Icon, Part 3: The Presentation of the Theotokos

 

“And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Luke 1: 30, ESV

November 21 (New Calendar) marks the Great Feast of The Presentation of the Theotokos, the third in the annual liturgical calendar of the Orthodox Church. The Feast occurs one week into the Advent season, which starts on November 15, and runs until Christmas Eve Vespers, and commemorates the presentation of Mary, still a young child, to the Temple in Jerusalem, where she will live a life consecrated to God. Like the first feast of the liturgical year, The Nativity of the Theotokos, this Feast both parallels and foreshadows other narratives, and like the earlier Nativity, it is an expression both of how special Mary had to have been to have borne the Incarnation, and of how venerated she has been since the very early days of Christianity.

As with first Feast, we are still primarily drawing on the Protoevangelion of James, a non-canonical work of the 2nd century which was both in circulation in the early days of Christianity, and much beloved by Christians for centuries afterward. We will return to this work at least two more times in the series.

The Feast

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, oh virgin Theotokos. Blesséd art thou among women, and blesséd is the fruit of thy womb, for thou has borne the savior of our souls.” The Magnificat.

“Rejoice, for thou art the Throne of the King”
Akathist Hymn to the Most Holy Theotokos, Romanus the Melodist (around 556 AD).

Why is Mary full of grace? She bore within her womb the Incarnation of God the Word. God, who is uncontainable, was contained by choice within Mary. For this reason, she is called “Throne of the King” by Romanus, among other terms. But why was Mary herself chosen? Both Mark and John start right with the ministry of Jesus, and Mary appears only as traveling with Jesus. Matthew has little more to say than that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only in Luke do we have a fuller account of the Annunciation, the Visitation, and the Nativity. Yet Luke does not take the tale back any further. Why, therefore, was Mary chosen to bear The Incarnation of the The Lord in this world? Christians have speculated on this from the earliest times until the present day. We cannot know today the full extent of what books and letters might have been in circulation during the early years of Christianity and can only look at what has survived or what has been quoted, summarized, or otherwise referred to in other surviving writings, and the oldest of what does remain is the Protoevangelium.

In the Nativity of the Theotokos, we looked primarily at Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna. It is not out of bounds to consider that if Mary herself was extraordinary, then her parents too must have been devout and favored by God. As with Hannah, the mother of Samuel, Anna bore Mary at an advanced age, and she and Joachim chose, therefore, to dedicate Mary to the Temple in return.

And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest [Zacharias] received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. Orr, James (Translator). The Protevangelium of James (Annotated) (pp. 24-25). CrossReach Publications. Kindle Edition.

In addition to the similarity to the account of Samuel, this story has a parallel to that of her own son Jesus (whose own presentation will be discussed in February). As with Jesus, Mary is greeted by a priest we already know: Zacharias, the future father of John the Baptist. Why is this important? The test continues:

And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. And her parents went down marveling, and praising the Lord God, because the child had not turned back. And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there, and she received food from the hand of an angel. Ibid.

This says the Zacharias took her into the very heart of the Temple, the altar. Mary goes on to live in the Temple until the age of 12, said to have received food from “the hand of an angel”. This signifies that she has been kept free from any sort of worldly defilement. According to other later texts, Mary even entered into the Holy of Holies at times, and it is said that when she at last left the Temple, at the age of twelve (her coming of age, when these accounts say she was betrothed to the elderly widower Joseph), the presence of God left the Temple with her. According to Father Thomas Hopko:

She was led to the holy place to be “nourished” there by the angels in order to become herself the “holy of holies” of God, the living sanctuary and temple of the Divine child who was to be born in her… The main theme of the feast of Mary’s entrance to the Temple, repeated many times in the liturgical services, is the fact that she enters the Temple to become herself the living temple of God, thus inaugurating the New Testament in which are fulfilled the prophecies of old that “the dwelling of God is with man” and that the human person is the sole proper dwelling place of the Divine Presence (Ezek 37.27; Jn 14.15–23; Acts 7.47; 2 Cor 6.11; Eph 2.18–22; 1 Pet 2.4; Rev 22.1–4).

Today is the preview of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears in the temple of God, in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice, O Divine Fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation (Troparion).

