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As I begin to pen this little essay, I grab another three Werther's Original Hard Candies, when I've already consumed two over my daily allotment. Such is the state of my personal discipline when it comes to food—I have no discipline.

So maybe this ...

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Displaying 1–25 of 25 comments

Gabrielle LeBlanc

March 07, 2014  12:02pm

It's no surprise that the author hasn't found Lent to be spiritually profitable - it's clear he has one SERIOUS idol issue with food, from his comment: "Food consoles me in sadness and helps me celebrate my joys. When it is taken away, what's there to live for?" Giving up one or two foods for 40 days in the hopes of a deeper prayer life and maybe also loosing weight is like using a bandaid to cure cancer. And if he has noticed (or merely ASSUMES?!?) that most Christians are like him, that just means they should take a long, hard look at what they might have put in the place that should be occupied by God alone.

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Bill Canaday

February 14, 2013  1:37pm

Jesus commanded only that we observe the memorial of his death. This was not accompanied by fasting. (1 Co 11:22,33,34) Since Matthew 28:18 is definitive, why partake in fasts decreed by others? The text about fasting at Matthew 17:21, appearing in the King James Version (KJV), is not contained in some of the most important ancient manuscripts. Thus many, more reliable, translations omit it entirely. Likewise, although the KJV mentions fasting at Mark 9:29, Acts 10:30 and 1 Corinthians 7:5, according to those older manuscripts references to fasting found in the KJV texts are scribal additions, and thus errors. (Re 22:18) Compulsory fasting is a relic of the Mosaic covenant, which ended with the ransom sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus. So, why do it? Look to Isaiah 58:1-7. Obviously, it is mans yoke that weighs you down, not Gods'. Let fasting be a private matter between you and Almighty God alone. (Luke 18:9-14) Done properly, it is a source of joy and a portal for the Holy Spirit.

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Mark Kyrieeleison

February 28, 2012  12:55pm

To respond to the clip, I couldn't agree more on the need for the community to add meaning. I do think it is judgemental to say that evangelicals/"pietists"(?, that name is kind of like calling an African-American "colored" or worse, if you ask me) don't enjoy and make use of community. We are not rugged individualists - the same challenge of and temptations against intimately connecting as Christians exists in both camps. In my experience, there was great weight placed on confession to a spiritual mentor, just not one that had any higher standing with God. However, evangelicals reject the authority of tradition as being equal to Scripture. We unfortuanately have jettisoned some tradition and history that would definitely be helpful. The theological and pragmatic error that had been introduced throughout the centuries was held unacceptable. I think both groups seek a balance of orthodoxy and community, when we seek to follow Christ, although we are both crippled by our fallenness

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Ana Williams

February 28, 2012  3:52am

Here is the link to the text of the podcast - http://roadsfromemmaus.org/2012/02/24/giving-up-something-for-lent/ He speaks about the transformative nature of ascetic practices, which other readers have alluded to. But he also points out that fasting should be done within a community. As Orthodox, we are constantly sharing recipes and hosting each other during this time so that the vegan meals aren't as much of a burden. Obviously, the fellowship is a nice blessing too! Also, it lessens the tendency toward self-righteousness and resentment (by the third week, the smell of pizza is torture, so it helps to have the community there to check us.) Finally, fasting should be done with prayers. Whenever I feel a hunger pang or feel angry at the fast, I try to call out in my head, Lord help me! I confess I love - and fear - the Orthodox Lent, whose prayers are so vast and thorough that I can become a participant of such grace, rather than trying to author it alone. In Christ, Ana

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Mark Kyrieeleison

February 27, 2012  5:52pm

We're all called to holiness. The holier I become, the more honestly and clearly I can see my sins. Maybe this verse applies to our experience of Lent and our Christian life in general, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." There are so many experiences of the Christian life that I think it just depends on God's will as to whether one's life is victorious, or whether one's life is like that of C.S. Lewis' metaphorical drunkard in the ditch who may be leading a holier life than yourself (based on his circumstances). Jesus decided who he would and would not heal at the pool of Bethsaida, right? And who would see him in the flesh, for that matter... I think He means for us to have different experiences of Him. Not very clean and tidy theologically, but reality seldom is, in my experience.

