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Author Topic: orthodoxy and vegetarianism?  (Read 730 times) Average Rating: 0
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Jason.Wike
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« on: April 29, 2013, 10:53:11 PM »

Ok, so I think I am thinking about trying out this whole Orthodoxy again but something (well, lots of things, really) is different now. I'm pretty close to being exclusively vegetarian. Is there any problem with that? I know monks are vegetarian but is it considered 'too extreme' for lay people to be vegetarian outside fasting seasons? After knowing what I know going back to eating meat is impossible, besides that I have found it has helped my self control tremendously  - vices that I found hard to avoid before I have no interest in what-so-ever.

Also is there any commentary by the Fathers or Saints on vegetarianism?
« Last Edit: April 29, 2013, 10:54:36 PM by Jason.Wike » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2013, 11:06:47 PM »

As long as it's not for religious reasons other than the prescribed fasting periods of the Church, I don't think it's a problem.
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2013, 11:11:49 PM »

Ok, so I think I am thinking about trying out this whole Orthodoxy again but something (well, lots of things, really) is different now. I'm pretty close to being exclusively vegetarian. Is there any problem with that? I know monks are vegetarian but is it considered 'too extreme' for lay people to be vegetarian outside fasting seasons? After knowing what I know going back to eating meat is impossible, besides that I have found it has helped my self control tremendously  - vices that I found hard to avoid before I have no interest in what-so-ever.

Also is there any commentary by the Fathers or Saints on vegetarianism?

Not a problem at all.   As you said many monks are vegetarian, and nuns as well.   There are also many vegetarian Eastern Orthodox laymen.  There is not any requirement that you be vegetarian or not though. (fasts aside, but "vegetarian" is the wrong word for that)
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jah777
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2013, 11:50:28 PM »

Orthodox can be vegetarian, but if we choose to do so it must be based on correct views rather than heretical ideas.  Just as monks abstain from meat, laypeople also may abstain from meat as an act of ascesis.  In my case, I was never raised to hunt or kill my own food, so the thought of doing so seemed to me to be unnecessarily violent when we live in such a time that we are surrounded with grocery stores filled with plant-based foods.  If I  did not want to kill an animal and prepare it for eating myself, I did not think it right to pay someone else to do the dirty work.  Adam and Eve did not consume meat in Paradise, and at the time I stopped eating meat I found the argument compelling that our intestines show us to be much more similar to herbivores than carnivores by design.  Eating less heavy and more plant-based foods may be helpful in the struggle against the flesh, but it may also be a matter of conscience if one learns about the horrors of the factory farm industry and cannot afford humanely raised alternatives.  So, that is to say that there are many good reasons that an Orthodox person can choose to stop eating meat.

It is heretical, however, for an Orthodox person to consider meat eating to be "sinful", to in any way judge or look down on those who eat meat, to equate the killing of an animal for food to the murder of a human being, or in any way to elevate animal life beyond what God intended or to denigrate human life below what God intended.
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2013, 12:52:08 AM »

You have to ask yourself what's your spiritual reason for vegetarianism? It is true that man does not normally eat meat, and did not eat meat until after the Flood, when it became impossible to live without it. The Church does not require you to be vegetarian, however, if only you are able to keep the fast as is. The Orthodox fast is not only abstaining from food, but also from "eating the flesh of our neighbor"  Smiley, meaning abstinence from spiritual sin.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2013, 01:06:50 AM by IoanC » Logged

Thomas
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2013, 09:35:26 AM »

I know several vegetarian Orthodx people other than the monastics of the church (who by the way often eat fish). THe act of fasting for them is to eliminate some of the dietary  items allowed in a vegetarian diet like olives, olive oil, wine and sometimes cheese and eggs (for non-vegan vegetarians). I know some who return to the "dry eating" of bread, fruit, and nuts during fasting periods often going to drinking only water or tea during the fast so they can continue the acesis of fasting on the fast days.
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« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2013, 12:07:00 PM »

Others have said pretty much all except that there are days in church calendar when a person has to omit fasting. You don't have to eat meat but something like dairy can be used instead. So you can even then remain a vegetarian assuming you meant vegetarian and not vegan.
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« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2013, 10:32:23 PM »

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that the inclusion of olive oil in one's diet breaks the fast. One should eat at least some oil every Sunday of the year, and all Saturdays of the year except Great Saturday, when no olive oil is used for consumption. Therefore, a vegetarian who is vegan can rest easy that he/she does not necessarily have to eat dairy or fish or eggs to break the fast.
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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2013, 03:35:03 AM »

Valid reasons for being a vegetarian:
+ Health reasons
+ Spiritual discipline
+ Ecological sustainability
+ Protesting the corruption and animal cruelty found in most commercial meat manufacturing plants

Invalid reasons for being a vegetarian:
- Animal rights (animals don't have rights; humans have a moral responsibility to prevent cruelty to animals)
- Emulating Non-Christian religious practices
- It's what all the cool kids are doing

I am absolutely unqualified to make these assertions. Grin
« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 03:35:34 AM by lovesupreme » Logged
lovesupreme
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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2013, 03:42:11 AM »

Others have said pretty much all except that there are days in church calendar when a person has to omit fasting. You don't have to eat meat but something like dairy can be used instead. So you can even then remain a vegetarian assuming you meant vegetarian and not vegan.

