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In certain denominations of Christianity, hygiene in Christianity includes a number of regulations involving cleanliness before prayer, as well as those concerning diet and apparel.
The Bible has many rituals of purification relating to menstruation, childbirth, sexual relations, nocturnal emission, unusual bodily fluids, skin disease, death, and animal sacrifices. In the Old Testament, ablution was considered a prerequisite to approaching God, whether by means of sacrifice, prayer, or entering a holy place.
Christianity has always placed a strong emphasis on hygiene. Water plays a role in the Christian rituals. A major contribution of the Christian missionaries in Africa, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Korea, and other places was better health care of the people through hygiene and introducing and distributing the soaps, and "cleanliness and hygiene became an important marker of being identified as a Christian".
Early Christian clergy condemned the practice of mixed bathing as practiced by the Romans, such as the pagan custom of women naked bathing in front of men; as such, the Didascalia Apostolorum, an early Christian manual, enjoined Christians to bathe themselves in those facilities that were separated by gender, which contributed to hygiene and good health according to the Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. The Church also built public bathing facilities that were separate for both sexes near monasteries and pilgrimage sites; also, the popes situated baths within church basilicas and monasteries since the early Middle Ages. Pope Gregory the Great urged his followers on the value of bathing as a bodily need.
Great bathhouses were built in Byzantine centers such as Constantinople and Antioch, and the popes allocated to the Romans bathing through diaconia, or private Lateran baths, or even a myriad of monastic bath houses functioning in eighth and ninth centuries. The popes maintained their baths in their residences which described by scholar Paolo Squatriti as "luxurious baths", and bath houses including hot baths incorporated into Christian church buildings or those of monasteries, which known as "charity baths" because they served both the clerics and needy poor people. Public bathing were common in medieval Christendom larger towns and cities such as Paris, Regensburg and Naples. Catholic religious orders of the Augustinians' and Benedictines' rules contained ritual purification, and inspired by Benedict of Nursia encouragement for the practice of therapeutic bathing; Benedictine monks played a role in the development and promotion of spas. Protestant Christianity also played a prominent role in the development of the British spas.
In c. 1454 Pope Nicholas V commissioned building a bath palace in Viterbo, and the construction at the Bagno del Papa was continued on through the reigns of several popes after Nicholas V. The Vatican accounts mention payments "for building done at the bath palace of Viterbo" during the reigns of Calixtus III, Paul II, and Sixtus IV. There also is evidence Pope Pius II was responsible for the addition of a western wing to the building.
Contrary to popular belief bathing and sanitation were not lost in Europe with the collapse of the Roman Empire. Soapmaking first became an established trade during the so-called "Dark Ages". The Romans used scented oils (mostly from Egypt), among other alternatives. By the 15th century, the manufacture of soap in Christendom had become virtually industrialized, with sources in Antwerp, Castile, Marseille, Naples and Venice. In the 17th century the Spanish Catholic manufacturers purchased the monopoly on Castile soap from the cash-strapped Carolinian government. By the mid-19th century, the English urbanised middle classes had formed an ideology of cleanliness that ranked alongside typical Victorian concepts of moralism, such as Christianity, respectability and social progress. The Salvation Army has adopted the deployment of personal hygiene, and by providing personal hygiene products, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap.
Believing that on Epiphany day water becomes holy and is imbued with special powers, Eastern Orthodox cut holes in the ice of lakes and rivers, often in the shape of the cross, to bathe in the freezing water. Christianity strongly affected the development of holy wells in Europe and the Middle East, and its water are known for its healing properties.
The use of water in many Christian countries is due in part to the biblical toilet etiquette which encourages washing after all instances of defecation. The bidet is common in predominantly Catholic countries where water is considered essential for anal cleansing, and in some traditionally Orthodox and Lutheran countries such as Greece and Finland respectively, where bidet showers are common.
Around the time of Tertullian, an early Church Father, it was customary for Christians to wash their hands (manulavium), face (capitilavium) and feet (pedilavium) before prayer, as well as before receiving Holy Communion. Churches from the time of Constantine the Great were thus built with an esonarthex that included a fountain known as a cantharus, where Christians would wash their hands, face and feet before entering the worship space (cf. Exodus 30:17–21); they continue to be used in Orthodox Christian churches. The practice of ablutions before prayer and worship in Christianity symbolizes "separation from sins of the spirit and surrender to the Lord."
