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After Forgiveness Sunday, Lent officially begins for all Orthodox Christians. Most of us, Orthodox or not, associate Lent with what we’re giving up this year. And sometimes, it stops there. But it’s much more than just that – especially if you want to be Orthodox. Great Lent is a raw period of being totally honest with yourself and God through confession and prayer. It is through our confession and prayer that we develop a sense of humility, contrition and the act of forgiveness and that we are able to approach God and our spiritual father/father confessor in confession and our parish family that Sunday afternoon on Forgiveness Sunday. It is now that we perhaps feel more inclined to sacrifice sporting events, a night out at the movies or parties to devote more time to church services. As Orthodox Christians, we see the church as a hospital and we’re all weak and ailing from living a life of sin. Some people even cringe when they are referred to as a “sinner.” It’s not so much of a bad term but we usually don’t cringe at names we’re called if they aren’t true if we are not just particularly sensitive to it. Do you remember what it’s like to feel physically weak and sick? You probably don’t like it. Nobody does. Imagine feeling spiritually sick and so sick in our emotions. It is by coming to church and going to confession and communion that we receive medicine and work on healing in our spiritual lives. But one must be want to be pro-active to receive healing. Half of the effort is God but the other half needs to come from you.
By doing this, Lent will be a time of spiritual renewal and and an awakening and the night or morning of Pascha will be fully anticipated. Here are some tips below to keep in mind. I wish all fellow Orthodox Christians reading this a fruitful and rejuvenating fast and Holy Pascha!
- Fast every single day, as little as you can. Like getting into a new workout regimen or music practice or cooking, fasting takes daily practice too. Daily fasting helps wear down our passions and build spiritual endurance.
- There are some logical exceptions that can make fasting difficult like health issues, age, pregnancy, first time to the church or being in a mixed marriage. Any concerns can be addressed with your father confessor or spiritual father.
- Pray as you can, not as you want. The Prayer of St.Ephraim is my particular favorite. Make a prostration as you say the latter.
- If you cannot make a prostration, just make bows or cross yourself.
- On weekends, we do not make prostrations and fasting is slightly more relaxed.
- If your jurisdiction has mission services on Sundays every Lent, try to go to them. It’s usually a Vesperal service with a fellowship meal afterwards. At the least, free food!
- Get your priest’s approval to organize a Lenten or vegan potluck during the fast. This can be a great time to exchange new recipes to help with meal planning and engage in delightful fellowship.
- The hardest part of making our Lenten services (and there’s a lot of them) is making time to go to them especially when you have children. Try your best.
- The Lenten services are only offered during the week. Try to attend a few or at least one per week and the spirit will eventually rub off on you.
- Most married couples can still very much show thoughtful displays of affection and do nice things for each other. However, sexual relations during fasting periods especially Lent is frowned upon.
- At the bare minimum, try to give up at least something for Lent.
- At the foremost, Confession and Holy Communion are important to Great Lent.
- Be mindful of what we devote much of our attention to: watching television and using the internet is generally not frowned upon but try to curb excess usage.
- Ask your priest for suggestions. He knows your situation best for I am just your neighborhood friendly blogger! 😉
And some Grumpy Cat humor!