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The emphasis on food as the most important value has a negative outcome for the relationship between our theology and our clergy. In most cases, obligatory fasting practice strips our Christian identity to an identity based merely around food. For all these reasons, the article advises that the Church should advocate fasting but no longer as an obligatory practice. The Soviet Union did not last years to celebrate it. We could only imagine what kind of celebration that would have been.
The reasons for the collapse of the USSR are many, but here I would like to mention one which I believe is important for our story today i. The last years of socialism in these countries have been characterized by a discrepancy between the ideal and the real — between socialist utopia and the life of the people. In a society which stressed the importance of collectivism, this was a very important fact; the lost faith between members of the big collective led to disintegration.
Alienation between members of a community has the potential to lead to collapse. Alienation and loneliness show the disinterest of the community towards the individual. Speaking of the Church we eagerly accentuate that the Church has been born liturgically as an icon of the Kingdom of God. Let us remember that the first Christians had been involved in Church government and the election of priests. For the early Fathers, it became very important to show the linear succession of bishops, from Christ and the Apostles.
More often Liturgy preserves the patriarchal mode of the relationship, the degradation of women,7 the disregard of lay people, and inaccessibility for the sick and the elderly. What we do need today are deeds as authentic expressions of our words, bringing together theology and reality.
This Epistle of Peter expresses the necessity of respect, the necessity of a personal approach and not collectivism. According to Basil the Great, fasting is as old as humanity itself; it was prescribed in paradise On Fasting, 1, 3.
PG 31, A. On the contrary, for Jews fasting was never obligatory for the whole community but rather a reaction of individuals,10 a reaction on some of the troubles or problems in their lives.
We should be reminded that in all three Gospels, the accusation against Apostles has been that they do not fast. Chapter 6: In chapter 6, the document on fasting recognizes fasting periods that have been developed throughout the centuries, and explains whether they exist in the canonical tradition. Are we lacking in substantial arguments about how fasting could be understood as a path to salvation?
It is not unnecessary to remember that in early Christianity, the way to salvation was celebrated through the feast of eating and drinking and not fasting. This merciful dispensation should be exercised by the Church with all measure, in any case, with much lenience in the case of those fasts where there is not always a uniform practice and tradition. Chapter 9: Pastoral care of the church and the dispensations mentioned in chapter 8 concerning fasting and those who do not follow fasting sounds obscure in the context of making fasting periods obligatory for all in the first place!
Unfortunately, food became our identity marker. At the beginning, the document recognizes that many do not follow fasting but still prescribes higher ideals making the division greater to the point when probably the whole idea is going to breakdown.
Tradition: Uncertainties A brief look at our tradition will help us to draw some conclusions on the matter. Hospitality is urged. The only warning given is that one should not eat meaning in this context to associate with a brother who is a fornicator. Didache testifies that fasting should be on two days, Wednesday and Friday instead of Monday and Thursday like Jews.
The Epistle of Barnabas also speaks about fasting but only in a context of social activism and not about food at all,30 while the Second Epistle of Climent to the Corinthians testifies that mercy is greater than prayer and fasting put together. Even the fasting before Pascha is only for two days.
Those at Rome fast three successive weeks before Easter, excepting Saturdays and Sundays. One can see also a disagreement about the manner of abstinence from food, as well as about the number of days.
Some wholly abstain from things that have life: others feed on fish only of all living creatures: many together with fish, eat fowl also, saying that according to Moses, Genesis these were likewise made out of the waters. Some abstain from eggs, and all kinds of fruits: others partake of dry bread only; still others eat not even this: while others having fasted till the ninth hour, afterwards take any sort of food without distinction.
And among various nations there are other usages, for which innumerable reasons are assigned. Since however no one can produce a written command as an authority, it is evident that the apostles left each one to his own free will in the matter, to the end that each might perform what is good not by constraint or necessity. Such is the difference in the churches on the subject of fasts. At the same time, fasting has been judged as dangerous for the reason that one who is fasting could get sick and become a burden for the community.
