Archive for the ‘Fasting’ Category

The Last Week Is So Hard

March 30, 2010

Well, it’s Tuesday of Holy Week, and only 6 days to Pascha.  Are you like me and trying to switch your brain from visions of meat and eggs to the joy and peace of the Resurrection?  

Yesterday afternoon I went to my all-time favorite country meat market to get the requisite Pascha sausage.   I’m born and bred Texas Deutsch, so that doesn’t mean kielbassa.  I had to get my sausage fix at Penshorn’s in Marion (217 W. San Antonio Street, aka FM 78), about 20 miles from San Antonio, close to my Mom’s house.  It’s an old-fashioned meat market, still hand-cutting everything and the makers of, I swear, the best local German sausage you’ll ever eat in your life.   The market’s future was in jeopardy in 2008 when a fire destroyed the original building.  They’ve re-opened with a new, larger market and are better than ever.  Penshorn’s makes the two traditional types – a dry beef sausage (garlic or regular, often made in the winter with venison), and a garlicky, peppery beef ring that’s sort of akin to a bratwurst, and unique to the German Hill Country of Texas. 

Do you know what your car smells like with 16 lbs of smoky, garlicky, German sausage on a warm day?  After 45 days of Great Lent, do you know what kinds of thoughts were going through my head with 16lbs of German sausage sitting on the seat beside me?   I’m telling ya, the devil was riding in that car and he didn’t have a pitchfork; he had a bottle of brown mustard and a pot of sauerkraut.

The Day After Thanksgiving

November 27, 2009

and all through the house, not a creature was stirring….because they were all sleeping off the food hangover from a day of overindulgence and gluttony.  Uggh.  I feel terrible right now.   It’s  times like this I’m really glad to be Orthodox and observing the Nativity Fast.  A return to moderation come Monday will do my gastrointestinal system some good.

Blessings to all who have tolerated reading this blog and find anything remotely meaningful.  Blessings to all who are going out today to face the Black Friday shopping madness, those who are recovering today from family-induced psychosis, and to all the Aggies who need some quiet alone time to ponder the loss yesterday to that university in Austin.

Have a great laugh with this turkey of a video!   And isn’t it always the case that the cat gets the blame for everything, when we all know it’s really the dog that’s guilty.  You just can’t trust an animal that will sneakily swipe stuff off countertops then lick your face and wag their tails to reinforce the facade of trustworthiness and honor.  Dogs -the real sleeper cell terrorists in our midst.

June 15 Saints Peter and Paul Fast

June 15, 2009


Today is the beginning of the Saints Peter and Paul Fast, a moveable fast that precedes the celebration of the Feast of these Holy Apostles.  This year the fast will last 14 days and conclude with Divine Liturgy on Monday, June 29th.   The Fast is moveable because it is calculated from the date of Pascha, and always begins the day after the Sunday of All Saints, which itself always falls 8 Sundays after Pascha.   Confused yet?  Well, let’s keep going into the fog together. 

The length of the fast is determined by the fixed feast day of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th, and whether you are an Orthodox Christian following the New Calendar (Revised Julian calendar) or the Old Calendar (Julian calendar), which results in a 13-day time difference.  A late celebration of Pascha often cuts into the New Calendar Orthodox observance of the Apostle’s Fast and whittles it down to just a couple of days.  This year we are fortunate to have the whole enchilada to participate in.

That’s a lot of information just to describe when the Fast is observed, but the “why” is a lot more difficult to pin down.   This is just one of those fasts that is a little off the radar for most people.  If you’d asked 10 Orthodox Christians at coffee hour yesterday, “why do we have a fast for Saints Peter and Paul?”, they’d just shrug their shoulders and offer you another cup of coffee and a doughnut.  It’s just one of those things we do.

 I spent a considerable amount of time searching the internet and couldn’t find more than two entries of any substance (Wikipedia) which stated

Having rejoiced for fifty days following Pascha (Easter), the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostles began to prepare for their departure from Jerusalem to spread Christ’s message. According to Sacred Tradition, as part of their preparation, they began a fast with prayer to ask God to strengthen their resolve and to be with them in their missionary undertakings.

