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Chapter IX.—From Fasts Absolute Tertullian Comes to Partial Ones and Xerophagies.

This principal species in the category of dietary restriction may already afford a prejudgment concerning the inferior operations of abstinence also, as being themselves too, in proportion to their measure, useful or necessary.  For the exception of certain kinds from use of food is a partial fast.  Let us therefore look into the question of the novelty or vanity of xerophagies, to see whether in them too we do not find an operation alike of most ancient as of most efficacious religion.  I return to Daniel and his brethren, preferring as they did a diet of vegetables and the beverage of water to the royal dishes and decanters, and being found as they were therefore “more handsome” (lest any be apprehensive on the score of his paltry body, to boot!), besides being spiritually cultured into the bargain.10671067    Dan. i.  For God gave to the young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature, and to Daniel in every word, and in dreams, and in every kind of wisdom; which (wisdom) was to make him wise in this very thing also,—namely, by what means the recognition of mysteries was to be obtained from God.  Finally, in the third year of Cyrus king of the Persians, when he had fallen into careful and repeated meditation on a vision, he provided another form of humiliation.  “In those days,” he says, “I Daniel was mourning during three weeks:  pleasant bread I ate not; flesh and wine entered not into my mouth; with oil I was not anointed; until three weeks were consummated:”  which being elapsed, an angel was sent out (from God), addressing him on this wise:  “Daniel, thou art a man pitiable; fear not:  since, from the first day on which thou gavest thy soul to recogitation and to humiliation before God, thy word hath been heard, and I am entered at thy word.”10681068    See Dan. x. 1–3, 5, 12.  Thus the “pitiable” spectacle and the humiliation of xerophagies expel fear, and attract the ears of God, and make men masters of secrets.

I return likewise to Elijah.  When the ravens had been wont to satisfy him with “bread and 108flesh,”10691069    See 1 Kings xvii. (in LXX. 3 Kings xvii.) 1–6. why was it that afterwards, at Beersheba of Judea, that certain angel, after rousing him from sleep, offered him, beyond doubt, bread alone, and water?10701070    1 Kings xix. 3–7.  Had ravens been wanting, to feed him more liberally? or had it been difficult to the “angel” to carry away from some pan of the banquet-room of the king some attendant with his amply-furnished waiter, and transfer him to Elijah, just as the breakfast of the reapers was carried into the den of lions and presented to Daniel in his hunger?  But it behoved that an example should be set, teaching us that, at a time of pressure and persecution and whatsoever difficulty, we must live on xerophagies.  With such food did David express his own exomologesis; “eating ashes indeed as it were bread,” that is, bread dry and foul like ashes:  “mingling, moreover, his drink with weeping”—of course, instead of wine.10711071    See Ps. cii. (in LXX. ci.) 9.  For abstinence from wine withal has honourable badges of its own:  (an abstinence) which had dedicated Samuel, and consecrated Aaron, to God.  For of Samuel his mother said:  “And wine and that which is intoxicating shall he not drink:”10721072    1 Sam. (in LXX. 1 Kings) i. 11.  for such was her condition withal when praying to God.10731073    1 Sam. i. 15.  And the Lord said to Aaron:  “Wine and spirituous liquor shall ye not drink, thou and thy son after thee, whenever ye shall enter the tabernacle, or ascend unto the sacrificial altar; and ye shall not die.”10741074    See Lev. x. 9.  So true is it, that such as shall have ministered in the Church, being not sober, shall “die.”  Thus, too, in recent times He upbraids Israel:  “And ye used to give my sanctified ones wine to drink.”  And, moreover, this limitation upon drink is the portion of xerophagy.  Anyhow, wherever abstinence from wine is either exacted by God or vowed by man, there let there be understood likewise a restriction of food fore-furnishing a formal type to drink.  For the quality of the drink is correspondent to that of the eating.  It is not probable that a man should sacrifice to God half his appetite; temperate in waters, and intemperate in meats.  Whether, moreover, the apostle had any acquaintance with xerophagies—(the apostle) who had repeatedly practised greater rigours, “hunger, and thirst, and fasts many,” who had forbidden “drunkennesses and revellings”10751075    See Rom. xiii. 13.—we have a sufficient evidence even from the case of his disciple Timotheus; whom when he admonishes, “for the sake of his stomach and constant weaknesses,” to use “a little wine,”10761076    1 Tim. v. 23. from which he was abstaining not from rule, but from devotion—else the custom would rather have been beneficial to his stomach—by this very fact he has advised abstinence from wine as “worthy of God,” which, on a ground of necessity, he has dissuaded.


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