Tag Archives: fasting

You will be their terror.

Met. Anthony Bloom

“Beginning [this week], Orthodox Christians abstain from meat; has it any meaning apart from the ascetic, the disciplinary? Yes, it has, I think. There is a frightening passage in the ninth chapter of Genesis. After the flood, when mankind has become even weaker than before, less rooted in God, more tragically alone, more tragically dependent upon the created because it has lost communion with the uncreated, God says to Noah and his people:

‘From now on all living creatures are delivered unto you as food; they will be your meat, and you will be their terror….’ That is the relationship which human sin, the loss of God in our lives, has established between us and all the created world, but particularly, in a particularly painful, monstrous way with the animal world. And our abstention from meat in the time of Lent is our act of recognition; it is also — oh, to such a small extent! — an act of reparation. We are the terror of the created world, we are those who destroy it, we are those who mar and pollute it, yet we are called originally to be its guide into eternity, into God’s glory, into the perfect beauty which God has intended for it.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov

“We were called to make of this world of ours God’s own world, God’s own Kingdom — in the sense that it is His family, the place where He lives among His creatures, and where the creatures of God can rejoice in Him and in one another. Let us therefore, to the extent to which we are faithful to the call of the Church, remember that apart from being an act by which we try to free ourselves from slavery to the material world, our fasting is an act of recognition of our sin against the world and, however small, a real attempt to make reparation for it, bring a testimony that we understand, that we are heartbroken, and that even if we cannot live otherwise, we live with a pain and a shame, and turn to God and to the world, which we treat so atrociously, with a broken and contrite heart. Amen.”

-Metropolitan Anthony of London, reposed 2003

See more of the icon here.

The best fast is this.

The best fast is to patiently endure everything that God sends.

-St. Anatoly of Optina

St. Anatoly knew what it was to endure; he was arrested by the Bolsheviks and his monastery was closed in the 1920’s. I only today read about him after seeing the quote above in this calendar I’ve been using lately, at the top of the page for April 1. So many readings for Lent take on new significance this year.

If you want to learn more of his story it is here.

RFC on idols and abstractions

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Today we had our annual birthday party for the Virgin Mary. Did you know her birthday is September 8th? It is one of the Twelve Great Feasts that we Orthodox Christians celebrate, and today, when it fell on a Sunday, several of us baked birthday cakes to eat at the agape meal. Even I baked one! I will try to post the recipe soon.

I guess that festivity put me in the mood to publish this post that I’ve had hanging around for five years. Back then I’d written several on The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon, and was working on a few more. Then, as they say, Life Happened, and RFC fell gradually down to the bottom of the drafts pile.  But he’s back, and I hope you feel the richer for revisiting his delightful book.

“A calorie is not a thing; it is a measurement. In itself, it does not exist. It is simply a way of specifying a particular property of things, namely, how much heat they give off when burned. Only things, you see, are capable of being eaten or burned, loved or loathed; no one ever yet got his teeth into a calorie.

“….How sad, then, to see real beings…calorie counters — living their lives in abject terror of things that do not even go bump in the night. What a crime, not only against hospitality, but against being, to hear him turn down homemade noodles in favor of idols and abstractions — to watch him prefer nothing to something. And what a disaster to himself! To have capitulated so starchlessly before the the devil’s policy of desubstantialization! His body may or may not lose weight; his soul, however, is sure to wither.”

-Robert Farrar Capon in The Supper of the Lamb

Other posts in this series:

RFC is the man we need.
RFC begins with the meat.
RFC considers blood and sacrifice.
RFC makes one of nature’s marvels.
RFC for Butter Week
RFC drinks in graces

More or less in Poetry Month.

It’s National Poetry Month, and also Lent, which is a helpful confluence. “Less TV and more poetry” sounds to me like going in the right direction. But I don’t watch TV… What about my own tendencies to less housework, less attentiveness, less prayer…? Clearly, these things must be worked out on an individual basis, and may God give you wisdom. We are early in the month and I don’t think I’ve overindulged in poetry yet. I want to take advantage of the reminder and post a couple of poems before the month is over.

My thoughts about children’s books and Lent converge on this excerpt from Richard Wilbur’s More Opposites, which I think one of The Most Fun collections of poems and drawings. I don’t even require another person to read Wilbur’s humorous poems to — they often make me chuckle contentedly or muse to myself. I see that I already posted this particular one, but it was years ago, and I for one can benefit from a rereading.

The illustrations of this question in the book include a simple drawing of people with distressed faces holding their tummies. I think the cartoon at bottom makes a similar companion to the poem. It’s

#15 in the More Opposites book:

The opposite of less is more.
What’s better? Which one are you for?
My question may seem simple, but
The catch is — more or less of what?

“Let’s have more of everything!” you cry.
Well, after we have had more pie,
More pickles, and more layer cake,
I think we’ll want less stomach-ache.

The best thing’s to avoid excess.
Try to be temperate, more or less.

-Richard Wilbur

There is a Mennonite cookbook titled More With Less, from which I gleaned many good cooking ideas in the early days of my homemaking career. But more valuable than the actual recipes was the refreshing concept that one might have more health and more enjoyment of eating and probably more money to spend on other things if you ate less.

Of course this is something we need to keep in mind all the time, not just during Lent. The church fathers caution us not to eat so much food that we aren’t able to pray after eating it; an overfull stomach hinders prayer. If it’s possible that Less Food = More Prayer….

Let’s just pause and think on that.

(re-post from 2013)