The most pure Temple of the Saviour, the precious Chamber and ­Virgin, the Sacred Treasure of the Glory of God, is presented today to the house of the Lord. She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, which the angels of God do praise. Truly this woman is the Abode of Heaven! (Kontakion).

Thus the ultimate meaning of the feast is that Mary’s presentation and dwelling at the Temple signify the coming end of the Temple period, when The Lord will become incarnate and reveal Himself to all nations. According to the Protoevangelium, Mary was kept pure and made ready by her devout parents, and by living in purity in the Temple. Yet even if this account of Mary’s dwelling at the Temple is perhaps, a bit of a stretch, we nevertheless must understand that Mary was, indeed, special and “full of grace”, to have been chosen to bear the Lord. As one of the hymns of the Feast says:

Come let us the faithful dance for joy * on this day, while singing * songs and hymns unto the Lord, * to honor the tabernacle He hath sanctified, * the rational living ark, * which hath contained God the Word uncontainable; * for as a child in the flesh, * she is now wondrously offered unto our God. * And the holy Zacharias, * the great High Priest of the Lord, * doth receive her with gladness * as the dwelling and abode of God.” 
Oh Strange Wonder, Verse 6, Translation by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2005.

The Icon

The icons of this feast generally share the same themes. In the foreground we have the priest Zacharias bowing slightly in a gesture of reception towards Mary. Mary is often (though not always) already depicted wearing a blue dress overlaid with a red cloak, which itself has three stars upon it. The stars, on her forehead and each shoulder, signify her perpetual virginity (one star each for past, present, and future). Behind Mary are her parents, Joachim and Anna, and behind them the procession of virgins bearing lights. All of the foreground scene is underneath a canopy that signifies the Temple. In the background we see stairs leading up to a smaller canopy, where Mary also sits. This signifies the Holy of Holies where she is said to have been fed by angels, and near that canopy you will see such an angel visiting her.

The icon is structured with the same conventions we have seen earlier. All events are depicted out of doors, with the canopies and draped cloths signifying the Temple. By the towers in the background, we know that this is in a city. With multiple overlaid events we have a flattening of time, both capturing the entire story in one panel, and presenting the story as timeless itself. Notice too the gold background, and the lack of shadows. This is another means to indicate the eternality of the story, that it can be said to stand outside of time, and that we might be said to be participating in it eternally.


On a personal note, when I first started exploring Orthodoxy, this was the first Great Feast I experienced. I had only been attending my parish church for a couple of weeks when our priest announced a coming evening service. I don’t recall exactly what he said the Sunday beforehand, other than something about a weekday evening service of Thanksgiving, and “something something Vespers… Theotokos”. I had already been to one Saturday Vespers service, which was fairly short, and so assumed that this one would be fairly abbreviated as well. It was not, it was a full evening Divine Liturgy service that followed an Akathist (a prayer recitation in multiple verses). A good hour in, my wife was already texting me to ask where I was. At two hours the texts were getting more insistent. There was a homily in there too, which surprised me for an evening service. This was where I first learned of the Protoevangelium and started to understand, listening to the hymns and the scripture readings, just why Mary was so revered by the early Christians, how short-changed she so often is today. As one writer put it:

In my own evangelical background, Mary was trotted out every December, mostly in the form of a chipped statue in a crèche and the obligatory sermon about her admirable obedience and purity. She was then tucked away both physically and metaphorically with the Christmas decorations until the following December.”

As we proceed into the Christmas season, and prepare to celebrate the coming Nativity of Christ, perhaps we ought to consider not letting her slide into the background once the season has passed.

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There are 23 comments.

  1. Gary McVey Contributor

    What a beautiful post, SkipSul. Thanks for bringing so much light to us, to Ricochet. The pictures make the artistic aspect serve the spiritual, as they should, but they’re so well chosen they literally illuminate the story for those of us less accomplished in faith. I intend to come back to it again and again. 

    • #1
    • November 20, 2018, at 10:39 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    I hate to ask this, but what is the deal with this Protevangelium of James? Is there a New Testament apocrypha in the Orthodox Bible? I’ve heard that there are many random Gospels and other literature, including one that features a talking cross and a skyscraper-sized Jesus. (The Gospel according to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds?)

     

    • #2
    • November 21, 2018, at 2:53 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Seawriter Member

    Actually November 21 marks the Great Feast of The Presentation of the Theotokos for both New Calendar and Old Calendar Orthodox Churches. It is just that they use different calendars so the OC folks have Nov 21 fall thirteen days after the NC folks do.

