What is Lent?

I was gonna write this big, long thing about Lent and hope I got everything right – which leads me to the following disclaimer:

Disclaimer: Everything I write here is accurate to the best of my knowledge. Under no circumstances should you lose sight of the second half of the previous sentence. To whit, “to the best of my knowledge.” It is entirely possibly, and in fact, more than probable, that I will post something(s) inaccurate at some point(s).  However, all due diligence will be made to be as correct as possible, as often as possible.  The author welcomes and encourages any and all gentle corrections.

There, now that we got that out of the way, I don’t have to write some big, long, hopefully accurate thing about Lent, because there is a nice, tidy, completely accurate paragraph about Lent in this week’s church bulletin.  And I quote,

“The Great Fast Begins

Last Sunday we took leave of meat as we began to prepare ourselves for the Lenten season of fasting and prayer.  Today, Cheesefare Sunday, is the last day on which we eat dairy products of any kind until Holy Pascha (April 24).  The Great Fast begins tonight at midnight.  The tradition of our Church teaches us that during the weekdays of Great Lent we abstain completely from meat, eggs, milk and milk products, fish, wine (i.e. all alcoholic beverages), and (for those who keep the fast in its fullest measure) olive oil.  On weekends wine and olive oil may be eaten.  Shellfish (i.e. any aquatic creature without a backbone) may be eaten throughout the fast.  In addition to abstaining from prohibited foods, it is also the teaching of the Church that during Lent we should eat less, abstaining from some meals entirely if we have the strength to do so, and regulating the amount when we do eat.  A good basic guideline is that when we finish a meal we should always feel that we could have eaten more.  Our Holy Fathers teach us that a moderate amount of hunger, when combined with humility and repentance, makes us more attentive to prayer and gives us strength to combat the passions.  During Lent it is also expected within our Faith that we will commit ourselves more deeply to personal prayer, attend the special services that are offered in the parish, give generously to the work of the Church and to the poor, and make our Confession.  May God grant us a spiritually fruitful fast that leads us to repentance, spiritual renewal and the joy of Christ’s Resurrection!”

So, there are the basics. Here is what I will be working on:

  1. Don’t consume:
    • meat or meat products (yup, that’s right, no Jello until Easter Sunday).
    • fish (remember, that doesn’t include shellfish or other invertebrates)
    • dairy or dairy products, including eggs.
    • wine or other alcoholic beverages.

Also,

  1. Eat less.
  2. Pray more.
  3. Give generously.
  4. Make your confession.

 

You may have noticed I left the olive oil out of my list. It says in the bulletin that olive oil is given up by those who keep the fast in its fullest measure.  That would not be me! Also, keep in mind that I do get to drink on the weekends, although by no means is that meant to encourage binge drinking.  A glass of wine with dinner, maybe a little cocktail before dinner, is more in keeping with the spirit of the fast. In years past, I pretended that Friday was the beginning of the weekend and thus, had a glass of wine on Friday nights, but that really was cheating and I know it.  I’m fully intending to limit any drinking to Saturdays and Sundays only this year. I consider my very willingness to be progress. Finally, I want to make a comment about the No Fish rule.  That rule refers to vertebrates only, so the church says we can eat clams, oysters, shrimp, crab and even lobster during the fast.  I do sometimes eat shrimp or clams during Lent, but generally I limit these items as they are quite luxurious.

These are the things I will be blogging about every day as I journey through the Lenten Season.  Tomorrow, our church youth group (SOYO – Syrian Orthodox Youth Group) will have a fun outing, followed by a pizza lunch (last chance for dairy!) and return to the church in the evening for Forgiveness Vespers, the first service of Great Lent.  I have never attended this service before, so I’ll tell you all about it on Monday.  Have a great Sunday People!

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About Leila

I am a wife and mother. I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a yoga and fitness instructor and personal trainer. And I am a Syrian American with family living in Syria. My life is defined by my family, and right now, that means chronic worry and fear. Thank God for my faith and the support of my family and friends. I started this blog to talk about all sorts of things, but now I focus on Syria. Until this war is over, I, like all Syrians with a love for their country and their families, am a prisoner of this war, waiting to see what will be left after the dust settles. I pray for the safety of my family and for my country to survive and repair itself in the future. God willing.
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