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Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? #419277 06/01/19 11:02 PM
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The Nikonian Offline OP
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Having risen from the bed and washed your face, stand before the holy icons, and looking upon them, turn your thoughts to the invisible God.-Old Orthodox Prayer Book


I found this Interesting Thing in the Morning Prayers of the Old Orthodox Prayer Book. It seems to mention a form of ritual washing of the face before prayer in the Old Believer tradition. does anyone on here now the history behind this practice or if this actually practiced.

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419279 06/02/19 11:54 PM
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theophan Offline
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Christ is Risen!!

Nikonian:

I can only hazard a guess about this note. I don't see it as a "ritual washing," but taken from monastic practice. I read an instruction that was supposed to be given to novice monks. Given the idea that one should establish regular habits in one's life, it makes sense. I think it may also refer to Our Lord's instruction to those who are fasting where we are told to wash out faces and anoint our for heads so that no one would know we are fasting. Immediately on rising we have not broken the fast--breakfast. And, given that one is fasting when one rises and immediately goes to prayer, it suggests to me that we should take the attitude that we are glad to speak immediately to Our Lord.

Bob

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419283 06/03/19 01:31 PM
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theophan Offline
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Christ is Risen!!

Nikonian:

I had another thought this morning when I looked in the mirror after rising. Would you go to meet the president of the United States or the Prime Minister of the UK or Canada the way you look on rolling out of the sack? How about your Creator?

If the icons are windows onto Heaven, why would you look out into eternity without making yourself presentable?

I wouldn't. I look like the wrath of God in the morning before washing, shaving and combing my hair.

Bob

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419289 06/04/19 12:00 AM
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I can’t speak to the instruction in your prayer book, but I know what I pray from the Psalms:

Psalm 3:5
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

Psalm 121:2-4
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

So He who watches over you 24/7 is not put off by how you look or smell in the morning. Now if you’re a monk who has personal hygiene issues, your brother monks will no doubt have a great deal to say how you look and smell in the morning. Incense wasn’t used in the cell during person prayer.

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419544 10/09/19 04:13 PM
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There is this interesting passage in the Gospel According to the Apostle Mark (chapter 7, verses 1-23):

Quote
"Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Him, they observed that some of His disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles, and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned Him, «Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?» He responded, «Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‹This people honors Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.› You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition.»

"He went on to say, «How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, ‹Honor your father and your mother,› and ‹Whoever curses father or mother shall die [with the soul].› Yet you say, ‹If a person says to father or mother, 'Any support you might have had from me is qorban'› (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.»

"He summoned the crowd again and said to them, «Hear Me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can [spiritually] defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.»

"When He got home away from the crowd, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. He said to them, «Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile [his soul], since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?» (Thus He declared all foods clean.) «But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.»"

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419545 10/09/19 04:32 PM
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theophan Offline
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Vigilante:

Christ is in our midst!!

Are you suggesting that an instruction to wash one's face is hypocritical?

I think the reference in the Old Orthodox prayerbook--remember it comes from about 300+ years ago--is more like the instruction Our Lord gives to those who fast. "When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites . . . wash your face, groom your hair, and anoint yourself so that no one will know you are fasting . . ." Many of our Eastern brethren do much more fasting than we in the West do. There is another point, too, in that one arises from the fasting of sleep.

Bob

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: theophan] #419546 10/09/19 05:17 PM
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There are the words 'ritual washing' in the thread's title, and my response was to that, not to the instruction from that prayer book; in other words, saw the words 'ritual washing' as an excuse/opportunity to post that quote (and perhaps went a bit off-topic). When a man prays to God alone in his room, whether with his face washed or unwashed, and no one knows about his prayers except God (and maybe also some other spirits), he can't be accused of hypocrisy.

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419549 10/09/19 11:30 PM
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theophan Offline
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Vigilante:

Christ is in our midst!!

Sometimes people post a title to draw attention; sometimes they are not sure how to phrase their question. I would say that this title may not be accurate, but how would you put into a very few words a question about this item the poster ran across?

Bob

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: theophan] #419550 10/10/19 01:42 PM
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Um, don't understand why you ask me that; I didn't mention about the title as a reproach to The Nikonian. But since you've asked, hmm, perhaps: "(To) Wash Your Face Before Morning Prayer?".

Sincerely, I don't think that God cares whether we have our faces washed or unwashed in the morning (or evening, or at any other hour) when we pray alone. Wash or don't wash your face, it's the same when one prays alone, and only a matter of hygiene and personal preference. God cares more about the cleanness or uncleanness, purity or impurity, of our souls.

By the way, to more or less ritualistically wash one's face before praying is a Muslim habit, as far as I know. And Orthodox (Pharisaic) Jews have retained the practice of ritual hand-washing (before eating) to this day. One could guess, that back in the ancient days a rabbi had the unfortunate idea to turn an ordinary practice of mere hygiene into a would-be religious ritual. Christ has called it a "human precept", a "human tradition".

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419551 10/10/19 01:53 PM
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Vigilante:

Christ is in our midst!!

Please, let's finish this talking past one another.

You are looking at a 300+-year-old prayerbook with the eyes of the 21st century. Step back, please, and see this through the eyes of the compilers. In that era, the whole of one's life was wrapped up in being in the presence of God day and day out. It was an attempt of people to live out a thoroughly Christian life in this world. The whole of one's existence--culture, religious practice, government (all of it)--was lived with the idea that one's religious practice was intimately bound up with one's whole life. There was no thought of a secular sphere separated from the religious.

You're also dealing with the Faith as lived out in the East, brought from the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Church has been described as a monastic Church. Lay people adopted many practices of the monastery as they were able. All this is so alien to the Western experience that sometimes it is hard to have people wrap their heads around this so very different approach to the same experience of faith in Christ. We here in the United States are used to keeping our religious practices, as well as our own particular ethnic practices, at home and not brought into the public square. That would be totally alien to the people of 300+ years ago if they could encounter what we live today.

Does this make any sense to you?

When I see this, I see how far we have traveled from the piety and devotion of our forebearers in the Faith, whether East or West, and I am a bit saddened.

Bob

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: theophan] #419553 10/10/19 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Theophan
"...keeping our religious practices . . . at home and not brought into the public square."


Theophan, you've quote in this conversation from Matt.6. What else is it there recorded, that Christ has said? "And when you pray..."

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419555 10/10/19 04:04 PM
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I've mentioned about praying alone because of this instruction from Christ:

"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see [and praise] them. Verily, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (Matthew 6: 5-6)

Now one could ask what is meant by "your inner room" -- or what is meant by "do not let your 'left hand' know what your 'right hand' is doing." Is everyone who prays in public, say in a church, a hypocrite? No. Because hypocrisy also depends upon the intention of the man who prays or fasts or does acts of charity. Many saints have been priests, thus they had to pray in public, in churches.

By the way, there's also this interesting biblical verse:

"Though you scour it with soap, and use much lye, the stain of your guilt is still before Me, says the Lord God." (Jeremiah 2: 22)

Re: Ritual Washing in Orthodoxy...? [Re: The Nikonian] #419557 10/10/19 06:56 PM
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Vigilante:

Christ is in our midst!!

"your inner room" can also mean your private heart where no one but your Father can see and where Christ should be living with you. I have become adept at praying in public places and with lots of people around, but no one would know because I don't do audible prayer in such situations. People just think I am deep in thought or distracted.

Bob


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