As early as the 2nd century, Christians hung a cross on the east wall of their houses, to which they prostrated in front of, as they prayed at seven fixed prayer times (cf. Psalm 119:164). Before praying these canonical hours at seven fixed prayer times in the eastward direction of prayer, Christians belonging to the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, an Oriental Protestant denomination, as well as the Oriental Orthodox Churches such as the Coptic Orthodox Church, Indian Orthodox Church and Ethiopian Orthodox Church, wash their hands, face and feet (cf. Shehimo and Agpeya).
In Oriental Orthodox Christianity, as with some Western Orthodox Christian traditions, shoes are removed in order to acknowledge that one is offering prayer before a holy God.
Among Old Ritualists in the Russian Christian tradition, a prayer rug known as a Podruchnik is used to keep one's face and hands clean during prostrations, as these parts of the body are used to make the sign of the cross.
Christian denominations of the Schwarzenau Brethren tradition practice footwashing in their regular celebrations of the Lovefeast, prior to receiving Holy Communion and eating.
In Oriental Orthodox Christianity, the "holiness of the Church is traditionally tied scripturally with the Jerusalem Temple". As such, believers fast after midnight and "sexual intercourse is prohibited the night before communion" (cf. Eucharistic discipline).
In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodox Christian denomination, men are not permitted to enter a church the day after they have had sexual intercourse with their wives. People who are ritually unclean may approach the church but are not permitted to enter it; they instead stand near the church door and pray during the liturgy. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church prescribes several kinds of hand washing for example after leaving the latrine, lavatory or bathhouse, or before prayer, or after eating a meal.
Pope Dionysius of Alexandria taught that with regard to menstruating women that "not even they themselves, being faithful and pious, would dare when in this state either to approach the Holy Table or to touch the body and blood of Christ." As such, Oriental Orthodox Christian women, such as those belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church, are not permitted to receive Holy Communion while they are menstruating.
Covenant theology largely views the Christian sacrament of baptism as fulfilling the Israelite practice of circumcision, both being signs and seals of the covenant of grace (cf. Circumcision controversy in early Christianity). Since the Council of Florence, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the practice of circumcision among Christians, a position also taught by the Lutheran Church; Roman Catholic scholars, including John J. Dietzen, David Lang, and Edwin F. Healy, teach that "elective male infant circumcision not only violates the proper application of the time-honored principle of totality, but even fits the ethical definition of mutilation, which is gravely sinful." Roman Catholicism generally is silent today with respect to its permissibility, though elective circumcision continues to be debated amongst theologians. On the other hand, circumcision is an established practice and customary in Coptic Christianity, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Church, all of which observe it as a rite of passage, and males are generally required to be circumcised shortly after birth. Even though mainstream Christian denominations do not require the practice and maintain a neutral position on it, circumcision is widely practiced in many Christian countries and communities.
Further information: Christian vegetarianism
In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodox Christian denomination, washing one's hands is required before and after consuming food. This is followed by prayer, in which Christians often pray to ask God to thank Him for and bless their food before consuming it at the time of eating meals, such as breakfast. The wording of these mealtime prayers vary per Christian denomination, e.g. the common table prayer is used by communicants of the Lutheran Churches and the Moravian Church.
Vegetarianism was widespread in the early Church, among both the clergy and laity. Since eating meat was traditionally viewed as a luxury, many Christians may choose to practice vegetarianism as their Lenten sacrifice during the penetential season of Lent in the Christian calendar.
With respect to meat consumption, in Oriental Orthodox Christianity, in denominations such as the Armenian Apostolic Church and Ethiopian Orthodox Church, slaughtering animals for food is done with one strike in the name of the trinitarian formula (cf. Jhatka).
Meat consumed by Christians should not retain any blood.
The Friday Fast from meat is observed by Christians of the Catholic, Methodist and Anglican traditions, especially during the season of Lent in the Christian calendar.
