Thursday, 26 February 2009

Abstinence in Genesis

The Tree of Knowledge, painting by Lucas Crana...Image via Wikipedia
Reading the Fathers, and Popes, and theologians, I find it remarkable how much you can simply miss reading the Bible on your own. I recently reread Revelations and it was a wholly different experience to when I read it on a Scripture Union or CYFA or something venture in my youth.

The parish here handed out free copies of Pope Benedict's message for Lent for 2009 (looking at the back I see that they apparently cost €1 for 10 pages - that's a bit steep) and I find the following:
We might wonder what value and meaning there is for us Christians in depriving ourselves of something that in itself is good and useful for our bodily sustenance. The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting. In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gn 2, 16-17). Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that “fasting was ordained in Paradise,” and “the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.” He thus concludes: “ ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence” (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98). Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God.
First commandment in paradise - fast. Never would have occurred.
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