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The Spirituality of Fasting, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
20- Vegetarian Food
We have discussed the period of abstinence and the element of hunger in fasting. Now we would like to talk about vegetarian food as a God’s divine way since the beginning since Adam and Eve and up to the descendants of Noah were vegetarian.
God created a vegetarian man.
Adam and Eve, while in Paradise, ate nothing but plants, beans and fruit. As God said to them, “I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Gen 1:29).
Man also remained vegetarian after his exile from Paradise. However, man was permitted, along with the beans and fruit, to eat from the herbs of the land, i.e. vegetables. Thus, when he sinned, God said to him: “And you shall eat the herb of the field. “ (Gen 3:18).
We have not heard that our Father, Adam, and our Mother, Eve, fell ill because of malnutrition. On the contrary, we hear that Adam, a vegetarian, lived 930 years. (Gen 5:5). So were also the lives of his sons and grandsons who were vegetarian. (Gen 5)
Man did not eat meat except after Noah's Ark. This took place at a dismal time when “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” and so, “the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart” (Gen 6:5-6) and He submerged the whole world with the flood.
After the flood water subsided, God said to our Father Noah and his sons: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Gen 9:3-4).
When God led His people into the wilderness, He fed them with manna. “And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (Ex 16:31). “The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil.” (Num 11:8).
But when He allowed them to eat meat, He did it in anger.
God consented to their request because of their craving for meat, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. God granted their wish but punished them for it. “But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.” (Num 11:33-34).
Daniel and his companions also ate vegetables.
They ate vegetables (Dan 1:12) and were determined in their hearts not to defile themselves with the King's meat and wine. (Dan 1:8).
We see the Prophet Daniel say while fasting: “I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” (Dan 10:3).
Ezekiel also ate vegetarian food while fasting.
He did this in obedience to a Godly order from God who said to him: “Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet” and spelt.” (Ezek 4:9).
Vegetarian food is light, lean and soothing.
It has nothing of the heaviness, grease or fat of meat or whatever effect it may have on one's body. We observe for example that savage animals are carnivorous while the tame ones are herbivorous. Vegetarian people tend to be calmer in nature than meat-eaters. Does it not make you wonder that most of the animals we eat, such as cattle, sheep and fowls, are herbivorous.
These herbivorous animals are not weak due to eating such food.
Moreover, we describe a strong man saying that he has the health of a camel or a horse both of which are vegetarian. Matadors, who practiced bullfighting, displayed their strength by confronting a powerful bull, a herbivorous animal. We can then conclude that eating plant food does not weaken the body.
Vegetarians, including hermits and anchorites, lived a long life.
Bernard Shaw, the famous writer, was vegetarian, lived for 94 years, and suffered no ailment throughout his life. How many others can we attribute their long life to being vegetarians?
Saint Paul, the first of the anchorites, lived as a hermit for eighty years without seeing a man's face, and so he lived to be around hundred. The majority of anchorites also lived long lives. Not only were they vegetarians, but also lived a life of asceticism and ate little. Nevertheless, they enjoyed good health. Saint Antonius, the father of all monks, lived to be 105 years old. His life was one of continuous fasting and yet he enjoyed good health and used to walk tens of miles without becoming tired
I do not want to concentrate too much on the scientific aspects of vegetarian food, but the spiritual ones as has been in the life of man since Adam.
It is true that principal amino acids abound more in animal than in vegetable protein. However vegetable protein has sustained and kept healthy monks, vegetarians and those mentioned above.
We should also not forget that the Church allows fish in some fasts, which of course, contains animal protein. Moreover, there are long non-fast periods.
Therefore, do not be afraid of fasting, for it is of benefit to the body.
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