The Baptist, Methodist and Pentecostal traditions of Christianity prohibit the consumption of alcohol (cf. teetotalism). On the other hand other Christian denominations condone moderate drinking of alcohol, including the Catholic, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox traditions. However, all Christian Churches, in view of the biblical teaching on drunkenness, universally condemn drunkenness as sinful.
In Christianity, communicants of the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches are expected to wear a cross necklace at all times; these are ordinarily given to believers at their baptism. This practice is derived from Canon 73 and Canon 82 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Synod) of Constantinople, which declared:
...all the Church (Sunday) School children [must] wear a cross knowing how spiritually beneficial it is for them. By wearing a cross the child is protected from evil forces, it invites the grace of the Holy Cross of Christ, it brings His Divine blessing upon the child, it gives the child a sense that he or she belongs to Christ, that he or she has a special identity, that of a Christian, it is a reminder that Christ is always with him/her, it reminds the child that Jesus died on the Cross to save him/her, that Jesus Christ is our Only Savior and the True God. By wearing a cross the child feels the love of God and gives the child hope and strength to overcome any obstacle in his or her life.
Christian headcovering with a cloth veil was universally taught by the Church Fathers. As such, in many Christian denominations, such as the Oriental Orthodox Churches and Old Ritualists of the Russian Christian tradition, as well in the Anabaptist Churches, women wear headcoverings when praying and worshipping.
In denominations of the conservative holiness movement such as the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection and Evangelical Wesleyan Church, when in public, women are enjoined to wear clothing with sleeves extended past the elbows and "Women's hemlines are to be modestly below the knees" (cf. outward holiness).
Water plays a role in other Christian rituals as well. ... In the early days of Christianity, two to three centuries after Christ, the lavabo (Latin for “I wash myself”), a ritual handwashing vessel and bowl, was introduced as part of Church service.
... From Fleming's perspective, the transition to Christianity required a good dose of personal and public hygiene ...
Water plays a role in other Christian rituals as well. ... In the early days of Christianity, two to three centuries after Christ, the lavabo (Latin for “I wash myself”), a ritual handwashing vessel and bowl, was introduced as part of Church service.
the Gospel of Christ was central to the “missionary” aspect of missionary nursing, the gospel of soap and water was central to "nursing" aspect of their works.
Christian hygiene existed (and still exists) as one small but ever important part of this modernization project. Hygiene provides an incredibly mundane, deeply routinized, marker of Christian civility ...Identifying the rural poor as “The Great Unwashed,” Haymaker published Christian pamphlets on health and hygiene, ... of personal hygiene” (filled with soap, toothpaste, and floss), attempt to shape Christian Outreach and Ethnicity.
Along with the use of allopathic medicine, greater hygiene was one of the most frequently mobilized markers of the boundary between Christians and other communities of Chhattisgarh ... The missionaries had made no secret of preaching “soap” along with “salvation,”..
where slavery was in vogue Christianity advocated its end and personal hygiene was encouraged
CLEANLINESS AND GODLINESS: These examples indicate that real cleanliness was becoming the preserve of Europeans, and, it has to be added, of Christianity. Soap became an attribute of God – or rather the Protestant
In this way, Western forms of hygiene, health care and child rearing became an important part of creating the modern Christian in Korea.
A major contribution of the Christian missionaries was better health care of the people through hygiene. Soap, tooth–powder and brushes came to be used increasingly in urban areas.
cleanliness and hygiene became an important marker of being identified as a Christian
... Thus bathing also was considered a part of good health practice. For example, Tertullian attended the baths and believed them hygienic. Clement of Alexandria, while condemning excesses, had given guidelines for Christians who wished to attend the baths ...
... Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 215 CE) allowed that bathing contributed to good health and hygiene ... Christian skeptics could not easily dissuade the baths' practical popularity, however; popes continued to build baths situated within church basilicas and monasteries throughout the early medieval period ...
... but baths were normally considered therapeutic until the days of Gregory the Great, who understood virtuous bathing to be bathing "on account of the needs of body" ...
Public baths were common in the larger towns and cities of Europe by the twelfth century.
The evidence of early medieval laws that enforced punishments for the destruction of bathing houses suggests that such buildings were not rare. That they ... took a bath every week. At places in southern Europe, Roman baths remained in use or were even restored ... The Paris city scribe Nicolas Boileau noted the existence of twenty-six public baths in Paris in 1272
Douching is commonly practiced in Catholic countries. The bidet ... is still commonly found in France and other Catholic countries.
