Tonight we picked up with Step, 14 on “that clamorous mistress, the stomach“. Climacus begins to draw us into a discussion of one of the most important and neglected spiritual practices - fasting and the struggle with gluttony.
This is a struggle, Saint John tells us, that remains with us through our entire life. Our desire for food or our misuse of food is something that is part of the very fabric of our life. It is a bodily appetite. Not unlike other appetites, it must be ordered toward the good or in the way that is in accord with the wisdom of God.
Yet, John tells us, gluttony is hypocrisy of the stomach. In a sense it deceives us. Even when we are filled, it tells us that we are empty, and even when we are bursting, it “cries out that it is hungry.“. It also leads us to devise seasonings, and sweet and rich dishes. The moment that we think that we have control of it, it shows itself in another area of our life. Unchecked, it leads to something even more serious - fornication. If we do not order this basic appetite for food, then we are going to be disordered and the use of our other bodily appetites, including our sexual appetite. And so, St. John tells us that he who coddles the body makes it wilder. If we do not control it, then it will overcome us.
If we are self-aware, we know we eat for many different reasons. On an emotional level, we often eat to console ourselves or because we are feeling aggressive or anxiety. We distract ourselves and deal with feelings of emptiness by filling our bodies with food. There are many ways that we convince ourselves that restraining ourselves is inappropriate. For example, we tell ourselves that hospitality demands that we break our fasting practices. Rather than being honest with ourselves and others, we freely let go of these disciplines, not out of love for others but to satisfy our baser needs.
Text of chat during the group:
00:14:38 Bonnie Lewis: I agree wholeheartedly!
00:15:46 Bonnie Lewis: Let's do it.
00:16:35 CMoran: Was it Rod Dreher?
00:36:57 Anthony: On Fasting, I recall sayings from people like St. Paisios to the effect that we live like pagans since we neglect prayer and fasting. I wonder if there is an inverse correlation between a failure to fast and pray and the increased use of unwholesome images.
00:38:05 Jeff O.: Is there a reason or importance in the way Climacus orders anger and acedia before gluttony/fornication/greed etc on the ladder? I just find it interesting the order of things and the way he presents the vices
00:42:30 David Swiderski: What is the best practice in fasting. I fasted with a Syrian roommate a couple years he for Ramadan me for Lent. The hardest was no water all day which could be dangerous. What was strange most Muslims gain weight and have huge feasts every night and before the sunrose would drink juices to excess.
00:53:24 Anthony: I was talking about Easter Grain pie within the last 90 minutes....
00:56:49 Eric Ewanco: If we go over to someone's house during a fasting/abstinence period, how should we handle this if they plan food that breaks the discipline?
00:57:07 angelo: Reacted to "If we go over to som..." with 👍
00:58:24 Ambrose Little, OP: Well, our Lord did tell us to not appear to be fasting. 🙂
00:58:37 Eric Ewanco: Reacted to "Well, our Lord did t..." with 👏🏻
01:01:08 Ambrose Little, OP: “When you give, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” There does seem to be an impetus to “hide” our discipline and good works, to avoid pride.
01:01:14 Bonnie Lewis: excellent Father
01:01:17 Brad Smith: Your reference to hospitality as an excuse for gluttony seems the height of fornication (paragraph 1) as it is essentially to use the other person as a means to our own ends; gluttony is to misuse God’s good creation for our self-centered ends. Yes?
01:02:07 Brad Smith: I meant paragraph 5…Brad
01:02:07 Ambrose Little, OP: So we can’t win. LOL
01:04:37 CMoran: A few of my casual Catholic friends think that no meat on Friday has been done away with after the reforms.
01:05:43 CMoran: Not even knowing that some other penance is required.
01:08:28 Helena Babington Guiles: He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world…and when we commune with Him within, His nourishment exceeds any other.
01:10:49 Ren Witter: I am going to someone’s house for dinner tomorrow, and they already know I am vegetarian so I was going to just go and eat what was there, but I literally just texted them to say I can’t have eggs or cheese 😄. It makes me feel strangely anxious 🤣 I also told them to blame Father David 😄
01:11:09 Bonnie Lewis: Reacted to "I am going to someon..." with 😂
01:11:20 angelo: can we replace fasting with good works? This was my experience years ago when I was aspirant in a religious community.
01:14:07 Eric Ewanco: You can't "beat your body and make it your slave" (St. Paul) by doing good works
01:14:13 carol nypaver: We should not make others “suffer” because of our sacrifices. Right?
01:15:35 Rebecca Thérèse: I thought that the recommendation for a fast day was two small meals OR one large one, is that what you meant?
01:16:18 Debra: I gave up coffee on Lent...and my family suffered lol
01:17:16 Eric Ewanco: @rebecca the requirement is one meal, and up to two smaller meals not adding up to another meal as needed to maintain your strength
01:17:18 Ren Witter: Replying to "I thought that the r..."
In the Latin Rite the official rule is “one large meal, and two small meals that do not together equal one large meal” and yes, its pretty lame :-D
01:17:25 Ren Witter: Reacted to "@rebecca the require..." with 👍
01:17:49 carol nypaver: When I have to prepare a meal for someone who is “wheat-free,” meat-free, dairy-free makes me not want to host them. They don’t have allergies, just sacrificing these things. That makes me “suffer."
01:17:58 Bonnie Lewis: No, don't Father. Amen
01:18:25 Rebecca Thérèse: @Ren thanks
01:20:05 Ambrose Little, OP: Here’s the USCCB on the topic: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year-and-calendar/lent/us-bishops-pastoral-statement-on-penance-and-abstinence
The focus seems to be about internalizing and owning our asceticism (as Christian adults) rather than having it spoon fed to us in a one-size-fits-all approach. But the important part of the message seems to have been lost on many.
01:21:05 Eric Ewanco: "many" is an understatement
01:21:30 Bonnie Lewis: I never hear this spoken on from the pulpit.
01:22:17 Ren Witter: Replying to "When I have to prepa..."
Its actually a pretty reasonable thought - “don’t host them” when I think about it. If I had friends, and they were strictly kosher for instance, it would be basically impossible for me to host them because I don’t know how to cook that way. At that point, its better if we go to a kosher restaurant, or if I simply go to their home and play with the kids while they cook.
01:22:48 Rebecca Thérèse: Thank you 🙂
01:23:26 CMoran: Thank you Father...excellent session...most
necessary for me!
01:23:35 angelo: Thank you
01:23:37 Jeff O.: Thank you!
01:23:44 Cath Lamb: Thank you!
01:23:44 Debra: Thank you Father! This was really good!
01:23:47 iPhone (2): Thank you!
01:25:02 David Swiderski: Thank you father!
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