Quotable

It is essential that every action is mixed with humility. Whether you are praying, or fasting, or turning away from the world, or fulfilling an obedience for the sake of God and do not think that you are doing something good.

St. Macarius of Optina

Linkage

Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults [Christena Cleveland]
“Singleness isn’t a junior varsity version of marriage. It’s an entirely different sport.”

Writing Women Characters as Human Beings [Tor]
“Putting a female character into a stereotypically ‘male role’ is not the only way to make her interesting or strong.”

Disrupting Domesticity: Take care [The Butter]
A post about cohabiting and kindness, with a dose of wisdom for any healthy relationship. Specifically: “Ashley, we’re on the same team. You don’t score points against someone on the same [darn] team.”

God Is Always With You: An Interview with Fr. Roman Braga [OCA]
On monasticism, marriage, prison, suffering, freedom, and learning to love God.

What are some ways we can find Christ today, in the American society?
Well Christ first of all is in you. Christ is not just some nice guy. He is God and God is within you.

Life is a liturgy.

Please pray for the repose of Fr. Thomas Hopko. If you’d like to listen to some of his lectures, you can do so here.

When Lent is Different

Is your Lent different than others in your church? Being a convert, I had an early, and probably unhealthy, association of fasting seasons solely with food.

I’ve grown accustomed to the crowds discussing their various fasting survival skills. Some complain that they will not look at hummus or PB&Js or couscous when this is all over. Others swap bean or lentil recipes and how to make X be just as filling as the non-Lenten version.

But what if your Lenten journey looks much different than others in an outward sense? I look around coffee hour and know that there are those who are pregnant or nursing mothers. I know several who already require a gluten-free, Paleo, or other specific diets where a vegan version just can not work for the sake of their health. I know of priests who have lifted fasting requirements for those who are grieving a recent death of a loved one.

Here’s some encouragement from the Antiochian Archdiocese:

Fasting is more than not eating food. Saint John Chrysostom teaches that it is more important to fast from sin. For example, besides controlling what goes into our mouths, we must control what comes out of our mouths as well. Are our words pleasing to God, or do we curse God or our brother?

Fasting is not an end in itself. Our goal is an inner change of heart. The Lenten Fast is called “ascetic.” This refers to actions of self-denial and spiritual training which are central to fasting. (http://www.antiochian.org/fasting-great-lent)

As a convert, the emphasis on food and the equating of food with fasting was HUGE for me. Lent means going vegan for 6 weeks. I’m supposed to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays because that’s what I’m supposed to do. A few years ago after overhearing a conversation among some other converts, I realized that fasting is something a catechumen or new convert can latch onto easily to “feel Orthodox.” You can’t commune, so you try a few other things to fit in, like adventures in making your own hummus. (Yes, there are multiple stories behind that comment…)

To the relief of our cradle brethren, we eventually chill and realize that fasting is not about the food. From the Orthodox Christian Information Center:

Fasting is not merely a restraining from food. During the days of the fasts, the Church sings, “While fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually…” True fasting includes deeds of Christian mercy. It is an alienation of the evil-one, a restraint of the tongue, a laying aside of anger, a cutting off of vices and an exposure of falsehood… Thus, for a Christian, fasting is a time of restraint and self-education in all respects, and a real Christian fast gives believers a great moral satisfaction. (http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/prayer_feasts_fasts.aspx)

If fasting is about the ascetic or self-denial, it is no wonder that we have exemptions for persons in certain circumstances. What good is it for the church to demand that those with medical or dietary needs ignore what is best and be so ill that they can not pray? They are already under a rule of self-denial, even if not the diet the Church prescribed.

We just ask that before you stand next to us, please brush your teeth, especially if you had bacon.

Quotable

To human beings it seems hard and difficult to still the mind so that it rests from all thought. Indeed, to enclose what is bodiless within the limits of the body does demand toil and struggles, not only from the uninitiated but also from those experienced in inner immaterial warfare. But he who through unceasing prayer holds the Lord Jesus within his breast will not tire in following Him.

St. Hesychios the Priest