. the ban on oil is mostly a dead letter even in very pious households.

Maybe you don't know this but the use of olive oil through Russia and Belarus and Ukraine throughout history was rare.  In Ukraine sunflower seed oil has always been popular and oil made from other sources we don't see as common in North America such as walnut oil and so on.  For your information the banning of oil was never enforced by the Eastern Slavic Orthodox Churches.
 You are making assumptions that the same rules apply throughout all the variopus Orthodox churches.

Yes, that's what I said. Why are you insinuating that I wasn't aware the Slavs, or at any rate the eastern Slavs in Russia, didn't observe the ban against oil, when that is precisely what I wrote in the post you quoted?

The ban on oil is a dead letter in the Slavic churches, presumably because by "oil" they understood specifically "olive oil" (does Greek perhaps use different words for olive oil and other kinds of oil?). I've heard it argued that really the ban on oil ought to apply to all vegetable oils, since the point behind the rule is that foods cooked with any kind of oil are richer and therefore unsuitable for strict fast days, but in practice this does not seem to be what has been observed. This might be evidence that in fact the ban on olive oil was never just about the richness of the food, but because olive oil in particular was a symbol of rejoicing, and for that reason was unsuitable for strict fast days. Other kinds of vegetable oil do not have the same symbolic significance. Likewise, the ban on wine may have more to do with its significance as a symbol of joy, rather than merely the presence of alcohol, since in practice Slavs have been permitted to drink alcoholic beer on fast days.

My dear Jonathan

Allow me to clarify a few things mentioned in your post:

As someone who has been Orthodox for the better part of fifty years, and with great experience of both Greek and Slavic forms of Orthodoxy, I can say categorically that the Slavic approach to oil-free days is no different to that of the Greeks. Oils is oils - whether olive, vegetable, sunflower, or whatever. I also know that the abstention from wine or any other alcohol tends to be far more likely to be absolute among Slavs than amongst Greeks.

On the matter of oil (olive or otherwise) being a symbol of rejoicing, this, from my experience, is a modern shibboleth. Any oil, be it olive, seed, etc, has the ability to make food more palatable, through frying, or by coating baked lenten food, or in other ways of cooking. The Russians who might have rightly been given some laxity in consuming oil during fasting periods would be those in particularly isolated and barren areas, such as near the Arctic Circle, and Siberia. Otherwise, the Russians are no different to the Greeks in forgoing all oils on appointed lenten days.
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« Reply #29 on: December 21, 2011, 09:53:16 AM »

It was a shock to discover, when I moved from the Serbian to the Russian Church, that the Russians have extended the "No Wine" to include "No Beer and No Spirits."   

Is this normal?  Or is it part of some puritanical New World thing which interprets "wine" as meaning "anything with alcohol"?  Is this an innovation?  Or is it also followed back in the home countries?

During the very cold mornings during the Great Fast in Serbia after 5 freezing hours of services and prostrations in the monastery's stone church, the morning glass of warm slivovitsa was very welcome before we had to go to our "obediences" in the monastery, in the cow shed or whatever.
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« Reply #30 on: December 21, 2011, 11:19:44 AM »

A lot of the perception that the Russians are stricter, in my opinion, derives from the fact that the Russian Church Abroad was a "traditionalist" Church up until recently.

Someone noted that in fact the Russians have for a long time observed the traditional fasting rules more laxly, e.g. the ban on oil is mostly a dead letter even in very pious households.

Maybe you don't know this but the use of olive oil through Russia and Belarus and Ukraine throughout history was rare.  In Ukraine sunflower seed oil has always been popular and oil made from other sources we don't see as common in North America such as walnut oil and so on.  For your information the banning of oil was never enforced by the Eastern Slavic Orthodox Churches.
 You are making assumptions that the same rules apply throughout all the variopus Orthodox churches.

Yes, that's what I said. Why are you insinuating that I wasn't aware the Slavs, or at any rate the eastern Slavs in Russia, didn't observe the ban against oil, when that is precisely what I wrote in the post you quoted?

