Notice that Christ mentions the discipline of fasting as a foregone conclusion for his followers. We also see that fasting is pointless if it is not done with the right spirit. Those who fast “publicly” and with great “fanfare” have received their reward, and it is both temporal and fleeting. True fasting is a relational and Spiritual discipline that affects one’s whole person and transforms one into the likeness of Christ.
Again, the focus of these cults and their “rituals” was to ensure—or rather, to attempt to ensure—that their crops would be fruitful at the time of harvest. The movement of these “gods” and “goddesses” from life to death was symbolic of, and intimately connected with, the life and death of their crops (and the resulting offspring). This, of course, begs the question: What does this have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only-begotten Son of God the Father?
Many evangelical groups today are proposing that we abandon “traditional” models of “being the Church,” and instead replace that stodginess with what is presumably a more “New Testament” model: that of the “house church” or “cell church.” Essentially, they are promoting that the local Church be a de-centralized assembly, meeting in the homes of various individuals, proportionally scattered throughout a city. The presumption is that this is the “Biblical” model for both fellowship and discipleship, being derived from the New Testament itself.
IGNATIUS IV was an advocate for both peace and understanding, and he was also a Patriarch with a missionary’s heart—especially to the “Gentile” world of the diaspora. This is rather fitting, as the Church of Antioch began its life as a home base for such missionary activity, with the apostle Paul being the most paramount example. Thanks to his leadership and motivation, there is now an Archdiocese of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in North America (and in many other nations around the world), as well as a distance-education program for people interested in serving the Church and learning more about their faith.
The time of preparation before the great feast of the Nativity of Christ (i.e. “Christmas”) is, through the wisdom of our holy fathers, intended to be a time of purposeful asceticism, almsgiving, and learning to say “yes” to God while saying “no” to one’s own desires.
For those who aren’t aware, Catholic Lane is a well-maintained Roman Catholic news and resource site that I have had the pleasure of contributing to from time to time (by the gracious invitation of their staff). While there are (from an Orthodox perspective) a great number of differences between our two churches — and we are not in full communion, nor really anywhere close to it — there are still many ways in which our two worlds overlap and our distinctives and theological viewpoints merge.