Masculine Monday- #2

Today the series returns. The topic is discipline and self-control.

In my opinion, and I know that doesn’t count for much, self-control is one of the quintessential qualities that makes a man a man. Without it a man will be hard pressed to achieve anything, whether in this life or the next.

Part of this development of self-control relies on self-denial: to deny yourself things you might otherwise have, for some good cause. Sometimes it is because putting it off will yield greater rewards in the future. Other times it is because a more fulfilling path is available by giving something up. And yet other times denial can help one build mental fortitude- the will to resist, the will to say no.

This final reason (of those listed, others exist) is what drives me to post today. Today marks the beginning of the Great Lent in the Eastern Church, at least according to the Gregorian Calendar. The Byzantine fasting tradition is considerably more… serious than that of the West, at least nowadays. Whereas in the West one is to lightly eat on Fridays, and not eat meat at all, in the East (or at least the Eparchy where I live) fasting is done on Wednesdays and Fridays, and no meat, dairy or egg products are allowed.

This is the first time that I’ve attempted the Eastern fast. Giving up meat is something I have practiced for a long time, but giving up those others will be a new experience. Especially for two days every week. But all the same, I think it is an important effort on my part. I have had to deny myself a number of things over the years, some of which are known to my readers. I can look back now and see where that helped me build discipline, discipline that has helped me in numerous areas of my life.

So if this post is to have any lesson, it is this: men, consider fasting. While not easy- especially when you take it all the way, it pays off in the end. It helps put *you* in control of your life, and not your Appetites and instincts.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.

(2 Timothy 2:1-7)

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14 Comments

Filed under Alpha, Masculinity, Men, Uncategorized

14 responses to “Masculine Monday- #2

  1. happyhen11

    Here is some wisdom from the saints that has helped my journey in the Fast. I especially love the words of St. John Chrysostom. I pray you have a good Fast.

    http://www.stgeorgegreenville.org/OurFaith/Fasting/Sayings-Church%20Fathers.html

    St. John Chrysostom on Fasting
    (from his Homilies on the Statues)
    † When the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons, and as harvesters sharpen our sickles, and as sailors order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires, and as travelers set out on the journey towards heaven. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven, rugged and narrow as it is. Lay hold of it, and journey on.

  2. Novaseeker

    I’d recommend easing your way into the fast, following a priest’s direction. It can otherwise lead to potentially adverse reactions at first — at least I have seen so in more than a few over the years. Have a productive Great Lent (those of us on the Julian paschalion have some ways to go yet, this year ).

  3. Good luck on the fasting. A good goal yo have is yo work your way up, over the years, to what the fast used to be during lent – no meat, one meal a day, and two 4 oz servings during the day that, by themselves, don’t equal a full meal.

    The hardest part is making sure your one meal doesn’t increase in size by going for seconds. The fathers and doctors are clear that such once a day gorging doesn’t count as a fast, nor does eating more the day before or after.

    The west has a traditionally harsh fast; it simply isn’t required any more.

    http://catholicism.org/suggested-lenten-penances.html

  4. @ Novaseeker

    I’d recommend easing your way into the fast, following a priest’s direction. It can otherwise lead to potentially adverse reactions at first

    Do you mean medical reactions? I will keep an eye open for that, to be sure.

  5. @ Chad

    That is what I have done the past several years. I even follow the prescriptions for no meat outside Friday outside of Lent. This year is just a step up with no eggs or dairy. Should be doable- I need more fruits and vegetables in my diet anyways.

    [Edit: Oh, I see what you meant. Yes, that is a good goal to work towards. Perhaps next year I will aim to fast on all weekedays. My priest related to me that in the Byzantine tradition (or at least the Ruthenian Byzantine tradition) Saturday and Sundays aren’t fast days.]

  6. Novaseeker

    Also spiritual ones. It’s a great spiritual practice, but at least at the beginning it’s good to have some guidance during the exercise to make sure you stay on track. Fasting can lead to sins like pride, vainglory and so on fairly easily if not properly directed, to take perhaps the most common example, although there are others I am sure as well. A good priest would be a very good resource during the Fast I think.