Sounds good to me.   Are there more practical reasons, like balancing the feast of Pascha with a corresponding fast?   Saint Leo the Great taught this to his flock during his reign as pope from 440 to 461 AD (he was one of the longer serving Popes).    Saint Leo’s teaching reflects a fasting practice that was ongoing for a considerable time; he speaks of it as common and customary practice.   As he observed in his 78th sermon:

III.  And so this fast comes very opportunely after the feast of Whitsuntide [Pentecost]

Therefore, after the days of Holy Gladness,  which we have devoted to the honor of the Lord rising from the dead and then ascending into heaven, and after receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, a fast is ordained as a wholesome and needful practice, so that, if perchance through neglect or disorder even amid the joys of the festival any undue licence has broken out, it may be corrected by the remedy of strict abstinence, which must be the more scrupulously carried out in order that what was on this day Divinely bestowed on the Church may abide in us. For being made the Temple of the Holy Ghost, and watered with a greater supply than ever of the Divine Stream, we ought not to be conquered by any lusts nor held in possession by any vices in order that the habitation of Divine power may be stained with no pollution.

                    Sermon 78 (On the Whitsuntide Fast)

Let us all embark on the fast with the feeling of the newly descended Holy Spirit; seeking to emulate the devotion to the Church that Saint Peter and Saint Paul were willing to give, even through trials, hard work, and suffering.

Saint Mary of Egypt

April 5, 2009


This past week on April 1st (new calendar) Saint Mary of Egypt reposed more than 1500 years ago in the desert of Palestine.  She led such an inspiring life that she is celebrated with her own Lenten Sunday today.  Most Orthodox Christians know the basics of how such a great sinner became one of the Church’s most inspiring ascetics. 

A prostitute from a young age, she had no scruples about hopping aboard a ship carrying pilgrims from Alexandria to Jerusalem in approximately 475 AD, and “working”  her way across the Mediterranean.   The pilgrims were on their way to attend the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross, and on the day of the Feast, Mary found herself drawn to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Wood of the True Cross, but she was not permitted to enter the door with the other pilgrims.  Held back by an unseen force she repeatedly tried to enter the door.   In frustration she looked up and saw an icon of the Mother of God and appealed to her for an explanation.  Whether it was the Mother of God’s reply pointing out her sinfulness or a God-inspired revelation, she suddenly became aware of the course of her sinful life and repented on the spot. 

What follows is not your average salvation story – without hesitation she immediately left for the desert to live out her life in contrition and prayer, scavenging off the land, naked and alone for 47 years.   Her skin was blackened from the sun, her clothing rotted off her body and she became skeletal on a diet of three dried loaves of bread she’d bought on the day of her flight into the desert and whatever she could find in the wasteland.  She didn’t see or speak to anyone for 47 years until the priest monk Zosimus took a retreat into the desert during the Great Fast, improbably found her, learned her story and gave her communion and a promise to return the following year.  Saint Zosimus was good to his word and returned during Great Lent in about the year 521, but only to miraculously find her dead body, which he buried with the help of a lion to dig the stony ground.   Wow!   And I think I’m doing good when I fast successfully for one week and make it to confession before mid-Lent.   Do I regret and sincerely ask forgiveness for my sins?  Are my past indiscretions reason for repentance or fond memories of wild oats sown and harvested?

It’s sad and ironic that a depressed, raging alcoholic, one of the 20th century’s defining poets, and the son of a suicidal father, should write a contemplative poem about Saint Mary of Egypt.  John Berryman (1914 – 1972) lived with a lifetime of demons and never found the peace achieved by Saint Mary.  Sad and broken, he committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.

Dream Song 47:  April Fool’s Day or Saint Mary of Egypt

-Thass a funny title, Mr Bones.
-When down she saw her feet, sweet fish, on the threshold,
she considered her fair shoulders
and all them hundreds who have them, all
the more who to her mime thickened & maled
from the supple stage,

and seeing her feet, in a visit, side by side
paused on the sill of The Tomb, she shrank: ‘No.
They are not worthy,
fondled by many’ and rushed from The Crucified
back through her followers out of the city ho
across the suburbs, plucky

to dare my desert in her late daylight
of animals and sands. She fall prone.
Only wind whistled.
And forty-seven years with our caps on,
whom God has not visited.


Fasting Shouldn’t Taste This Good

March 25, 2009

You know it’s 4 weeks into Great Lent when people start obsessing about, talking about or blogging about food.  This was my best Lenten supper creation yet this year:  a Vietnamese-style citrus salad with toasted peanuts and toasted coconut and a stir fry of  Thai red chili  paste, tofu and Japanese eggplant.    I shouldn’t brag but it was delicious, especially the salad.   You know you’ve hit on something when the kids go gaga over tofu.  I personally believe there isn’t anything fish sauce can’t make better  (yeah, I know, fish sauce, Lent…I fast, but I didn’t say I was a good faster.)