Refusal of meat in Christianity as a “teaching for the initiates”

In the minds of modern people, the idea of ​​vegetarianism, as a mandatory component of spiritual practice, is associated to a greater extent with Eastern (Vedic, Buddhist) traditions and worldview. However, the reason for such an idea is not at all that the practice and teaching of Christianity does not contain the idea of ​​refusing meat. It is different: from the beginning of the emergence of Christianity in Rus’, its approach was a certain “policy of compromise” with the needs of the common people, who did not want to “go deep” into spiritual practice, and with the whims of those in power. An illustrative example is the “Legend about the choice of faith by Prince Vladimir”, contained in the “Tale of Bygone Years” for 986. About the reason for the rejection of Islam by Vladimir, the legend says this: “But this is what he disliked: circumcision and abstinence from pork meat, and about drinking, even more so, he said: “We cannot be without it, for fun in Rus’ is drinking.” Often this phrase is interpreted as the beginning of the widespread and propaganda of drunkenness among the Russian people. Faced with such thinking of politicians, the church did not preach widely about the need to give up meat and wine for the main mass of believers. The climate and the established culinary traditions of Rus’ did not contribute to this either. The only case of abstinence from meat, well known to both monks and laity, is Great Lent. This post can surely be called the most important for any believing Orthodox person. It is also called the Holy Fortecost, in memory of the 40 days of fasting of Jesus Christ, who is in the wilderness. Forty days proper (six weeks) is followed by Holy Week – the remembrance of the sufferings (passions) of Christ, which the Savior of the world voluntarily assumed to atone for human sins. Holy Week ends with the main and brightest Christian holiday – Easter or Christ’s Resurrection. On all days of fasting, it is forbidden to eat “fast” food: meat and dairy products. It is also strictly forbidden to smoke and drink alcoholic beverages. The church charter allows on Saturdays and Sundays of Great Lent to drink no more than three krasovuli (a vessel the size of a clenched fist) of wine at a meal. Fish is allowed to be eaten only by the weak, as an exception. Today, during fasting, many cafes offer a special menu, and pastries, mayonnaise and other widespread egg-free products appear in stores. According to the Book of Genesis, initially, on the sixth day of creation, the Lord allowed man and all animals only vegetable food: “Here I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is in all the earth, and every tree bearing fruit of a tree yielding seed: this shall be food for you” (1.29). Neither man nor any of the animals originally killed each other and did not cause each other any harm. The universal “vegetarian” era continued until the time of the corruption of mankind before the global Flood. Many episodes of the Old Testament history indicate that the permission to eat meat is only a concession to the stubborn desire of man. That is why, when the people of Israel left Egypt, symbolizing the enslavement of the spirit by the beginning of the material, the question “who will feed us with meat?” (Num. 11:4) is regarded by the Bible as a “whim” – a false aspiration of the human soul. The Book of Numbers tells how, dissatisfied with the manna sent to them by the Lord, the Jews began to grumble, demanding meat for food. The angry Lord sent them quails, but the next morning all who ate the birds were stricken with pestilence: “33. The meat was still in their teeth and had not yet been eaten, when the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. 34 And they called the name of this place: Kibrot – Gattaava, for there they buried a whimsical people ”(Num. 11:33-34). Eating the meat of a sacrificial animal had, first of all, a symbolic meaning (sacrifice to the Almighty of animal passions that lead to sin). The ancient tradition, then enshrined in the Law of Moses, assumed, in fact, only the ritual use of meat. The New Testament contains a number of descriptions that outwardly disagree with the idea of ​​vegetarianism. For example, the famous miracle when Jesus fed many people with two fish and five loaves (Matthew 15:36). However, one should remember not only the literal, but also the symbolic meaning of this episode. The sign of the fish was a secret symbol and verbal password, derived from the Greek word ichthus, fish. In fact, it was an acrostic composed of capital letters of the Greek phrase: “Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter” – “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” The frequent references to fish are symbolic of Christ, and have nothing to do with eating dead fish. But the fish symbol was not approved by the Romans. They chose the sign of the cross, preferring to focus more on the death of Jesus than on his outstanding life. The history of the translations of the Gospels into various languages ​​of the world deserves a separate analysis. For example, even in the English Bible of the times of King George, a number of places in the Gospels in which the Greek words “trophe” (food) and “broma” (food) are used were translated as “meat”. Fortunately, in the Orthodox synodal translation into Russian, most of these inaccuracies have been corrected. However, the passage about John the Baptist says that he ate “locusts”, which is often interpreted as “a kind of locust” (Matt. 3,4). In fact, the Greek word “locusts” refers to the fruit of the pseudo-acacia or carob tree, which was the bread of St. John. In the apostolic tradition, we find references to the benefits of abstaining from meat for spiritual life. In the Apostle Paul we find: “It is better not to eat meat, not to drink wine, and not to do anything by which your brother stumbles, or is offended, or faints” (Rom. 14: 21). “Therefore, if food offends my brother, I will never eat meat, lest I offend my brother” (1 Corinth. 8:13). Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea of ​​Palestine and Nicephorus, church historians, preserved in their books the testimony of Philo, a Jewish philosopher, a contemporary of the apostles. Praising the virtuous life of the Egyptian Christians, he says: “They (i.e. Christians) leave all concern for temporary wealth and do not take care of their estates, not considering anything on earth their own, dear to themselves. <...> None of them drinks wine, and they all do not eat meat, adding only salt and hyssop (bitter grass) to bread and water. The famous “Charter of the hermit life” of St. Anthony the Great (251-356), one of the founders of the institute of monasticism. In the chapter “On Food” St. Anthony writes: (37) “Do not eat meat at all”, (38) “do not approach the place where wine is sharpened.” How different these sayings are from the widely propagated images of fat, not quite sober monks with a cup of wine in one hand and a juicy ham in the other! Mentions about the rejection of meat, along with other practices of spiritual work, are contained in the biographies of many prominent ascetics. “The Life of Sergius of Radonezh, the Wonderworker” reports: “From the very first days of his life, the baby showed himself to be a strict faster. Parents and those around the baby began to notice that he did not eat mother’s milk on Wednesdays and Fridays; he did not touch his mother’s nipples on other days when she happened to eat meat; noticing this, the mother completely refused meat food. “Life” testifies: “Getting food for himself, the monk kept a very strict fast, ate once a day, and on Wednesday and Friday he completely abstained from food. On the first week of Holy Lent, he did not take food until Saturday, when he received Communion of the Holy Mysteries. HYPERLINK “” In the heat of summer, the reverend gathered moss in the swamp to fertilize the garden; mosquitoes mercilessly stung him, but he complacently endured this suffering, saying: “Passion is destroyed by suffering and sorrow, either arbitrary or sent by Providence.” For about three years, the monk ate only one herb, the goutweed, which grew around his cell. There are also memories of how St. Seraphim fed a huge bear with bread that was brought to him from the monastery. For example, Blessed Matrona Anemnyasevskaya (XIX century) was blind from childhood. She observed the posts especially strictly. I haven’t eaten meat since I was seventeen. In addition to Wednesday and Friday, she observed the same fast on Mondays. During church fasts, she ate almost nothing or ate very little. Martyr Eugene, Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod XX century) from 1927 to 1929 was in exile in the Zyryansk region (Komi A.O.). Vladyka was a strict faster and, despite the conditions of camp life, he never ate meat or fish if it was offered at the wrong time. In one of the episodes, the main character, father Anatoly, says: – Sell everything clean. – Everything? – Clean everything. Huh? Sell ​​it, you won’t regret it. For your boar, I heard they will give good money. Nice bastard.

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