The ban on oil is a dead letter in the Slavic churches, presumably because by "oil" they understood specifically "olive oil" (does Greek perhaps use different words for olive oil and other kinds of oil?). I've heard it argued that really the ban on oil ought to apply to all vegetable oils, since the point behind the rule is that foods cooked with any kind of oil are richer and therefore unsuitable for strict fast days, but in practice this does not seem to be what has been observed. This might be evidence that in fact the ban on olive oil was never just about the richness of the food, but because olive oil in particular was a symbol of rejoicing, and for that reason was unsuitable for strict fast days. Other kinds of vegetable oil do not have the same symbolic significance. Likewise, the ban on wine may have more to do with its significance as a symbol of joy, rather than merely the presence of alcohol, since in practice Slavs have been permitted to drink alcoholic beer on fast days.

My dear Jonathan

Allow me to clarify a few things mentioned in your post:

As someone who has been Orthodox for the better part of fifty years, and with great experience of both Greek and Slavic forms of Orthodoxy, I can say categorically that the Slavic approach to oil-free days is no different to that of the Greeks. Oils is oils - whether olive, vegetable, sunflower, or whatever. I also know that the abstention from wine or any other alcohol tends to be far more likely to be absolute among Slavs than amongst Greeks.

On the matter of oil (olive or otherwise) being a symbol of rejoicing, this, from my experience, is a modern shibboleth. Any oil, be it olive, seed, etc, has the ability to make food more palatable, through frying, or by coating baked lenten food, or in other ways of cooking. The Russians who might have rightly been given some laxity in consuming oil during fasting periods would be those in particularly isolated and barren areas, such as near the Arctic Circle, and Siberia. Otherwise, the Russians are no different to the Greeks in forgoing all oils on appointed lenten days.

I'm sorry to oppose your venerable fifty-year authority in these matters, but the observance is nowhere near as absolute as you assert. My impression is that you are simply repeating Fr Alexander Lebedeff's arguments on the matter, without even giving him the courtesy of a citation. He is of the opinion that "oil" means all vegetable oil, but I know Orthodox who have lived their whole lives in both the Greek and Russian traditions, and they believe oil only refers to olive oil. I also know lifelong Orthodox who would be more inclined to agree with you. All this shows is that there are various ways to interpret the ban on "oil". Perhaps abstinence from all oil is the better practice, since it is the stricter, but I think we would have to agree that, if you need to use oil, it would be better to avoid olive oil and use some other kind. And certainly from my observation of how actual, normal Orthodox people observe these rules in practice, foods containing vegetable oils not made from olives, such as peanut butter, are allowed on non-oil days.

I know a hieromonk who attended Jordanville seminary, and he tells me they even served fish(!) on Wednesdays and Fridays (maybe not in Lent). So I'm not at all convinced by your claims that the extremely strict practice you advocate is universally observed, even by "traditionalists".
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« Reply #31 on: December 21, 2011, 11:30:52 AM »

I know a hieromonk who attended Jordanville seminary, and he tells me they even served fish(!) on Wednesdays and Fridays (maybe not in Lent). So I'm not at all convinced by your claims that the extremely strict practice you advocate is universally observed, even by "traditionalists".

I have quite a few friends who are monastics in Russia and Ukraine. They do not observe those rules (i.e. oil) with any particular rigour in their monasteries. As for hierarchs in the Moscow Patriarchate, cheese, eggs, and fish are frequently found at the bishops' banquets on Wednesdays and Fridays - only meat cannot somehow be justified on fasting days. As one Russian priest told me, "the further up you go in the Russian hierarchy, the less the canons apply to you." In my experience at least, the popular notion that Russians are great ascetics and Greeks are lazy liberals is little more than fiction.
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« Reply #32 on: December 21, 2011, 12:10:36 PM »

Quote
I know a hieromonk who attended Jordanville seminary, and he tells me they even served fish(!) on Wednesdays and Fridays (maybe not in Lent). So I'm not at all convinced by your claims that the extremely strict practice you advocate is universally observed, even by "traditionalists".

