Mortification of the flesh

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Mortification of the flesh literally means "putting the flesh to death". The term is primarily used in religious and spiritual contexts. The institutional and traditional terminology of this practice in Catholicism is corporal mortification.

Contents

Etymology and Christian roots

The term "mortification of the flesh" comes from Saint Paul in this quote: "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live".[1] The same idea is seen in the following verses: "Put to death what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry".[2] "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires".[3]

According to Christian exegesis, "deeds of the body" and "what is earthly", refer to the "wounded nature" of man or his concupiscence, evil inclinations due to forming part of the Fall of Man - humanity that suffered the consequences of the original sin.

Thus, Jesus expected believers to repent from slavery to their flesh's desires: "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes".[4]

Forms

In its simplest form, it can mean merely denying oneself certain pleasures, such as by abstaining from alcoholic beverages, meats, dairy products, etc. It can also be practiced by choosing a simple or even impoverished lifestyle; this is often one reason many monks of various religions take vows of poverty.

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