ABSTINENCE, refraining from eating some or all kinds of food.
Abstinence differs from orthodox fasting in that abstinence is not
subject to the rules governing fasting. The practice, originally a form
of penitence, dates from the Old Testament (Lv. 11), where
elaborate prohibitionary rules were prescribed. These were later
abrogated in the New Testament, but the early Coptic fathers
voluntarily renewed the practice of abstinence with more vehemence
as an individual demonstration of religious zeal. Saint ANTONY and
his monks are said to have abstained from all manner of food except
bread, salt, and water. Saint PACHOMIUS, though preserving this
tradition, was more lenient, allowing the addition of a cabbage leaf
to the cenobite's sustenance. Among Coptic ascetics, total abstinence
until the rise of the first evening star was customary, especially
during fast days. This practice was even intensified among certain
heretical sects such as the Manichaeans and the Gnostics. Friday
abstinence commemorates the Passion of Jesus, and Wednesday
abstinence commemorates Job's suffering. Such practices were
generally upheld by the fathers of the church, and some, such as
Tertullian, extended the abstinence days to Saturday. Coptic
Protestants, however, rejected abstinence and fasting altogether.
AZIZ S. ATIYA
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