Neither am I, both from personal experience and from historical experience.
I agree with the above quote and have observed it both at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordonville, USA and also in monasteries in Ukraine.

 Fish is not served in Lent on Fridays & Wednesdays but is eaten during Lent and always has been.  I believe it is even mentioned in the first Sobor proceedings we have on record: the Synod of Vladimir.

Plus, my family is and always has been Orthodox.  The eating of fish except on Fridays & Wednesdays has always been a part of Lent for the laity.
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« Reply #33 on: December 21, 2011, 12:42:33 PM »

Just found this article from April 11, 2011.  Unfortunately, I cannot find an English version:
http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=40259
11 апреля 2011 года, 10:24
Монастырские правила поста не обязательны для всех православных, отмечают в Русской церкви

Basically, a spokesman for the MP, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Department for Church and Public Relations, states  that that the monastic fasting rules do not apply to non-monastics including the laity and clergy. In other words non-monastics eat fish during the Great Lent.  He also said that everyone is aware of this rule but some are trying to enforce the  strictest monastic rules on lay people.  Thus, he wanted to set the record straight.
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« Reply #34 on: December 21, 2011, 01:06:35 PM »

Quote
I know a hieromonk who attended Jordanville seminary, and he tells me they even served fish(!) on Wednesdays and Fridays (maybe not in Lent). So I'm not at all convinced by your claims that the extremely strict practice you advocate is universally observed, even by "traditionalists".

Neither am I, both from personal experience and from historical experience.
I agree with the above quote and have observed it both at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordonville, USA and also in monasteries in Ukraine.

 Fish is not served in Lent on Fridays & Wednesdays but is eaten during Lent and always has been.  I believe it is even mentioned in the first Sobor proceedings we have on record: the Synod of Vladimir.

Plus, my family is and always has been Orthodox.  The eating of fish except on Fridays & Wednesdays has always been a part of Lent for the laity.
A Greek priest who spent time on Mount Athos mentioned something in a talk about the Russian monks eating fish.  The Carpatho-Russian audience didn't seem to think it odd.
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« Reply #35 on: December 21, 2011, 03:14:29 PM »

My experience in the Serbian Church is like what is mentioned here.  Laymen and White Clergy are allowed to eat fish on any fast day other than strict fasts where nothing is eaten (Good Friday).  I have also noticed that there is a difference in wine and other spirits.  Oil is interpreted as olive oil (and olives themselves).  Like my Priest said, how do you eat nuts or most anything else without eating oil?  If I can eat peanuts and corn, why not oil made from them? 

Quote
I know a hieromonk who attended Jordanville seminary, and he tells me they even served fish(!) on Wednesdays and Fridays (maybe not in Lent). So I'm not at all convinced by your claims that the extremely strict practice you advocate is universally observed, even by "traditionalists".

Neither am I, both from personal experience and from historical experience.
I agree with the above quote and have observed it both at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordonville, USA and also in monasteries in Ukraine.

 Fish is not served in Lent on Fridays & Wednesdays but is eaten during Lent and always has been.  I believe it is even mentioned in the first Sobor proceedings we have on record: the Synod of Vladimir.

Plus, my family is and always has been Orthodox.  The eating of fish except on Fridays & Wednesdays has always been a part of Lent for the laity.
A Greek priest who spent time on Mount Athos mentioned something in a talk about the Russian monks eating fish.  The Carpatho-Russian audience didn't seem to think it odd.
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« Reply #36 on: December 21, 2011, 04:22:24 PM »

In Transylvania those that cared enough to keep the fast in the past before Communism kept it very strictly because of the generalized poverty. No fish (not very common, as see is far off, not many great rivers), oil even was scarce and made of pumpkin seeds. The staple food was potatoes, boiled beans, "mamaliga" and some sort of soup made with tomato juice and dried bread they mockingly called "stick soup", because it could as well have been made of the wooden, stick-like spoon used to stir it. That i know from grand-parents and their generation.
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« Reply #37 on: December 21, 2011, 04:38:22 PM »

Quote
My impression is that you are simply repeating Fr Alexander Lebedeff's arguments on the matter, without even giving him the courtesy of a citation.

