Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For some people, the word “Lent” occasionally conjures up images of deprivation, guilt, and sadness. But if I may boldly borrow from St. Paul: “Brethren, this ought not to be so!” Too often in our times, Lent has been cast as merely a time of fasting, penance, and prayer. Indeed, Lent is impossible without these things, but Lent must never be reduced to these things. Lent is a great gift to us. The real challenge for us today is to enter wholly into the spirit of Lent.
To enter into the spirit of Lent is to follow the Lord in saying, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” To this end, the Church invites us to:
Embrace a tougher prayer rule.
Embrace the rigor of offering our bodies physically in worship.
Embrace others through almsgiving & service.
Embrace the denial of television and other entertainments to focus on the “one thing needful.”
Embrace the call to seek first the Kingdom of God.
Embrace the joy of repentance each day and in Confession.
Real joy comes when, in and through our Lenten asceticism, we get a glimpse of another world and begin to enter into that Reality.
As Orthodox, we believe that the very content of Reality is Jesus Christ Himself who is our Passover (Pascha)! And Lent offers us a doorway to the Reality. St. John Chrysostom tells us in his Paschal sermon, “Enter ye all into the joy of the Lord,” Why wait until Pascha for this joy? Enter in now, knowing that the “Bright Sadness” of Great Lent is inseparable from the joy of Pascha!
I encourage everyone to look at the fasting guidelines below. Know that these are norms and not laws. Fasting is a gift God gives us for our salvation—to train and teach us. In that spirit, I encourage you to be accountable to your confessor as to how you modify these guidelines. May the Lord use these guidelines to help us lay aside our own will that we might worthily glorify His holy Passion and Resurrection!
Asking for your forgiveness and intercessions, Father Justin
Fasting Guidelines for Orthodox Christians
Cheesefare Week (week before Lent): Feb. 8th-Feb. 14th)
1. Preparatory week to ready ourselves for Lent.
2. No meat during Cheesefare.
3. Dairy, wine, & fish eaten throughout Cheesefare.
General Lenten Guidelines:
1. No meat or dairy—essentially vegan diet.
2. Wine & olive oil on weekends.
3. Wine & olive oil on certain feasts (see calendar).
4. Fine fish, wine, & olive oil on Annunciation and Palm Sunday.
5. Shellfish are allowed during Lent, but try to use for special occasions.
6. Increased prayer life and church attendance.
7. Increased almsgiving.
8. Limiting entertainments (e.g., TV, computer, etc.)
9. Intense guarding of heart and tongue.
Clean Week (First Week of Lent): February 15th-19th (weekdays)
1. As strict as you can go without sickness or endangering self & others.
2. Extremely simple foods (xerophagy or “dry-eating,” i.e., foods like nuts, vegetables, fruits, bread, etc.) Xerophagy helps us spend less time on food prep, yet keep up our strength for prayer and labors
3. Cooked meal midweek after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy and Friday evening.
4. Because of easier food prep, use more time for prayer and worship.
Holy Week: March 29-April 3
1. Similar to Clean Week (xerophagy and simple foods)
2. Holy Friday is the strictest fast of the whole year.
3. After Liturgy on Holy Saturday, we break fast with blessed bread & wine (with other “dry” foods) but afterwards Eucharistic fast.
1. If a Liturgy is earlier than noon, fast from midnight on.
2. If a Liturgy is in afternoon, fast completely from food and water for 8 hours before receiving Communion.
3. If you arrive late to an evening Liturgy because of work or traffic, but have prepared yourself by fasting and prayer and recent Confession, receive Holy Communion despite arriving late.
Note: Children should be included in adult Lenten meals. Parents may need to supplement these fast-appropriate foods with non-Lenten foods; but our children can and should participate in the lifestyle changes that Lent brings.