But I'm sure someone who is vegan for health reasons (please don't argue whether or not that's a valid reason to be vegan) does not need to purposefully break their diet for the sake of fulfilling the rule of the day. That just seems way too legalistic and silly.

If I don't eat dairy products for a good reason, I'm not going to sneak in some yogurt on one of these days so that I'm not culpable for committing a sin. And by "not going to" I mean only if that that is agreeable with my spiritual father.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the prohibitions against fasting on certain days refer only to the "total fast" (i.e. the fast we undergo before communion, or on certain days if we are spiritually and physically able). The "ascetical fast" is never broken in monastic communities, and I imagine a layperson who is practicing such a fast under proper guidance would not be compelled to break it on days on which (total) fasting is prohibited.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 03:43:06 AM by lovesupreme » Logged
Thomas
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2013, 08:12:53 AM »

The use of olive oil or wine on a Feast day would be enough to validate the typica, no need to eat dairy meat or fish.
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2013, 09:39:58 PM »

The following story, from the book "Contemporary Ascetics of Mount Athos" by Archmindrite Cherubim, comes to mind in the context of what has been discussed above:

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2. A CONTROVERSY OVER FASTING (pp.484-486)

   At the end of the last century Chios produced renowned ascetics, like the famous Parthenius, founder of the Monastery of St. Mark; Pachomius, the former robber; and many others, men and women, known and unknown.  Certain of these distinguished strugglers were connected with the great Elder of Kerasia, like the ascetics Hierotheus and Macarius, about whom we will write below.

   These two monks lived a hesychastic life in a certain desert Kalyve.  Either they were disciples of Hadji George from the Holy Mountain, or they had from the beginning lived a desert life in Chios, following faithfully his rule and instructions.

   In those years the Metropolitan of Chios was Gregory the Byzantine (1860-1877), who apparently was ignorant of this particular form of ascetic life.  Unable to comprehend the ascetic spirit, he came into conflict with the two monks.  They had an inviolable rule never to taste oil or condiments.  The Metropolitan thought it unacceptable for anyone to fast in this way, especially on Saturdays, Sundays, and great feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God.  He put pressure on them to abandon their ways.  But the two monks, seeing the ignorance of the Metropolitan in ascetic matters, did not intend to yield, since they had firmly determined to keep this rule.  In their difficulty they sought the help of Hadji George.  He then sent a letter to the Metropolitan, asking him to show understanding and to accommodate the monks in their ascetic struggles.
   
This remarkable letter has been preserved for us, and we print it here.  We have only corrected some spelling errors.

To the Most Reverend Holy Metropolitan of Chios, the Lord Gregory:

Most Reverend Holy Master, I humbly kiss your holy right hand.
   
I entreat you and assure you that the monks, Elder Hierotheus and Elder Macarius, who live a hesychastic life in a Kalyve in your diocese, have loved and chosen the good part; may they endure in such a life, as they have vowed it for themselves.  However, from today let them do so with your blessing.  Let them keep their rule of fasting, because those who fast with humility as a sinner, or for the purposes of asceticism, or for the love of God, are not forbidden to do so by the Holy Fathers.  We have witnesses from many places:  many saints spent their whole lives eating only herbs, others legumes, like St. John Chrysostom.  St. James the Brother of the Lord did not eat any animal products in his whole life.  Many other anchorites have lived thus, including now my humble self.  We are thirty brethren in one Kellion.  I have spent forty years here, leading such a life.  Neither on Pascha nor during Cheese-fare week do we break our fast.  Many other ascetics live similarly, or live in silence by twos or threes, and they also spend their lives fasting.

When someone fasts according to the rules, dogmatically, then he is hindered; for strugglers, it is said, there is no law, for a struggler is always abstemious.  Let these monks have the prayer and blessing of your All-Holiness, that their consciences may not disturb them for being disobedient.  A monk must always be a good example to the people – thus the light will shine before men.

There is a great need that you be a careful pastor, which you are.  You should oppose those who oppose fasting, which many Christians today ignore.  With fear and admonishment you should teach them to not transgress the laws of the Holy Fathers and Councils of our Church, because they state that he who does not keep the Wednesday and Friday fasts, Great Lent, and the other appointed fasts should be excommunicated.  Therefore we must teach men to not transgress the laws of God or perform unseemly works – such transgressors you should persecute.  But the brothers who desire to fast, not with a bad purpose, you should not hinder.  Seeing their struggles, rejoice that you have such virtuous men in your diocese, and have them as your glory.  And if a need should befall them some time, you should help them.  I think you weill obtain a great reward when you accommodate such men.
   
My Holy Master, consider well, for we also must die, judgment awaits us, and then God will judge every one according to his works.  Forgive me the humble one for may audacity, for I am not worthy to open my mouth to speak a word to you.  Hearing of your good renown, may your holy prayers be always with us.  Amen.
   
Hadji George, monk
Holy Mountain of Athos
April 15, 1872
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