Your presumption is mistaken, Jonathan. I have no need to cite Fr Alexander's arguments. What I expressed is from my own life, and the practice of generations of Orthodox around me, layman and cleric. There is no requirement for academic citation. I stand by what I wrote.
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« Reply #38 on: December 21, 2011, 04:52:03 PM »

A lot of the perception that the Russians are stricter, in my opinion, derives from the fact that the Russian Church Abroad was a "traditionalist" Church up until recently.

Someone noted that in fact the Russians have for a long time observed the traditional fasting rules more laxly, e.g. the ban on oil is mostly a dead letter even in very pious households.

Maybe you don't know this but the use of olive oil through Russia and Belarus and Ukraine throughout history was rare.  In Ukraine sunflower seed oil has always been popular and oil made from other sources we don't see as common in North America such as walnut oil and so on.  For your information the banning of oil was never enforced by the Eastern Slavic Orthodox Churches.
 You are making assumptions that the same rules apply throughout all the variopus Orthodox churches.

Yes, that's what I said. Why are you insinuating that I wasn't aware the Slavs, or at any rate the eastern Slavs in Russia, didn't observe the ban against oil, when that is precisely what I wrote in the post you quoted?

The ban on oil is a dead letter in the Slavic churches, presumably because by "oil" they understood specifically "olive oil" (does Greek perhaps use different words for olive oil and other kinds of oil?). I've heard it argued that really the ban on oil ought to apply to all vegetable oils, since the point behind the rule is that foods cooked with any kind of oil are richer and therefore unsuitable for strict fast days, but in practice this does not seem to be what has been observed. This might be evidence that in fact the ban on olive oil was never just about the richness of the food, but because olive oil in particular was a symbol of rejoicing, and for that reason was unsuitable for strict fast days. Other kinds of vegetable oil do not have the same symbolic significance. Likewise, the ban on wine may have more to do with its significance as a symbol of joy, rather than merely the presence of alcohol, since in practice Slavs have been permitted to drink alcoholic beer on fast days.

My dear Jonathan

Allow me to clarify a few things mentioned in your post:

As someone who has been Orthodox for the better part of fifty years, and with great experience of both Greek and Slavic forms of Orthodoxy, I can say categorically that the Slavic approach to oil-free days is no different to that of the Greeks. Oils is oils - whether olive, vegetable, sunflower, or whatever. I also know that the abstention from wine or any other alcohol tends to be far more likely to be absolute among Slavs than amongst Greeks.

On the matter of oil (olive or otherwise) being a symbol of rejoicing, this, from my experience, is a modern shibboleth. Any oil, be it olive, seed, etc, has the ability to make food more palatable, through frying, or by coating baked lenten food, or in other ways of cooking. The Russians who might have rightly been given some laxity in consuming oil during fasting periods would be those in particularly isolated and barren areas, such as near the Arctic Circle, and Siberia. Otherwise, the Russians are no different to the Greeks in forgoing all oils on appointed lenten days.

I'm sorry to oppose your venerable fifty-year authority in these matters, but the observance is nowhere near as absolute as you assert. My impression is that you are simply repeating Fr Alexander Lebedeff's arguments on the matter, without even giving him the courtesy of a citation. He is of the opinion that "oil" means all vegetable oil, but I know Orthodox who have lived their whole lives in both the Greek and Russian traditions, and they believe oil only refers to olive oil. I also know lifelong Orthodox who would be more inclined to agree with you. All this shows is that there are various ways to interpret the ban on "oil". Perhaps abstinence from all oil is the better practice, since it is the stricter, but I think we would have to agree that, if you need to use oil, it would be better to avoid olive oil and use some other kind. And certainly from my observation of how actual, normal Orthodox people observe these rules in practice, foods containing vegetable oils not made from olives, such as peanut butter, are allowed on non-oil days.