    (It is really fun when part of your family is NC and part of it is OC. I am going to a NC church. My nephew, staying with me while saving up for his own place after finding a job in the Houston area, is OC. My rule is I make meals according to the NC fast schedule, but he is free to fix his own meals according to the OC.)

    • #3
    • November 21, 2018, at 3:33 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. She Thatcher
    She

    Just beautiful, Skip. I’m going to read this again. And again.

    • #4
    • November 21, 2018, at 4:58 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    What love, energy, and faith go into make such wonderful works of art. Thank you sharing them with us. 

    • #5
    • November 21, 2018, at 6:09 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Jules PA Member

    Thank you. 

    • #6
    • November 21, 2018, at 7:49 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I hate to ask this, but what is the deal with this Protevangelium of James? Is there a New Testament apocrypha in the Orthodox Bible? I’ve heard that there are many random Gospels and other literature, including one that features a talking cross and a skyscraper-sized Jesus. (The Gospel according to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds?)

     

    Heh. Would Skyscraper Jesus be a match for Mecha-Godzilla?

    Yeah, there are some, uh, questionable ones out there. There is the “Gospel of Thomas”, for instance, which is really a Gnostic work, and several other really dodgy ones. But there were other works that were excluded from canon for different reasons. There’s the Epistle of Barnabas, which gradually faded out of canon both because the authorship was unclear, and because it did not have anything new to say that wasn’t found elsewhere already (but it was found in the Sinai Codex, which is one of the 3 earliest known Biblical compilations, likely from the early 300s). Epistles of Clement and Ignatius also were in wide circulation for many years, and their provenance was accepted. The Didache, a short manual of liturgical instruction and Christian living, too was widely read and circulated. Ultimately, what was kept as canon, and thus read during services, was narrowed down to just the writings of the Apostles, plus Luke. But that did not mean that all other writings were dropped or ignored. Far from it, in fact.

    Many of the notable writers and theologians of the 4th century, a time when the canon was nearly finalized and when Christianity was finally legally protected, quote from these other works or refer to them directly (some of these works we know about only through these quotations and references, others were lost for centuries until rediscovered in the last 200 years). As Christian theology developed and solidified, these works were part of those debates and fights, and thus valuable for reading.

    The Orthodox Bible’s New Testament is identical to the Protestant and Catholic ones, so the Protoevangelium is not in there. However, there are some conceptual differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism and Protestantism to understanding how scripture is understood and used. Canonical scripture is authoritative, in that there is broad interdenominational agreement, but it breaks down when you try too hard to pin down what “authoritative” means, and where it is meant. Sola Scriptura is foreign to Orthodoxy. Scripture alone is read and used in worship, and so canonical for liturgical purposes (indeed, the readings for the services throughout the day, from last night’s vespers through today’s hours, orthros, and liturgy, are all Biblical).

    But just as today you might purchase a popular Bible Study book, or a commentary, or reference your Study Bible’s footnotes, or read or listen to a sermon on what you are reading, or pore through scholarly academic archaeology works to help illuminate certain difficult concepts, or look up explanations to parables whose context is murky to our modern eyes, so too are many of these ultimately non-canonical works used and read for much the same reasons. The Protoevangelium is not read liturgically as part of any of these services. But the tale it tells is referenced in the hymns. And that tale, even if not literally true, and just a fanciful invention, nonetheless does have the spiritual purpose of sharing the understanding that Mary (The Most Holy Theotokos), was truly extraordinary among all other women to have been chosen by the Creator to bear His bodily incarnation on this Earth. If Jesus really is the Christ, then Mary is important for bearing Him, and for pointing the way back to Him. (I’m planning on an essay on her iconography in particular at some point) If you do not see the Protoevangelium itself as literally true, at least understand it as a useful parable.

     

    • #7
    • November 21, 2018, at 9:58 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Amy Schley Moderator

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    My rule is I make meals according to the NC fast schedule

     On that note, Costco has these great cilantro lime shrimp bowls perfect for Orthodox fasting.

    • #8
    • November 21, 2018, at 10:48 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Blessed Feast, Skip! Thanks for adding to my prayer and worship today! 

