January 19, 2005

Lenten Justice

I know it's a long way off until Lent - since Clean Monday is the day before my birthday - but I was thinking about a conversation I had after Liturgy on Sunday during our patronal feast.

I'm basically a carnivore. I eat meat. Roast it, broil it, bake it, fry it, barbeque it - I don't care. I eat bread because it is useful for holding and eating meat. I tend to think of vegetables as a nice little garnish on the plate, just there to make the meat look even more attractive.

As you can imagine, I don't do Lent very well. I try really hard during the first week. Sometimes if Mrs H comes up with an attractive combination of fish and faux-meat dishes, I can go for week or so.

The bloke with whom I was in conversation at church is a vegetarian. When it comes to eating, Lent is hardly a bump in the road to vegetarians. I think vegetarians ought to be required to eat meat during Lent. That's right - every meal - a big ol' lump of juicy dead flesh on the plate. Bacon and sausage for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, and a sirloin steak for supper. It only seems fair to me.

I am tempted to raise the issue of fasting foods generally. I know it is difficult to get readers to bite and leave comments if I get too controversial. Do you think that the designation of fasting foods was developed to best suit the needs of that place and time and have then been over-spiritualised to justify the lack of amendment since? Or, on the other hand, are they part of the Holy Tradition handed down by the Apostles, immutable and unchangeable?

And is it posts like this that keep me off a lot of Ortho-blogrolls? I wonder if I'm seen as a bit of an Ortho-liberal, what with admitting that I don't keep the Fast very well and questioning whether some traditions are entitled to a capital "T".

Posted by david at January 19, 2005 09:43 PM | TrackBack

Well, being a fellow Ortho-liberal, I think it was originally established with local conditions in mind. The idea, I've always been taught by my Ortho-liberal priest and the Ortho-liberal Monks of New Skete, is that the rich ate sumptuously while the poor ate vegetables and easily obtained seafood (and anyone who has lived in coastal regions of the South knows how easy it is to get shellfish of a local variety for po' folk). Somehow meat has become a staple that it never could been in the ancient days, while shellfish has become something of a luxury. (Anyone who has been to an overpriced Red Lobster can verify this fact.)

As I understand the Church's canons, the monastery is just about the only place one can profitably observe the canons in their strictness. In the world, the pastors of the Church grant economy to their flocks.

What that very theoretical blahblahblah looks like, economically, for you, is of course between you and your spiritual father. But you knew that already.

Posted by: basil at January 20, 2005 12:28 AM

Had to laugh at this one, although Great Lent is more than a bump in the road to those of us who eat little or no meat--personally, I get cravings for dairy products. This is where the Roman Catholic tradition in which I was reared seems a bit more sensible; the emphasis was on restricting the quantity that we ate. In my pre-Vatican II missal the stated Lenten discipline was to eat no more during one day than one would normally eat in one meal, and to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays. Of course, this assumes that one isn't a glutton to begin with...

Posted by: Susan at January 20, 2005 12:41 AM

Well, I didn't want to cause more scandal by discussing diary. We tried soya milk one time. Of course I also live in a household where Mrs H has been pregnant or lactating every Lent since we've been received and we have two children under 3, so I've been the only one theoretically under Lent food restrictions.

For me, when all else fails, I try to follow the Church's normal Wednesday/Friday fasting rules in Lent, because I have such little success with them otherwise.

Posted by: Dave at January 20, 2005 01:12 AM

This Lent and even weekly I am not permitted to fast from foods. Lost too much weight during Nativity fast. So my fast will be to eat everything without feeling guilty about it!

As with everything Orthodox it seems, fasting is all about attitude not the legality of what you eat or don't eat. So Dave, be a carnivore, but fast from something else. It would be harder for me to give up the internet and email for 40 days than to not eat meat or dairy. But don't tell my spiritual father that!! LOL! :-)

Posted by: philippa at January 20, 2005 01:52 AM