Philo, deeply inspired by Platonism, speaks about an ideal Jewish community which is vegetarian and celibate. But even Philo recommends this to the people over Nowadays Jews have six fasting periods, two of them are lasting around 24 hours and four last for 12 hours from sabbath to aksham. Having in mind all these testimonies at the beginning of Christianity it is obvious that the social importance of fasting was accentuated in order to show the newness of Christianity in comparison with other religious customs.
In this context we should understand the true meaning of canonical punishments for those not fasting. If, on the other hand, any layman fail to do so, let him be excommunicated. Food was a marker of identity which brought people into or excluded them from the community of God. They look very harsh but in a context of social solidarity. Fasting was proof of the social inclination of church members to save money for those in need.
At the same time, to reject fasting was at that time understood as rejection to offer sacrifice for your needy brethren. That would be regression of Christian identity where food plays an extensive role in our relationship to God. Nevertheless, 36 In the Christianity preached by Paul food as such is of no religious concern: Veronika E. Masterjohn, ed. This kind of logic would imply that partaking of Eucharist regularly would mean fasting for the whole year.
It is obvious that this sentence was an addition to advance a different vision of the Church where people partake of the Eucharist only occasionally. The connection that has been made in this chapter between fasting and Eucharist has had devastating effects on Church reality and Church life. In the majority of our churches, priests advise seven days of fasting even though they do not apply the same for themselves. At first glance we notice a bourgeoisie mentality, the strong difference between priests and the faithful.
Far worse than this mentality has been the introduction of the market economy in the Eucharist. Even though we have evidence from the canonical tradition of selling Eucharist for money VI, 23 it is almost the same today — not much difference. Confession has been obligatory before every communion39 where people usually give money. It is a twofold danger that this document should have avoided, instead of supporting wrong practice that has lasted for centuries. Fasting became new money which makes someone worthy of partaking.
In other words, insistence on food almost makes food as a tool which makes successful payment for Eucharistic participation fasting prior to communion is necessary, at least for three days.
As stated above, this only contributed to the development of the bourgeoisie mentality of our priesthood. Instead of that we iconize economic practice that prevails in the world where almost anything can be paid for. That very spirit has been evident here too, where Eucharist is not a gift but a payment. The sense of Eucharist as a gift has been lost completely.
In such a liturgical setting, Communion makes a new ethos of exclusion and pride with no need for others. Why would someone need or feel necessity for the other in the Eucharistic setting when he individually deserved it through confession and fasting.
Representatives of local churches that follow the old calendar did not manage to raise their voice in order to achieve equality with other churches. Fasting of the Holy Apostles is always longer in churches that follow the old calendar. In the last almost years that difference is bigger — more than three years. Clearly the representatives of Orthodox churches that follow the old calendar, even after recognizing that the majority of people do not fast, did not find it necessary to do anything in order to represent their own faithful and care for unity of the Church on this matter.
The same could be said for the churches that follow the new calendar. They ignored this issue, i. This is also a sad fact which contributes to our theory of alienation between clergy and laity. Obviously issues for the clergy are not the same as those for the laity. The emphasis on food as most the important value has a negative outcome for our theology and our clergy.
The ethos that such an understanding produces in our faithful is melancholy towards the world and our fellow human beings, i. It is a shame that today Orthodox distinguish themselves in the world through their food consumption, and not their deeds. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. Our true fasting should be our rejection to reject the world in the context of salvation.
In conclusion, we can give you some research results from Serbia that has been conducted in showing that 7. Probably these numbers would be much less if the survey had been conducted on a larger scale.
This proves that the identity of Orthodox Christians lies more in fasting than in the Liturgy; the center of our worship being of secondary importance. It is good for the Church to prescribe fasting, but as a recommendation and not as an obligation for all. Even when we discuss fasting it is more important to pose this question: do we know and understand human beings of today? In many regions, preparing fasting food consumes more time and money.
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