    • #9
    • November 21, 2018, at 7:22 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Seawriter Member

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    My rule is I make meals according to the NC fast schedule

    On that note, Costco has these great cilantro lime shrimp bowls perfect for Orthodox fasting.

    Unless you are violently allergic to shellfish. like I am. (God will have His little jokes.)

    I do plan on joining Costco, though. A new one opened up two miles from where I live, and I want to see it. My youngest son got a job designing walk-in coolers and freezers. It seems he designed the walk-in cooler at that Costco and I absolutely have to see it.

    • #10
    • November 21, 2018, at 7:51 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  11. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    My rule is I make meals according to the NC fast schedule

    On that note, Costco has these great cilantro lime shrimp bowls perfect for Orthodox fasting.

    Unless you are violently allergic to shellfish. like I am. (God will have His little jokes.)

    I do plan on joining Costco, though. A new one opened up two miles from where I live, and I want to see it. My youngest son got a job designing walk-in coolers and freezers. It seems he designed the walk-in cooler at that Costco and I absolutely have to see it.

    You and he must be quite proud. There is something awfully rewarding in seeing craftsmanship and hard work being found useful by others. Well done!

    • #11
    • November 21, 2018, at 8:10 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Layla Member

    Thank you for this! We had a wonderful Feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos, though it was sparsely attended. Sadly, such is often the way with midweek services. 

    • #12
    • November 23, 2018, at 11:07 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Stina Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    understanding that Mary (The Most Holy Theotokos), was truly extraordinary among all other women to have been chosen by the Creator to bear His bodily incarnation on this Earth.

    I figured that with the prophecies and staying true to them, that the choices would be ultimately limited.

    Given that God authors life, he gets to say who gets what in terms of offspring, right?

    Mary and Joseph are both descendants of Judah and David, through different branches. Joseph’s line, forever denied that seat of the throne, yet redeemed in his limited role as earthly father to the Ultimate King (Jeremiah 22:24-30).

    Now, I don’t know if it was necessary for John the Baptist and Jesus to be related, but if you add in Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John (with Elizabeth being related to Mary and John being a Levite), it continues to limit the pool of candidates.

    Again, with God as author of life (and the Judaic sanctity of life), he calls the shots on who goes where in terms of birth, right?

    I guess I don’t understand why you need the extra (apocryphal) story to explain how she’s special and full of Grace.

    I don’t think it needs be because of anything she did. It is simply that she is who God wanted her to be.

    • #13
    • November 26, 2018, at 5:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Stina (View Comment):
    Again, with God as author of life (and the Judaic sanctity of life), he calls the shots on who goes where in terms of birth, right?

    Yes, but He still asks human agency and assent. Mary still had to give her assent.

    Stina (View Comment):
    I guess I don’t understand why you need the extra (apocryphal) story to explain how she’s special and full of Grace.

    The story does serve a couple of purposes. For one it lays the groundwork of the Advent season. By its celebration right after the start of the Advent fast, it is a way of reminding the faithful that Mary was being made ready to bear Christ, the Incarnation of God in the flesh, and so we should be making ourselves ready too.

    It also makes the point that by Mary (as is said often in the hymns of this season) containing the uncontainable, she, in effect, becomes the Holy of Holies, in place of the Temple itself (see the quote from Father Hopko in the main essay for more on that). God dwelt at one time in the Temple, then in her womb.

    Even if the story is, on its own, not actual history, it does relate a spiritual truth.

    Stina (View Comment):
    I don’t think it needs be because of anything she did. It is simply that she is who God wanted her to be.

    Well, that does bring up the question as to whether there is a line of demarcation between who we are and what we do – in particular what we choose to do. In order for Mary to be who God wanted her to be, she had to do something, and do it willingly. Though (forgiving the pun) this is something to *ahem* flesh out when the series comes around to the Annunciation.

    • #14
    • November 26, 2018, at 9:56 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Stina Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    It also makes the point that by Mary (as is said often in the hymns of this season) containing the uncontainable, she, in effect, becomes the Holy of Holies, in place of the Temple itself (see the quote from Father Hopko in the main essay for more on that). God dwelt at one time in the Temple, then in her womb.

    I like symbols and get symbols and had drawn this conclusion prior to exposure to this apocryphal story.

