Pemptousia and OCN have entered a strategic partnership to bring Orthodoxy Worldwide. Greek philosophers from Ionia considered held that there were four elements or essences (ousies) in nature: earth, water, fire and air. Aristotle added ether to this foursome, which would make it the fifth (pempto) essence, pemptousia, or quintessence. The incarnation of God the Word found fertile ground in man’s proclivity to beauty, to goodness, to truth and to the eternal. Orthodoxy has not functioned as some religion or sect. It was not the movement of the human spirit towards God but the revelation of the true God, Jesus Christ, to man. A basic precept of Orthodoxy is that of the person – the personhood of God and of man. Orthodoxy is not a religious philosophy or way of thinking but revelation and life standing on the foundations of divine experience; it is the transcendence of the created and the intimacy of the Uncreated. Orthodox theology is drawn to genuine beauty; it is the theology of the One “fairer than the sons of men”. So in "Pemptousia", we just want to declare this "fifth essence", the divine beaut in our life. Please note, not all Pemptousia articles have bylines. If the author is known, he or she is listed in the article above.
James W. Lillie
If you want to make a special ascetic effort for Lent, you could always eat what the Prodigal Son wanted to. When he was away being prodigal, I mean. I’m not suggesting you go out and slaughter a fatted calf to help you through fifth week.
We’re told that, when he was looking after the swine, ‘he would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; but no one gave him anything’ (Luke 15, 16). Of course, we don’t know the exact word that Christ used for ‘pods’, but the Greek translation, keration, strongly suggests the Ceratonia siliqua or carob tree. The carob is native to the Eastern Mediterranean and we know that, today, the pods and fruit are, in fact, fed to pigs. We also know that, in Roman times, the bean-like fruit was ground, mixed with water, formed into cakes and dried in the sun. Indeed, as I have argued elsewhere, http://www.diakonima.gr/2016/10/23/locusts-and-wild-honey-james-w-lillie/ I believe that this is what Saint John the Baptist ate, too. Whatever the truth of the matter,however, the point is that this was food for very poor people.
It was, in fact a kind of polenta. ‘Polenta’ comes from Latin and means ‘a sort of porridge’. It has always been associated with the diet of the poor and has been made with chestnut flour, buckwheat, chickpeas, grains, dried legumes and, of course, carob.
Nowadays, the commonest form is made with corn (maize). Traditionally, this is a long, slow process, but today it takes only a few minutes. First, measure out the polenta in a cup or mug. It doesn’t matter at all what size the container is. Empty the polenta into a bowl and add a good pinch of salt. Now add four measures of water, using the same measure that you used for the polenta. In other words, the ratio is 1 polenta to 4 water. Bring the water to a rolling boil then pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring all the while. I like to use a hand whisk for this, but a fork does just as well. Keep stirring. Very soon, the polenta will start bubbling and ‘spitting’. Slide it off the heat, but keep stirring. Be careful, though because it can leave a painful burn if it splashes onto your skin. You can, if you have a blessing, add a little oil to the mixture. (The point about ‘oil and wine’ is that it’s another way of saying ‘no meal’, that is no sitting down all together in the refectory. This is still observed in many of the kellia on the Holy Mountain, for example, where there will be bread, olives, a thin gruel, and water available and each father will eat a little, in accordance with his rule. In Romanian kellia, in particular, there’s always a supply of mamaliga, which cooks like polenta, looks like polenta and tastes like polenta- just don’t say so to a Romanian).
Return to the heat and remove again. Continue to do this for a few minutes, and the mixture will thicken nicely. You can eat it straight away (not recommended) or, better, leave it to cool. Then you simply turn it out onto a tray. You can cut it up any way you like (traditionally with string or a fishing line, if you’re feeling particularly ethnic) and then bake it, fry it or microwave it.
So why the tapas? While it’s true that the fast is stricter in monasteries, in a way it’s easier, because everything is organized with the fast in mind. We in the world are faced with dilemmas, however. Should we attend that conference? The birthday party for a colleague? The wedding of a family member who isn’t Orthodox? And, of course, on occasion, we ourselves have to do some entertaining. John Fennell, the Professor of Russian when I was at Oxford and a very devout Christian, married to a Russian princess, would say jokingly: ‘Oh dear, Marina, Lent again. Back to the lobster and avocadoes’. But I would like to suggest an alternative, if, for example, we’re having people round for drinks and ‘picky bits’.
When the polenta’s cooked, pour it out onto a tray, or simply a clean surface, so that it’s a about a quarter of an inch thick. Leave it to cool and cut it up into little tapas-sized squares. Bake the squares (or fry them, if it’s an oil day). You can then top them with all kinds of Lenten goodies: taramosalata, aubergine dip, potato mayonnaise, olives, sundried tomatoes, seafood, guacamole, slivers of fried zucchini, or, best of all, lyutenitsa.
One last thing: outside fasts, when you boil the water, add olive oil and a good lump of feta cheese, crumbled, and some chopped rosemary/sage/marjoram (never oregano, unless you’re feeding it to the goats), before you pour in the polenta.
An added benefit: because it’s gluten free, the pots are easy to clean.
ABOUT THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN NETWORK
The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America originally commissioned by SCOBA to create a national, sustainable, and effective media witness for Orthodox Christianity and seekers around the world through media ministry. CLICK HERE to download our brochure.
This 501(c)3 is recognized as a leader in the Orthodox Media field and has sustained consistent growth over twenty years. OCN shares the timeless faith of Orthodoxy with the contemporary world through modern media. We are on a mission to inspire Orthodox Christians Worldwide. We have reached 5.7 Million People in One Week. Much like public radio, the Orthodox Christian Network relies on the support of our listeners, readers, and fans. If you are interested in supporting our work, you can send your gift by direct mail, over the phone, or on our website. Your gift will ensure that OCN may continue to offer free, high-quality, Orthodox media.
OCN has partnered with Pemptousia, a Contemporary post-modern man does understand what man is. Through its presence in the internet world, Pemptousia, with its spirit of respect for beauty that characterizes it, wishes to contribute to the presentation of a better meaning of life for man, to the search for the ontological dimension of man, and to the awareness of the unfathomable mystery of man who is always in Christ in the process of becoming, of man who is in the image of divine beauty. And the beauty of man springs from the beauty of the Triune God. In the end, “beauty will save the world”.
Do you find it hard to keep focused on Christ when you’re on the go? OCN makes it easy! Give today to help you and your Orthodox community stay connected no matter the location.
ORTHODOX MOBILE APPS ARE HERE!
Click here to download the Spark OCN and Orthodox Prayer Book.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. OCN is on Social Media! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,