By now, you have probably received multiple accounts from Orthodox sources on preparing for the home stretch being Holy Week. Imagine how much of a home stretch it would feel like when you fasted properly, gone to confession and made an effort to attend as many services (if not all) as you can. Holy Week is your next challenge and may it be a fruitful endeavor bringing the sweet, blissful celebration of Pascha to you and your family.
There are multiple sources that will help get you in touch to improve your discipline in your prayer and spiritual lives even into Holy Week. Getting children involved into attending the Holy Week services can be a challenge and sadly, I am in no help in that department. This isn’t another post to help you. It’s an honest and personal post written about my struggles.
But, Vanessa! It isn’t about YOUUUUUUU.
Yes, right. But who writes this blog?
They say, the one who fasts properly and disciplined does in fact taste the true Pascha.
Wow, that seems blissful and every year I keep failing. This year, however, was no exception.
I attended all of the mission services with My Orthodox Gentleman, but I never was good at keeping fast and I usually am especially because I don’t eat meat (except for fish) on a regular basis anyway. There were incredibly stressful moments that I am leaving off of the blog but let’s just say it drove me to speak with a few counselors. I lost someone who I thought I could trust and confide in as a friend. I didn’t always say my morning and evening prayers everyday. I didn’t go to any of the weekday services. I didn’t even pick up the Bible. I still used Facebook. And Instagram. And recently installed Twitter over Lent. Lord, have mercy.
I don’t know what committing myself to the full discipline of the fast feels like because it never happened for me or never worked out for me. Sometimes, the church schedule isn’t practical or congruent with anyone who works or who has children. I wondered how they did it. I could count on my hand the positives that have come throughout this Lenten period but it has also brought along a lot of negative and terrifying truths.
However, it was through these truths that I gained a sense of clarity that shaped my perspective a bit. Once again, I am ready but then I am not ready for the Paschal season. But perhaps instead of being so focused with how others seem to be succeeding in their Lenten journey, it was through this time I also learned where it would make more sense to focus my energy to focus on how I can make Lent and Pascha work for me.
Below are a few goals that I am setting in mind for Holy Week, Pascha and beyond:
- Continue to confess regularly with my spiritual father
I am actually excited in that I declared a spiritual father to help me understand the faith and my struggles a bit more. Going to confession should be an act of examining your conscience with someone you know and have grown to trust over the years or months of your relationship. It is a time to not talk about others but confront your fears, emotions, past experiences and mistakes and become better through prayer.
- Attend at least two services over Holy Week
I know that seems like the bare minimum. And in the past, I used to pick and choose what I wanted even if it was just to go for the shorter service but this time I am going to let my heart guide me. I learned from a few wise priests that it is not mandatory to attend every service if you are absent for just cause being work or illness but we should still make somewhat of a sincere effort. There are online services via the Greek Archdiocese website too.
- Remember: It’s not always about what goes into your mouth, but what spills out of it.
There is no such thing as breaking fast for me as this was the first year in awhile that I barely kept it. I struggled emotionally so much this season that it was hard – and when you struggle emotionally, what do you reach out for? Comfort food. Although I failed the food part of the fast in many ways, I focused and will focus on controlling what I say and the impression I make on others. Am I speaking with love and understanding? Am I judging? Can my words help instead of hurt? These are questions that should be going through anyone’s mind before I say something.
- Social media is information overload
One thing I noticed when examining my own conscience is how I picked up on a lot of stuff that I oddly didn’t make me wince at before over what my “friends” would share on social media. There are endless pictures of children enough to keep a stalker satisfied if that were to happen (god forbid), political posts, pictures of I’m-thirty-now-look-at-me-hubby-and-i-can-cook and the one girl who exclaimed in a status update how she spent so much money on bras that she could probably bail out Greece alone.
I am not necessarily saying these are necessarily bad things at all – it’s someone’s live and they have free will and can choose to live how they want. However, with social media, these are all shining examples of information we used to be modest about. What happened? Are we becoming more confident with ourselves and our lives or are we all a little narcissistic?
This isn’t me being judgmental although I am sorry if I offended. I want to get you to think about a few things. And if ANY of your social media accounts are public, well….
It’s really made me realize the stuff I want to share on social media – and how much of it I want out there. Privacy doesn’t always mean snobbery and it always doesn’t mean you don’t want to be bothered. It does mean that you respect yourself and your family enough that they probably don’t need to hear your innermost deepest thoughts. I think we can make that mistake once or twice and I am sorry for the times I did. But seriously. Whatever happened to tea dates and gossip and gab over pedicures? Although social media will be with us for a really, really long while yet, there’s so much more I enjoy getting out of people when I am with them in person or when I can call them out or they send me awesome letters and care packages in the mail.
- More SheReadsTruth, Less…thick novels.
There isn’t anything wrong with books. You are encouraged to read books in moderation but I had countless clergy and podcasts remind me to read my Bible over Lent. You want to know how far I’ve got to reading my Bible? I downloaded the SheReadsTruth app on my iPhone. Yes, there’s an app for reading the Bible… and there’s the real, live precious gem you can still hold in your hand… whichever you prefer. Regardless, I need to get into one soon.
- But most importantly, Christ doesn’t stop at Pascha.
Firstly, Christ’s resurrection is always remembered every Sunday in the morning divine liturgy. But the proof is in the pudding and the takeaway messages. For me, I am a pretty good takeaway person. I like to take the lessons that I learned throughout Lent and keep practicing them throughout the year. Otherwise, Lent just gets hard and harder to the point where you just dread it. This is hardly a good comparison, I suppose, but it’s like jumping head first into the fast after coming off of animal meat. When I first gave up meat, I didn’t hunger and crave Amy’s frozen vegan pizzas or seitan. I wanted a super supreme from Pizza Hut or a decent cut of steak. Seitan DOESN’T compare. I didn’t crave it but after awhile of being plant-based, I found my cravings dissipated and just found pleasure in eating for energy and nutrition. Totally weird, I know. But our taste palettes can change and it only takes 30 days of a transition in our diets which is less than how long we are called to fast… getting back on track, this sort of applies to fasting, in general, where we keep practicing a little every day imagine how our spiritual lives will take shape.
What are some of your goals into Holy Week and beyond?