  7. Ah, thanks for the clarification. Yes, I agree that a good priest makes a difference. Fortunately my parish seems to have one, and I’m on good terms with both him and our deacon.

  8. Novaseeker

    Donal —

    Excellent. Have a blessed and productive Lent.

  9. I didn’t know they didn’t fast on Saturday too. The Roman rite never fasted on Sundays, every Sunday being a feast day.

    Traditionally, the west always fasted more than the east. This is dur to ember days and specific days such as Christmas eve. Such days were built into the liturgical calendar not only to aid the soul to keep in tune with the natural progression of seasons and the liturgical calendar, but also to help one grow in the virtue of temperance as relates to fasting. As the old fast was so strict, such practice was of great use in keeping virtues and strengths gained from fading.

  10. Michael Kozaki

    Fasting can lead to sins like pride, vainglory and so on fairly easily if not properly directed

    Easily? I’ve heard of this, but never seen it yet. Can’t understand it. Anyone proud of their fasting must be crazy. Or just needs to fast longer. For me, nothing is more spiritually humbling than going a mere day without food. I think even agnostics sort of “get it” regarding their own mortality and weakness before God by a fast.

  11. The Catholic Church recommends all mortification take place under the guidance of a spiritual director. The reasons are of a multitude. In today’s lax age, spiritual pride can be easy when comparing to others. So can its opposing vice, despair when seeing how weak one is (when one thinks oneself beyond salvation or unable to hold to small vows before God such as fasts).

    Think of it like weight lifting. If you lift too much, you hurt yourself. If you dont lift enough, you go no where or may just show off how many reps you can do. If you even lift the right amount, but in the wrong way, you can cause great damage. Also, one must clarify your goals in weight lifting – bulking, slimming, specific muscle groups, etc. If you just go throw iron around, it can go against your long term goals.

    Why would you think salvation, a more important and complex issues, would be different?

  12. To back up what Chad said… St. Paul compared attaining Salvation to an athlete competing for a prize. The best athletes have good coaches; so should all Christians.

  13. Michael Kozaki

    Chad, The Catholic Church recommends all mortification take place under the guidance of a spiritual director. Think of it like weight lifting. If you lift too much, you hurt yourself.

    This is kind of a funny analogy. I’ve lifted at home my whole life (still do) with good results. When the internet arrived, I found everything I was taught was flat-out wrong (along with a thousand other things). Makes sense; I can read 20 experts on any subject who know more than anyone I’m ever going to meet.

    Same with spirituality. Who, exactly, is your typical educated Catholic going to find as a spiritual director? Of the 5 or so decent priests I know, all are 20 years younger than I, know even less than I, and most are on a 2 yr rotation, so it’s moot. I’ve been around: Eastern parishes, protestants, etc., where the numbers are much lower (more personal attention). Even worse. Sadly, I’ve always done far better on my own. It ain’t rocket science.

    We are in a spiritual wasteland, at least where I’ve lived. But when things were rock bottom, say 1990, God gave us the internet, which is mind-blowing awesome. You can read the saints and best spiritual directors for free on fasting. There is no excuse for spiritual pride when fasting, and while personal spiritual directors would be great (just like good Godparents, or good preaching, etc.) it’s simply not in the cards. Most are lucky to dodge direct heresy. But, just like lacking a personal trainer this shouldn’t slow anyone down. God always gives the grace we need to match the situation.

  14. A Visitor

    @Donal

    Best of luck with the fast, man! You’ll be in my prayers. A good avenue of self denial that I’ve used over the years to great benefit is (in addition to meat on Fridays outside of Lent) to fast on Fridays. It builds up mental fortitude. Happy first Friday of Lent everyone!

    @Kozaki

    The Internet is simply awing in that respect. There really is, provided it is from a reputable source, any excuse for spiritual ignorance on any of our parts anymore.

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