See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fasting

I found a site with the Orthodox Rules for Fasting.
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I thought this rule was interesting:
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On The Marital Fast
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Married couples are expected to abstain from sexual relations throughout the Church's four fasting seasons, as well as on the weekly Wednesday and Friday fasts. (This aspect of the fasting rule is probably even more widely ignored, and more difficult for many, than those relating to food. In recognition of this, some sources advocate a more modest, minimal rule: couples should abstain from sexual relations before receiving Holy Communion and throughout Holy Week.)
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And this:
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Communion Fast
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So that the Body and Blood of our Lord may be the first thing to pass our lips on the day of communion, we abstain from all food and drink from the time that we retire (or midnight, whichever comes first) the night before. Married couples should abstain from sexual relations the night before communion.
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When communion is in the evening, as with Presanctified Liturgies during Lent, this fast should if possible be extended throughout the day until after communion. For those who cannot keep this discipline, a total fast beginning at noon is sometimes prescribed.
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"Married couples should abstain from sexual relations the night before communion."  What would Christopher West say about that?

20 comments:

  1. I think that is a bit scrupulous.

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  2. Hm...sounds like an interesting form of birth control! (Sorry; couldn't help myself!)

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  3. I think Christopher West would say...well, I better not say what I was going to say.

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  4. It might not have been as difficult than you think in areas where a dozen people, three generations, lived in one little shanty.

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  5. I always think couples who give up sex for Lent are weird, even though I respect their right to do what they feel they need to do. Especially since so many couples more likely need to START having more sex. God intended for the marital act to bring couples closer together in an acting out of their vows and a mirroring of God's love - so I don't know how this could be a good thing.

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  6. Thank you reminding us of the beautiful and ancient traditions of our Orthodox brethren. They put us to shame. Abstaining from marital relations during Lent in based upon Scripture and goes back to the earliest Christian times, and indeed to the Old Testament. "Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
    And the bride from her dressing room." Joel 2:15-16 Roman rite Catholics used to do this, too, at least through the Medieval times.

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  7. Trying to work out when we cudda got the 10 kids! lol

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  8. Elena - I agree - it is Scriptural based and was indeed a practice in the Roman rite - but as you say, it probably was kept in medieval times. I'm not so sure about the marital fast before communion however - could that have been in effect into later times - such as the 19th century? I wonder.

    Generally, the rule for fast for the Orthodox might well exceed what religious communities observe - save for the Carmelites and Carthusians.

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  9. Maria3:59 PM

    Terry: Thank you! I think that learning about different cusomts and rites with regard to fasting is fascinating. I loved the website. The website quotes a Mother Gavrilia:

    'Fasting is one of our greatest weapons against the Evil One. I will repeat what Father Lazarus told me once. In 1962, I went to the USA. I stayed there a long time and travelled to many states. The letters of Father Lazarus were a great help... He used to say: "Go anywhere you like, do whatever you like, as long as you observe Fasting"... Because NOT A SINGLE ARROW OF THE EVIL ONE CAN REACH YOU WHEN YOU FAST. Never.'
      — Ascetic of Love, the biography of Mother Gavrilia

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  10. I wonder if this isn't held up as an ideal, rather than something you have to observe under pain of mortal sin (do Orthodox have mortal and venial sins? Not trying to be snarky, just wondering.)
    If you were trying to practice NFP this could make things pretty complicated.

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  11. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Just dont tell my wife about this. LOL.

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  12. Our Muslim brothers and sisters fast sunrise to sunset durign the entire month of Ramadan..fast includes no eating, drinking, smoking, or sexual relations during daylight hours. Of course, if you are elderly, ill, or pregnant you are exempt. Children begin fasting upon achieving puberty. If you cannot fast you are expected to perform additional works of mercy.

    When I was in Turkey my Muslim neighbors appreciated the fact that Ramadan those two years was celebrated in winter months...

    For those looking to stretch themselves spiritually this type of fast would be something to consider..it does take a rather serious adjustment to the daily routine, especially concerning eating times and meal preparation...

    Sara

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  13. Oh yes.. in my Turkish village during Ramadan we also had men who paraded through the streets around midnight or so, beating drums....rather loudly...so you could be awakened to have a "snack" or so at midnight....

    So in addition to the usual withdrawals, headachy and crankiness of no food , no drink, no caffeine, no cigarettes, no nookie..you were also crabby for having your sleep continually disrupted..harsh penance indeed :) Extra points for being charatible toward others, and trying not to have a short fuse..But since everyone was in the same boat they really supported one another...

    Sara

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  14. Terry, I asked an Eastern-rite friend about the marital fast and she says it is now optional except for the married priests. When I was in grad school I read a study by a scholar who had found that in the Middle Ages the birth rate was significantly lower nine months after Advent and Lent, based upon the parish baptismal records. (And in those days babies were baptized right after birth.) This meant that large amounts of people were abstaining from marital relations in those penitential seasons. It actually was a form of natural family planning and gave some of the women a break from being constantly pregnant. It gave them a rest. I do not know when this practice fell into disuse in our Church. I can imagine that in some ethnic communities it was practiced even in the 20th century.