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Well, that does bring up the question as to whether there is a line of demarcation between who we are and what we do – in particular what we choose to do. In order for Mary to be who God wanted her to be, she had to do something, and do it willingly. Though (forgiving the pun) this is something to *ahem* flesh out when the series comes around to the Annunciation.

    I guess what I want (and was content with) was that we don’t need a history or past of perfection for God to ask us to do something big. He requests our obedience when He asks.

    I expect for her to have obeyed on this, she must have had a pretty sound faith, but for her to be so special prior that she was treated with such veneration as a young girl seems… over the top? An unnecessary explanation of “full of Grace”?

    Now, I’m not denying her position in the Kingdom as Queen of the Universe or God’s choice of her. I’m not going to sit here and pontificate on God choosing someone different.

    But I do want to challenge the assumption that she must have been so far superior to everyone prior that that’s why God chose her. He never chose to use the perfect before, why now?

    Or does all of this come down to an explanation of how a man born of woman can be free from sin when we are born into death?

    *side note – mothers retain a portion of their child’s dna during pregnancy and delivery. Mary made holy by exposure to the Christ child is something I can be 100% behind.

    • #15
    • November 26, 2018, at 1:08 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Stina (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    It also makes the point that by Mary (as is said often in the hymns of this season) containing the uncontainable, she, in effect, becomes the Holy of Holies, in place of the Temple itself (see the quote from Father Hopko in the main essay for more on that). God dwelt at one time in the Temple, then in her womb.

    I like symbols and get symbols and had drawn this conclusion prior to exposure to this apocryphal story.

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Well, that does bring up the question as to whether there is a line of demarcation between who we are and what we do – in particular what we choose to do. In order for Mary to be who God wanted her to be, she had to do something, and do it willingly. Though (forgiving the pun) this is something to *ahem* flesh out when the series comes around to the Annunciation.

    I guess what I want (and was content with) was that we don’t need a history or past of perfection for God to ask us to do something big. He requests our obedience when He asks.

    I expect for her to have obeyed on this, she must have had a pretty sound faith, but for her to be so special prior that she was treated with such veneration as a young girl seems… over the top? An unnecessary explanation of “full of Grace”?

    Now, I’m not denying her position in the Kingdom as Queen of the Universe or God’s choice of her. I’m not going to sit here and pontificate on God choosing someone different.

    But I do want to challenge the assumption that she must have been so far superior to everyone prior that that’s why God chose her. He never chose to use the perfect before, why now?

    Or does all of this come down to an explanation of how a man born of woman can be free from sin when we are born into death?

    *side note – mothers retain a portion of their child’s dna during pregnancy and delivery. Mary made holy by exposure to the Christ child is something I can be 100% behind.

    Fair points all, though the Orthodox view of sin is actually significantly different from western forms of Christianity. Original Sin is not a generally accepted concept in Orthodoxy – we bear an ancestral sin (Death especially, but also being cut off from God’s energies) because of the Fall, and we all eventually do sin, but we are not born in a state of sin ourselves. The points you raise are quite similar, in a way, to the Orthodox objections to the Catholic concept of the Immaculate Conception – it is theologically unnecessary, and may even be theologically distorting as an over-correction against those who would sideline Mary (the main objection being “if Mary was born incapable of sin, why was Jesus necessary?” – nota bene: I’m not looking to start an argument over that, just pointing out that this objection exists). Most Orthodox theologians would instead assert that Mary was purified by and at her assent at the Annunciation, and by bearing God Incarnate in her womb (which would, I suppose, be in line with your point about mothers carrying the DNA of the children they’ve borne).

    In its way, the Protoevangelium too could be argued to be an over-correction from the early days of Christianity (and some if it is a bit florid – not Skyscraper Jesus florid, but still a bit out of the ordinary – I may note some of that when I get to the Nativity icon). Still, it is a much-loved reading for the Advent season, even if it must be read carefully.

    As for God never using the perfect before Mary, well, God never took on bodily form either. In that sense we’re all really speculating because we lack normative references for “times God became Incarnate”. A sample size of One, and all that.

    • #16
    • November 26, 2018, at 1:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Stina Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Still, it is a much-loved reading for the Advent season, even if it must be read carefully.

    The Orthodox (and the catholic, too) venerate the Sanctity and Awe of God very well. And this aspect of the Advent, I won’t begrudge ;)

    This is one reason I started fasting for Lent.