It was probably out of the Jewish rite that the practice developed among early Christians, especially in the east, of washing their hands and feet before going into church. Early Christian basilicas had a fountain for ablutions, known as cantharus or phiala, and usually placed in the centre of the atrium. They are still found in some Eastern Orthodox churches, notably at the monastery of Laura at Mount Athos, where the phiala is an imposing structure in front of the entrance covered by a dome resting on eight pillars. In several Orthodox churches today worshippers take off heir shoes and wash their feet before entering the church just as Muslims do before going into a mosque.
In the Book of Exodus (30, 18–20) Aaron and his sons were required to wash before approaching the altar. Here water is used as a symbol of purification and expiation. But water is also the most common and most indispensable drink. ... So much was the practice a part of the life of the early Church, that in the period after Constantine the “cantharus”, or water fountain, became a standard fixture in the courtyard before the basilica to permit the faithful to purify themselves before entering the presence of God.
In more recent times, both the Bernini fountains that grace St. Peter's Square and the holy water stoups of Roman rite churches are relics of the same phenomenon: they trace their origin to the fountains that were placed in the esonarthex of early Christian houses of worship so that the faithful could wash before entering church.
Peterson quotes a passage from the Acts of Hipparchus and Philotheus: "In Hipparchus's house there was a specially decorated room and a cross was painted on the east wall of it. There before the image of the cross, they used to pray seven times a day ... with their faces turned to the east." It is easy to see the importance of this passage when you compare it with what Origen says. The custom of turning towards the rising sun when praying had been replaced by the habit of turning towards the east wall. This we find in Origen. From the other passage we see that a cross had been painted on the wall to show which was the east. Hence the origin of the practice of hanging crucifixes on the walls of the private rooms in Christian houses. We know too that signs were put up in the Jewish synagogues to show the direction of Jerusalem, because the Jews turned that way when they said their prayers. The question of the proper way to face for prayer has always been of great importance in the East. It is worth remembering that Mohammedans pray with their faces turned towards Mecca and that one reason for the condemnation of Al Hallaj, the Mohammedan martyr, was that he refused to conform to this practice.
Christians in Syria as well, in the second century, would place the cross in the direction of the East towards which people in their homes or churches prayed. The direction to which Christians prayed symbolized their souls facing God, talking with him, and sharing their spirituality with the Lord.
The Copts, descendants of these ancient Egyptians, although Christians, have the custom of washing their hands and faces before prayer, and some also wash their feet.
We are commanded to pray standing, with faces towards the East, for at the last Messiah is manifested in the East. 2. All Christians, on rising from sleep early in the morning, should wash the face and pray. 3. We are commanded to pray seven times, thus...
Prayers 7 times a day are enjoined, and the most strict among the Copts recite one of more of the Psalms of David each time they pray. They always wash their hands and faces before devotions, and turn to the East.
All the faithful should strive to pray seven times a day & at the following hours: Upon rising from bed in the morning & before eating & commencing any task. Wash your hands & pray standing.
Michael Benatar and David Benatar (2003) identify and insightfully refute two arguments that opponents of neonatal male circumcision use in an attempt to demonstrate the moral illicitness of the practice. The first argument they consider is that circumcision is tantamount to an unjustifiable form of mutilation. The second argument is that, because circumcision is not a strictly therapeutic procedure, parents are not justified in giving consent for it on behalf of their child. As ethicists for a large Catholic health system, we have encountered a third argument opposing the practice, particularly in Catholic hospitals. In short, this argument is that the practice of circumcising male neonates is a violation of the natural law as conceived within the Catholic moral tradition and Church teaching. ... We are unaware of the Catholic Church explicitly addressing the practice of circumcising male infants in any of its official teachings.
Uniformly practiced by Jews, Muslims, and the members of Coptic, Ethiopian, and Eritrean Orthodox Churches, male circumcision remains prevalent in many regions of the world, particularly Africa, South and East Asia, Oceania, and Anglosphere countries.