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  15. Regarding Muslims: being curious and pregnant, I looked up the fasting rules this past Ramadan.
    Only pregnant women in poor health or nutrition do not have to fast, or women who are in "advanced" pregnancy or "in a stage when fasting is harmful."
    If a pregnant woman fears for her health, she can fast for the equivalent number of days at another time.
    Pregnant Muslims are indeed expected to fast if none of these conditions are met.
    For example, in West Africa, approximately 90% of pregnant women fast during Ramadan.
    I cannot imagine going without food for that long while pregnant. I can't go two hours as it is right now without feeling faint.

    ;)

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  16. "...Thank you reminding us of the beautiful and ancient traditions of our Orthodox brethren. They put us to shame. Abstaining from marital relations during Lent in based upon Scripture and goes back to the earliest Christian times, and indeed to the Old Testament..." —Elena Yes, back to Jewish believes and practices ... our root.

    To quote from, "Born of the Ever Virgin Mary" by Brother Dr. Anthony M. Opisso +:

    "Living a celibate life within marriage was not unknown in Jewish tradition. It was told that Moses, who was married, remained continent the rest of his life after the command to abstain from sexual intercourse (Exodus 19:15) given in preparation for the revelation at Mount Sinai. There was also a tradition that the seventy elders abstained thereafter from their wives after their call and so did Eldad and Medad when the spirit of the prophecy came upon them. Indeed, it was said that the prophets became celibate after the Word of the Lord communicated with them (Midrash Exodus Rabbah 19.3; 46.3; Sifre to Numbers 99 sect. II; Sifre Zutta 81-82, 203-204; Aboth Rabbi Nathan 9, 39; Tanchumah III, 46; Tanchumah Zaw 13; 3 Petirot Moshe 72; Shabbath 87a; Pesachim 87b, Babylonian Talmud)."

    "... When for the sake of the Torah (i.e., intense study in it), a rabbi would abstain from relations with his wife, it was deemed permissible, for he was then cohabiting with the Shekinah (the 'Divine Presence') in the Torah (Zohar re Genesis 1:27, 13:3 and Psalm 85:14 in the Discourse of Rabbi Phineas to Rabbis Jose, Judah, and Hiya)."

    to be cont'd

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  17. cont'd

    The next quote gives a clue to why the custom:

    "It is well known that the rabbis spoke concerning the obligation of all males to be married and procreate. 'He who abstains from procreation is regarded as though he had shed blood' (Rabbi Eliezer in Yebamoth 63b, Babylonian Talmud; see also Shulkhan Arukh [Code of Jewish Law] section Even-ha-Ezeer 1:1, 3, 4)... Nevertheless, "if a person cleaves to the study of the Torah (i.e., dedicates all his time to it) like Simeon be Azzai, his refusal to marry can be condoned" (Shulkhan Arukh BH 1:4)... He never married and was celibate all his life so as not to be distracted from his studies, and because he considered the Torah his wife for whom he always yearned for with all his soul (Yebamoth 63b), he justified his bachelorhood... outstanding scholar .... renowned for his saintliness (Berakoth 57b, B.T.)"

    t.b.c.

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  18. The fruits:

    "Those in hope of a divine revelation consequently refrained from sexual intercourse and were strict in matters of purity (Enoch 83:2; Revelation 14:2-5) Philo (Apol. pro Judaeis IX, 14-17; Josephus, Antiq. SvIII.21, and Hippolytus, Philosophumena IX, IV, 28a) wrote on the celibacy of the Jewish Essenes ... Philo Judaeus (c. 20 B.C. - 50 A.D.), wrote concerning Jewish women who have kept their chastity not under compulsion, like some Greek priestesses, but of their own free will in their ardent yearning for Wisdom. Eager to have Wisdom for their life-mate they have spurned the pleasures of the body and desire no mortal offspring but those immortal children which only the soul that is dear to God can bring forth to birth" (Philo Cont. 68; see also Philo, Abr. 100). For:

    "the chaste are rewarded by receiving illumination from the concealed heavenly light: (Zohar II.229b-230a).

    Because,

    "if the understanding is safe and unimpaired, free from the oppression of the iniquities or passions ... it will gaze clearly on all that is worthy of contemplation." (Philo, Sob. I.5).

    t.b.c.

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  19. Conversely,

    "the understanding of the pleasure-loving man is blind and unable to see those things that are worth seeing... the sight of which is wonderful to behold and desirable" (Philo, Q. Gen. IV.245).

    The practice just doesn't seem weird, but refreshing. Perhaps, this practice seems steeped in deep spiritual instruction, one of which it seems to be towards guiding married couples to a union of hearts with a desire to a communion with God.

    Elena, thank you for the added info. Pondering this and the state of our culture and attitudes, such practices might just be advantageous not only for the married couples, but for the Church body, hence society.

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