In the Western rite churches – Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Anglican, Lutheran, etc. – as well as Protestant denominations, today is Palm Sunday and next Sunday, 3/20/16, will be Easter Sunday. To all those celebrating this glorious feast of resurrection and triumph I heartily shout to you: “Happy Easter!”
For those of us in the Eastern rite, the Eastern Orthodox church, today is Cheesefare Sunday and the beginning of Lent for us. Last Sunday we celebrated Meatfare Sunday. This is the day most of us gave up meat. Cheesefare Sunday is the Sunday many of us give up dairy and eggs.
First Week of Lent: Only two full meals are eaten during the first five days, on Wednesday and Friday after the Presanctified Liturgy. Nothing is eaten from Monday morning until Wednesday evening, the longest time without food in the Church year. (Few laymen keep these rules in their fullness). For the Wednesday and Friday meals, as for all weekdays in Lent, meat and animal products, fish, dairy products, wine and oil are avoided. On Saturday of the first week, the usual rule for Lenten Saturdays begins.
On Saturdays wine and oil are permitted, and the rest of the Lenten dietary rule is observed.
Weekdays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: The strict fasting rule is kept every day: avoidance of meat, meat products, fish, eggs, dairy, wine and oil.
As you can imagine, not everyone can follow these rules. Usually, after talking everything over with the priest, a variation can be made to the restrictions, which are voluntary only. It is not a rule to be broken or kept. People with health issues such as myself don’t give everything. I give up pork and stay away from red meat, beef, except on feast days or celebratory days. I also don’t give up dairy or eggs. Women who are pregnant don’t fast at all. The dietary restrictions are to help you understand you live with God in the center of your life and food is only food.
You can also give up things during the fast. You can give up carbonated beverages like Coke and Pepsi; violent video games or romance novels. And, you can also add in something you would like to help you develop a habit of like reading the Bible every day, praying every day (especially if you find yourself through your busy day at work being lax in the area of prayer), or helping someone, or by volunteering your time to a non-profit organization like a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. One year I tried to buy a bag of dog food and cat food every month to give to a no-kill animal shelter. There are many things you can do in the area called “fasting”.
The point of it all is stepping outside yourself to actively be the disciple you are. This doesn’t mean you give it all up once Lent is over. It is hoped you recognize what you can do for God and others through Lent so the next Lenten season that arrives, you can do more.
This Lenten season I’ve decided to do the following:
Read the Bible every day
Blog here on The Solar Powered Turtle more
Read St. Isaac’s Ascetical Homilies or a daily Lenten readings book
No beef except for feast & celebratory days
Keeping chicken & dairy & eggs
Say prayers every morning, afternoon, & evening
Write every day
Find some way of helping someone daily, or, at the very least once a weekdays
My goal is to put God first and foremost in every day. True, I try to do this every day in my daily life, but sometimes, far too much really, I let living the daily life get in the way of my spiritual life. This is one reason why I, and so many others, love Lent so much.
Not only are there dietary restrictions we can do, but there are added services we can attend throughout the week, which also helps our spiritual journey and a deepening of our faith.
So, I say again to everyone – Happy Easter.
To the Orthodox Christians and everyone else I say, “Forgive me my brothers and sisters for any wrong I may have done you or any sin I’ve committed against you. And, I say to you, for any wrong you may have done me, I forgive you as Christ also forgives.”
God bless you all in this great and glorious Lent.