Christian theology generally interprets male circumcision to be an Old Testament rule that is no longer an obligation ... though in many countries (especially the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa, but not so much in Europe) it is widely practiced among Christians
Neonatal circumcision is the general practice among Jews, Christians, and many, but not all Muslims.
Although it is mostly common and required in male newborns with Moslem or Jewish backgrounds, certain Christian-dominant countries such as the United States also practice it commonly.
male circumcision is still observed among Ethiopian and Coptic Christians, and circumcision rates are also high today in the Philippines and the US.
It is obligatory among Jews, Muslims, and Coptic Christians. Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians do not require circumcision. Starting in the last half of the 19th century, however, circumcision also became common among Christians in Europe and especially in North America.
The Christians do "Basema ab wawald wamanfas qeeus ahadu amlak" [in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit one God] and then slaughter. The Jews say "Baruch yitharek amlak yisrael" [Blessed is the King (God) of Israel].
By contrast, the most common mode of slaughtering four-legged animals among Christians in the nineteenth century was through the deliverance of a stunning blow to the head, usually with a mallet or poleax.
The Armenian and other Orthodox rituals of slaughter display obvious links with shechitah, Jewish kosher slaughter.
Both the Jewish and the Christian methods of slaughter fulfill the Islamic condition of bleeding the animal.
The eating of animals is not forbidden. The Scriptures do not forbid the eating and partaking of animals. This does not mean that all animals are to be eaten (Mark 7:19; Acts 11:9; 1 Tim. 4:4). It is clear in the Scriptures that we are not supposed to eat animals that are alive or with blood (Gen. 9:2–4; Deut. 12:16, 23–24).
John Wesley, in his Journal, wrote on Friday, August 17, 1739, that "many of our society met, as we had appointed, at one in the afternoon and agreed that all members of our society should obey the Church to which we belong by observing 'all Fridays in the year' as 'days of fasting and abstinence.'
Principles which underlie our Wesleyan/holiness heritage include such commitments as unquestioned scriptural authority; classical orthodox theology; identity with the one holy and apostolic church; warmhearted evangelical experience; love perfected in sanctifying grace; careful, disciplined living; structured spiritual formation, fidelity to the means of grace; and responsible witness both in public and in private—all of which converge in holiness of heart and life, which for us Methodists will always be the “central idea of Christianity.” These are bedrock essentials, and without them we shall have no heritage at all. Though we may neglect them, these principles never change. But our prudentials often do. Granted, some of these are so basic to our DNA that to give them up would be to alter the character of our movement. John Wesley, for example, believed that the prudentials of early Methodism were so necessary to guard its principles that to lose the first would be also to lose the second. His immediate followers should have listened to his caution, as should we. For throughout our history, foolish men have often imperiled our treasure by their brutal assault against the walls which our founders raised to contain them. Having said this, we must add that we have had many other prudentials less significant to our common life which have come and gone throughout our history. For instance, weekly class meetings, quarterly love feasts, and Friday fast days were once practiced universally among us, as was the appointment of circuit-riding ministers assisted by “exhorters” and “local preachers.”
All the Fridays in the Year, except Christmas Day and the Epiphany, or any Friday which may intervene between these Feasts.
Protestants who called themselves "fundamentalists" (they believed in the literal truth of the Bible--Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals) were dry.
Although the Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal, and Lutheran traditions generally allow moderate drinking for those who can do so, it is simply incorrect to accuse them of condoning drunkenness.
Drunkenness was biblically condemned, and all denominations disciplined drunken members.
For most of Christian history, as in the Bible, moderate drinking of alcohol was taken for granted while drunkenness was condemned.
Hippolytus, a leader in the church in Rome around the year 200, compiled a record of the various customs and practices in that church from the generations that preceded him. His Apostolic Tradition contains this statement: "And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth, not with a veil of thin linen, for this is not a true covering." This written evidence of the course of performance of the early Christians is corroborated by the archaeological record. The pictures we have from the second and third centuries from the catacombs and other places depict Christian women praying with a cloth veil on their heads. So the historical record is crystal clear. It reveals that the early generation of believers understood the head covering to be a cloth veil—not long hair.
One singular thing may be noted in this history, – that with all the vagaries of fashion, woman has never violated the Biblical law that bade her cover her head. She has never gone to church services bareheaded.