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Michael De Voe

February 27, 2012  10:35am

Mr. Galli, I was directed to read your article because of the following Podcast which is a reponse from an Antiochian Orthodox scholar. I thought that maybe you would like to listen to it. It is only around 15 minutes long. Enjoy. http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxyheterodoxy/giving_up_so mething_for_lent

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Jonathan Brouillette

February 23, 2012  2:54pm

How sweet it has been to me to be deprived of the delights of a frivolous world! What incomparable joy have I felt after a privation once so dreaded. -- St. Augustine

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Rory Tyer

February 23, 2012  2:21pm

@Mark Galli - I think perhaps our thoughts on this (which are maybe not all that far apart) stem from different (but both biblically justifiable) ideas of what exactly is entailed by Christ's victory in his death and resurrection. I understand the New Testament to teach that one entailment of Christ's victory - closely connected with the indwelling of the Spirit - is the availability of transformation. This is different from making the reality of Christ's work in some way dependent on verifiable "results" from my own life. But this is also very different - I am not sure you do this, but it sounds like you may - from looking back on a life of difficulty with disciplines and concluding that human transformation is either unlikely or not promised by God. Again, perhaps you didn't intend to communicate this. But I think it is important to approach the NT texts concerning human transformation in tandem with the Spirit's work with a sort of realism: the life pictured is, indeed, available.

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Alex Silva

February 23, 2012  2:15pm

Mark, I applaud your insistence that self-discipline should not be the goal of Lent. You ended up affirming the current practice as long as it is thought of as a schoolmaster to remind us of grace. In so doing, I think you missed an opportunity to give us a vision of what the practice itself ought to be: that is, an intentional emptying of ourselves for the filling up of others. This is what Christ did and what we are called to do. The problem with Lent as a self-discipline regimen is that the goal ends up being ourselves, not others. Christ didn't suffer to improve himself. He suffered to improve, if you will, the world. Lent should be our imitation of the same. I fail to see how giving up certain foods achieves that, especially when the money we save on buying those foods just goes right back into our very own bank accounts. Similarly, how does giving up social media or television rebound to the credit of others? It doesn't when we end up using that freed up time for ourselves.

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RICK DALBEY

February 23, 2012  1:21pm

Dwight, I was hoping you would offer a scriptural defense for your belief in Lent, Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday and the like. But that is OK. You are a brother and I respect your right to simply disagree.

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Dwight Spivey

February 23, 2012  12:08pm

Rick, it seems we must simply agree to disagree. God bless!

WAYNE LELOO

February 23, 2012  10:23am

As one of the non-liturgical folks, I don't make Lenten resolutions any more than I make New Year's resolutions. Every day is the same, although I like to reserve Sundays for church going. I believe that if you have really accepted Christ, every day should be Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter. Those are, however, helpful holiday reminders for those who are struggling to figure out whether it really matters or not that God even exists, or if Jesus truly is God and that He would care enough for us to come here to die for us.

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Jonathan Brouillette

February 22, 2012  11:36pm

Revelation 3:15-17 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm neither hot nor cold I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

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Aline C

February 22, 2012  7:36pm

N.B. Rick We fast because Jesus fasted for 40 days. He is our master and we follow in his footsteps.

RICK DALBEY

February 22, 2012  5:49pm

Dwight, its clear that Paul is referring not just to old testament rituals, fasts and observances, but new gnostic fasts and rituals that were creeping into the church, coming from visions, angels and religious notions. “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.” Doesn’t matter if these are characterized as doctrine or not, that has nothing to do with Paul’s point. Of course I am for fasting as the Holy Spirit guides, but these festival rituals that are designed for self-abasement and are exactly what Paul warned against.

Jonathan Brouillette

February 22, 2012  5:24pm

Tobit 12:8-9 (Original KJV): Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold. For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin. Those who perform deeds of charity and of righteousness will have fullness of life;

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EMILY RINEHART

February 22, 2012  5:16pm

I'm 21 and I'm funding for missionary service. Nothing made me more aware of my shortcomings as a human being -- and my need for a savior -- than when I was unexpectedly called to missions. Times like Lent are now more than simply a duty. As Gallis says in this article, I've too often made it about what I can do with God as some kind of personal trainer...but I want to make it about Him. Thanks for your honesty in how difficult discipline has been for you. It only encourages me to press on while I'm still very young, but most of all to remember the point: Jesus.

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Dwight Spivey

February 22, 2012  5:06pm

The practices of Lent are not doctrine, and can therefore be changed to reflect the changing times and cultures of history, just as the practices and customs of Christmas and Easter have also changed over time. It is more than plainly clear that Paul is speaking about the Jewish practices of the time in Colossians 2, not an observance that wouldn't come on the scene until a later date.

