Lent

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Lent

Postby Kaori » Sun Mar 20, 2016 8:03 pm

Lent

Thought I would throw this topic out there.

So, Eastern Orthodox Christians usually observe Easter and Lent on different dates than Catholics and Protestants do, and this year we happen to be really late, so I guess for Protestants and Catholics this week is Holy Week already, but we are just getting started and this past week was the first week of Great Lent; we have five more to go plus Holy Week (so six more weeks until Easter).

Anyone want to share their experiences of how Lent has been going for you this year or what you have been doing to observe it?

For us, we don't just fast but we also have additional services that we don't normally have during the rest of the year, and they are some of my favorites in the entire liturgical calendar. For example, the Canon of St. Andrew is very somber and penitential in nature and is exactly what is needed spiritually during a season when we are focusing on repentance, and the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is a very beautiful and mysterious service and one that I look forward to every year.
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Re: Lent

Postby Lynna » Tue Mar 22, 2016 9:40 am

Oh, that's cool! I didn't give up anything this Lent, mostly because I was busy and forgot. I think I will do something next year, though. What kind of fasting do you observe, if you don't mind me asking?
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Re: Lent

Postby Kaori » Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:59 pm

Do I recall correctly that you're a Catholic, or am I thinking of someone else? Maybe you can help clarify for me, because I remember having a hard time keeping it straight even after hearing an explanation of what the Catholic practice is (and was), but IIRC I think that prior to Vatican II it was the practice for all Catholics to give up meat but not fish during Lent (or was it that fish were allowed only on Fridays during Lent?), and I think that is still the case nowadays in a lot of other countries outside of North America. So what exactly is the current fasting practice for Catholics? Or if I misremembered and you aren't Catholic, what does your church do?

As for your question, during weekdays of Great Lent we do not consume meat, fish, dairy, alcohol, or olive oil (this last one depends on jurisdiction; some people give up all oil); on weekends we are allowed to have wine and oil (which makes weekends pretty much identical to weekdays for people like me who don't drink alcohol to begin wtih). It's also supposed to be not just "fasting" but "prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (i.e. doing charitable works)," so like I mentioned before, we don't just fast, but we are also supposed to make more efforts to reach out to and serve others, and we have more prayer services, and there's also a sensibility that it's a good idea to try to refrain from things like entertainment that is not edifying and that draws you away from God. But the dietary restrictions are the easiest concrete thing to point to.

Those dietary restrictions are of course only for people who are physically able to keep those rules; people who have health needs, are pregnant, or just become too weak to do their work if they keep the fast strictly, of course do whatever their health needs require them to do. Also, although it is a universal-for-everyone sort of standard to aim for, it can also be very much a case of everyone's fast is his or her own fast, and if there is any sort of circumstance, not limited to medical ones, then you talk to your priest and come to an agreement about what is a reasonable amount to do. My first year going to an Orthodox church (before I was received), I asked the pastor what he would suggest, since keeping all of those restrictions all at once is a bit much to jump into all of a sudden, and he suggested to at least refrain from red meat, and if I felt inclined to do more to refrain from white meat also, which I thought was an extremely gentle and lenient way of easing me into the fasting season.

I have to say, though, that although that might sound like a lot of foods to give up, because of the communal aspect of the fast--the sense of togetherness due to the fact that we are all in it together giving up all the same kinds of foods, the togetherness of going to the additional Lenten services, and especially the potluck or otherwise communal meals which in my community happen 3-4 times per week and are free--I feel like I am being given, by the Church, much more than I am "giving up." So when I was a Protestant sometimes I would give up something for Lent, just on my own (because I didn't go to a church that observed the liturgical calendar), and when that happened it always felt very dry and I would keep thinking to myself, "Lent is very long!" But with what we do, I really feel like I am being sustained by the Church (spiritually and physically!), and although it's a sober season, it's also very joyous and beautiful. So it is really good to be a part of a community that is doing Lent together and to get that sustenance from the Church (spiritual sustenance from the services, physical sustenance from communal meals).

Hope that wasn't too much more of an answer than you wanted!
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Re: Lent

Postby Lynna » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:56 pm

You're probably thinking of someone else, I'm a vaguely non-denominational Protestant. The church I attended for much of my childhood did not observe lent, but my Mom was raised in an Anglican church, so many of my relatives on her side of the family observe it. I also went to an Anglican church for half a year a few years back. So although most of the churches I go to now don't observe the liturgical calendar, I like observing Lent when I can. Last year I decided to wake up earlier for a half-hour of morning quiet time (at the time I mostly prayed and read my Bible in the evenings) though unfortunately I wasn't able to keep it very well, as work was hectic and I kept sleeping in. I currently go to a Vineyard church, but I haven't really been there long enough to figure out how many of them, if any, observe Lent.

It sounds like you have an awesome church community. That's certainly a lot of foods to give up, but it sounds like it's more than worth it for you. And don't worry about it being long! It was interesting to read.
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Re: Lent

Postby Kaori » Fri Apr 22, 2016 4:20 pm

. . . Sorry I'm just now noticing this reply.

Nondenominational Protestant was what I was, actually, before converting to Orthodoxy. Lots of wonderful and sincere people in those churches, but after coming into Orthodoxy I am not even so much as casting a backwards glance at nondenominational Protestantism. It is just that good.

By the way, we are now in our final week of Great Lent, meaning we have another whole week of fasting ahead of us. I find it kind of humorously nonsensical that supposedly Lent is 40 days long, but we have a week preceding Great Lent when we don't eat meat or fish but can eat dairy, and we have Holy Week, which is also a fasting week but is not part of the 40 days, and all of the weekends are not part of the 40 days but the only prohibited things that we can eat are wine and oil (no meat, fish, or dairy), so in practice there are a whole lot more than 40 days when we're not eating meat and fish. :p This is really typical of Orthodox culture to think that more of everything is better: more prayers (our services tend to be pretty long), more fasting, more incense, more adjectives (Holy Communion is not just "your holy Mysteries" but "your holy, divine, immortal, pure, and life-creating Mysteries"). :p
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