    • #17
    • November 26, 2018, at 2:48 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Amy Schley Moderator

    Stina (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Still, it is a much-loved reading for the Advent season, even if it must be read carefully.

    The Orthodox (and the catholic, too) venerate the Sanctity and Awe of God very well. And this aspect of the Advent, I won’t begrudge ;)

    This is one reason I started fasting for Lent.

    Pro-tip: if you use Orthodox fasting rules (i.e. vegan teetotaler plus shellfish) Asian food is your friend.

    • #18
    • November 26, 2018, at 3:49 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Stina Member

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Still, it is a much-loved reading for the Advent season, even if it must be read carefully.

    The Orthodox (and the catholic, too) venerate the Sanctity and Awe of God very well. And this aspect of the Advent, I won’t begrudge ;)

    This is one reason I started fasting for Lent.

    Pro-tip: if you use Orthodox fasting rules (i.e. vegan teetotaler plus shellfish) Asian food is your friend.

    Yes… I got an orthodox fasting cookbook this past Lent and made quinoa chili (no meat).

    The only thing is it was pretty liberal with cheese and oil. A good intro, but not very strict.

    • #19
    • November 26, 2018, at 4:30 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Stina (View Comment):

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Still, it is a much-loved reading for the Advent season, even if it must be read carefully.

    The Orthodox (and the catholic, too) venerate the Sanctity and Awe of God very well. And this aspect of the Advent, I won’t begrudge ;)

    This is one reason I started fasting for Lent.

    Pro-tip: if you use Orthodox fasting rules (i.e. vegan teetotaler plus shellfish) Asian food is your friend.

    Yes… I got an orthodox fasting cookbook this past Lent and made quinoa chili (no meat).

    The only thing is it was pretty liberal with cheese and oil. A good intro, but not very strict.

    Moosewood Cafe’s cookbooks are good too. I made a spicy sweet potato stew this past Sunday for our coffee hour, and it was very well received.

    • #20
    • November 26, 2018, at 4:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Advent is a time of preparation for Latin and Eastern Catholics, too…These recipes sound scrumptious! But if one can’t/shouldn’t view food as an object of penance/sacrifice, attitudinal and/or cyber fasts/abstentions are an alternative. 

    • #21
    • November 26, 2018, at 5:04 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. SkipSul Moderator
    SkipSul Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Advent is a time of preparation for Latin and Eastern Catholics, too…These recipes sound scrumptious! But if one can’t/shouldn’t view food as an object of penance/sacrifice, attitudinal and/or cyber fasts/abstentions are an alternative.

    Definitely. And even if you do food-fasting By The Book, if your attitude towards it is poor, or you are not using that time for prayers and alms-giving, then you really aren’t doing it right.

    I heard a funny comment from a priest once, where he said “If fasting is making you that miserable, or you are constantly thinking on food, or worrying too much that you might have slipped and broken it here or there, or are using the fasts as an excuse to binge on “safe” food like pasta, or turning it into a legalistic triumph of rule keeping, then I’d rather see you go have a cheeseburger on Good Friday, if by having that burger you can then approach the rest of the fast in a proper spirit.”

    • #22
    • November 26, 2018, at 5:16 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Stina Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    I heard a funny comment from a priest once, where he said “If fasting is making you that miserable, or you are constantly thinking on food, or worrying too much that you might have slipped and broken it here or there, or are using the fasts as an excuse to binge on “safe” food like pasta, or turning it into a legalistic triumph of rule keeping, then I’d rather see you go have a cheeseburger on Good Friday, if by having that burger you can then approach the rest of the fast in a proper spirit.”

    Food is my… cross to bear? At least at the moment. It’s been an ongoing battle to adjust my attitudes concerning food. Fasting has been a path to breaking some of it by seeking other means of community and making feasting truly a part of celebration.

    It’s ok to not have meat or a full table every night. It’s ok to not eat what you see today out of fear it won’t be available tomorrow (or later) (God, flowers, birds).

    One thing I really wanted was for Christmas and Easter to feel truly set apart, and curbing our worst impulses with food in preparation for the feast days can make those days truly stand out.

    Prayer comes into the requests for God to help me through it and for release.

    • #23
    • November 26, 2018, at 6:29 PM PDT
    • 2 likes