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RICK DALBEY

February 22, 2012  4:06pm

I have no problem celebrating the EVENT of Jesus birth or resurrection. But Lent is categorically different. Its a medieval ritual focused on 40 days of self-abasement. It is exactly the kind of man-made ritual Paul describes in Col. 2. The regulations have changed several times in Catholic history, starting as a 40 day fast. In 604 Medieval Pope Gregory revised it to "We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs." This evolved to allow for fish, and later eating meat except on Ash Wednesday and Friday. Dispensations were given for eating dairy products if a pious work was performed. It begins on Ash Wednesday. Some celebrate the day prior as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. Then of course we have Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week. It is not part of old or new testament, it is our fallen obsession to create religious rituals focusing on earning rewards through suffering. Why is a CT editor advocating Catholic ritual?

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Mark Galli

February 22, 2012  3:58pm

I certainly don't mean to discourage anyone. But for me, my hope is not in my transformation, but in what God has done in Christ. He died to forgive us our sins, rose to conquer death, is coming again to establish a new heaven and earth. The longer I live, and the deeper I understand my heart, the more I'm convinced Jeremiah ("the heart is desperately wicked") and Paul ("I am the chief of sinners," said by the way, at the END of his life) are right. I'm afraid that if we hope for radical transformation in this life, we will be sorely disappointed. We remain sinners through and through--but justified sinners! If our hope is in Jesus' transformation of us in the life to come (1 Cor. 15), we can never get discouraged. I've found that any transformation I experience now comes, ironically, when I adopt this perspective, which by God's grace inculcates humility, the root of all virtue. That's how it works for me, anyway.

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Phil Thompson

February 22, 2012  3:24pm

Mark,  While I appreciated your transparency regarding your inability to resist the almighty Werther's lure - it left me a bit gut punched and less hopeful.  If you (a seasoned follower of Christ) admit to complete inability to control food urges - am I likewise left to wonder if I have hope to conquer my sexual compulsions? I realize the implications of sexual sin involve another soul (and as such may not be a fair comparative) but the core discipline required to resist either urge is the same.   In the end our only hope is Grace - but rather than viewing Grace as the soft mattress we land on when we fall - I choose to view it as the spirit infused Red Bull that is my only hope of victory.  The final Fruit of the Spirit is 'Self Control' and as I understand it the Greek lists of virtues started and ended with the virtues that were most paramount. Thus the first fruit mentioned is 'love' and the last 'self control'.  If even for only 40 days a year I surrender more to Spirit infused self- control it can only yield good fruit in my life. 

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Dwight Spivey

February 22, 2012  2:52pm

To Rick Dalbey: From your comments: "Perhaps the reason you’re having difficulty with self-denial and penitential aspects of the 40 day Lent is that it is a man-made religious holiday concocted in the 4th century." Christmas and Easter are also "man-made religious holidays." Should we discount them, if using your premise for discounting Lent? For those who would like a good, concise history of Lent: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0527.html God bless.

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RICK DALBEY

February 22, 2012  2:13pm

Perhaps the reason you’re having difficulty with self-denial and penitential aspects of the 40 day Lent is that it is a man-made religious holiday concocted in the 4th century. Until 600, Lent began on Quadragesima Sunday, but Gregory the Great moved it to Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday, to give the exact number of 40 days in Lent. Gregory, father of the medieval papacy, created the ceremony that gives the 1st day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, its name. Perhaps Paul is appropriate here. “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

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Dianne Adams

February 22, 2012  2:09pm

Bummer. Maybe fasting isn't the Lenten discipline that will help you. Maybe you should look to your past success - the TV - and think about how and why that was a positive discipline for you. 2 years ago, I stopped listening to negative radio shows during Lent. Like you, I found that I didn't miss them, once they were out of my life. Last year I gave myself the gift of silence in the car - no radio or CDs at all - and found time for prayer, contemplation, and listening. I actually look forward to Lent, now, and may continue my new Lenten discipline, if it makes me more available to God.

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Rory Tyer

February 22, 2012  1:55pm

Your focus on grace - and the reality that we are defined first and foremost by that grace, and not by our failures - is wonderful. But the disciplines of Lent, and other spiritual disciplines, are also designed to continually remind us of grace, albeit in a different way: grace is also transformative. It is access to a certain kind of life: a life of the Spirit's indwelling in which it is actually possible to learn to present our bodies to God to be used as instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:12-14). We have the resources now to actually obey a command such as "do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world" (Rom. 12:1). A biblically sound understanding of spiritual disciplines recognizes that human transformation through the Spirit is a process that does not happen by fiat but that can be practiced and for which space can be made. Disciplines are conduits of the Spirit's work. Grace simply means that the results of such efforts do not define us and do not "earn" things.

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