I know a hieromonk who attended Jordanville seminary, and he tells me they even served fish(!) on Wednesdays and Fridays (maybe not in Lent). So I'm not at all convinced by your claims that the extremely strict practice you advocate is universally observed, even by "traditionalists".

Oil in Serbian monasteries....

Olive oil is distinguished from other oils.  On days when oil is forbidden it is olive oil which goes off the menu.  Vegetable oils may be used on those days but not when preparing for Holy Communion.  
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« Reply #39 on: December 21, 2011, 05:03:59 PM »

Quote
I know a hieromonk who attended Jordanville seminary, and he tells me they even served fish(!) on Wednesdays and Fridays (maybe not in Lent). So I'm not at all convinced by your claims that the extremely strict practice you advocate is universally observed, even by "traditionalists".

Neither am I, both from personal experience and from historical experience.
I agree with the above quote and have observed it both at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordonville, USA and also in monasteries in Ukraine.

 Fish is not served in Lent on Fridays & Wednesdays but is eaten during Lent and always has been.  I believe it is even mentioned in the first Sobor proceedings we have on record: the Synod of Vladimir.

Plus, my family is and always has been Orthodox.  The eating of fish except on Fridays & Wednesdays has always been a part of Lent for the laity.

That makes no sense to me.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's better to not fast than to fast legalistically.  But why does every official Orthodox fasting calendar I've ever seen prohibit fish during Lent if it's so common?
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« Reply #40 on: December 21, 2011, 05:34:28 PM »

Quote
I know a hieromonk who attended Jordanville seminary, and he tells me they even served fish(!) on Wednesdays and Fridays (maybe not in Lent). So I'm not at all convinced by your claims that the extremely strict practice you advocate is universally observed, even by "traditionalists".

Neither am I, both from personal experience and from historical experience.
I agree with the above quote and have observed it both at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordonville, USA and also in monasteries in Ukraine.

 Fish is not served in Lent on Fridays & Wednesdays but is eaten during Lent and always has been.  I believe it is even mentioned in the first Sobor proceedings we have on record: the Synod of Vladimir.

Plus, my family is and always has been Orthodox.  The eating of fish except on Fridays & Wednesdays has always been a part of Lent for the laity.

That makes no sense to me.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's better to not fast than to fast legalistically.  But why does every official Orthodox fasting calendar I've ever seen prohibit fish during Lent if it's so common?

+ 1

This thread reminds me why I shouldn't read OC.net during fasting seasons.
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« Reply #41 on: December 21, 2011, 05:54:22 PM »

There has always been diversity in fasting customs.  It varies from the monasteries of Syria to the monasteries of the Russian forests.  It varies from town to town, and individual to individual.   There is an overarching pattern but it is variable to some extent.  
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« Reply #42 on: December 21, 2011, 06:12:15 PM »

There have always been diversity in fasting customs.  It varies from the monasteries of Syria to the monasteries of the Russian forests.  It varies from town to town, and individual to individual.   There is an overarching pattern but it is variable to some extent.   

As well it should be.  If God was that interested in the particulars of New Testament fasting, he would have had Paul or one of the other Apostles write "The Second Book of Leviticus". 
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« Reply #43 on: December 21, 2011, 11:39:36 PM »

There have always been diversity in fasting customs.  It varies from the monasteries of Syria to the monasteries of the Russian forests.  It varies from town to town, and individual to individual.   There is an overarching pattern but it is variable to some extent.   

As well it should be.  If God was that interested in the particulars of New Testament fasting, he would have had Paul or one of the other Apostles write "The Second Book of Leviticus". 
SCORE! Grin
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Knee V
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« Reply #44 on: December 30, 2011, 06:08:18 PM »

As well it should be.  If God was that interested in the particulars of New Testament fasting, he would have had Paul or one of the other Apostles write "The Second Book of Leviticus". 

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