Almost every Wednesday and Friday are fast days in the Orthodox Church. There are exceptions but that is not what this post is about, my friends.
It has been quite a challenge to get into the swing of fasting. Mostly, the struggle has been remembering that I am supposed to be fasting.
Pictured above is a great rice snack one may use when fasting. Yes, it is sweet. If you want to be more ascetic and go with plain rice cakes, God bless you. I found the cinnamon flavor at the store yesterday and YUM! They are perfect with a hot cup of tea.
It has almost been a year since I came to investigate the Orthodox Christian church. I began my journey in September 2016 LINK.
My first blog post was not very wordy. In fact, it was a repost of a photo I had found talking about keeping a monastery in one’s heart.
The Dormition of Mary ends the Liturgical year for the Orthodox Christians. I have been a part of something amazing and I will remember this first year as being filled with struggles, the making of new friends, sorrows when a dear family member was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, answers to prayer, family coming to check out what I was up to and now one is to be baptized this Saturday. My nephew and husband both have visited my temple. My husband is still attending on Saturdays. I get to spend a lot of time with my sister talking about the Orthodox Way. She and I attend services together regularly. It is SUCH a huge blessing to be able to discuss what is going on with someone who is also experiencing Orthodoxy for the first time and loving it.
It has, and continues to be a struggle. It is a good struggle. Orthodoxy aligns with what is in the bible in regards to guarding ourselves against sin. It is what I have been looking for for the past 30 years. Yes… 30 years!
I became Orthodox so that I could be changed and I have been. I have removed from my blog two earlier posts written when I was still a Protestant. They no longer represent who I am or what I believe. Do you go to church hoping to change, ‘the establishment’? Or do you attend church, read your bible and pray hoping your heart will soften and you will be changed?
I still have a long way to go in my journey as a Christian. One thing I now realize is why people used to post on social media how thankful they were to have another day on earth. In the Orthodox Church, it is so that we can have another day to work on our sanctification.
I love when we sing, ‘Many Years’ in church!
I have learned about the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians!
I learned that cave churches were not just holes in the mountain. They were, and still are beautiful and full of icons and murals.
I have learned that there is such a thing as Holy Fire and it is a bona fide miracle that happens EVERY Pascha!
I learned that Easter baskets originated with the Orthodox Church but we call them Pascha baskets.
I have learned about fasting…
I have learned about icons… SO many beautiful icons!
I have learned about he prayer rope, the Jesus prayer, the blessing of the waters, confession & repentance, the lives of the ancient fathers and mothers, and so much more.
As much as I have learned, I still have so much more to understand.
These are taken from the Orthodox Church in America website. I’d like to focus for a moment on the first scripture listed: 1 Peter 1:3-9. In it we find a promise from God. A promise of eternal salvation. Not a promise to have our best life now full of health, wealth, and beauty. No. Those things are temporary trappings of this world. Such false promises, twisted out of scripture like a corrupted thread from a bundle of wool, entrap people and prevent them from being able to cope when trials come their way. Writing about such lies as if they were truth sell books. Many, many books but that is all they do, unfortunately. they do not feed believers what they need to grow and mature in Christ. This is the true promise of God; 3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Verse 6 paints a more mature and accurate picture of life on earth; In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
We are not grieved by various trials because we have done something wrong or because God does not love us. We live in a fallen world and things happen. We must remember to always put our hope in Christ and not in the things of this world which rust & decay and which we cannot take with us when we die.
People often times get so wrapped up in praying for ‘things’ that they forget to pray to ‘The One’. The most important aspect of prayer is to develop a close relationship with God that nothing, and no one can steal from us. Almost 1,000 people died during Ramadan this year. Ramadan is the bloodiest holiday in Islam. A bus load of Christians were shot, one-by-one when they refused to denounce God and their faith. This was done on their way to a monastery to worship God. God is still good. He is still loving. People are corrupt but if we keep our eyes, and prayers fixed on God, the corruption will not overcome us. What corruption? The temptation of temporary things that appear to be what will save us but in the end, will be our ultimate doom.
We just don’t realize how good we have it right now as Christians in America. No one died yesterday in church just because they were in church. But those days are quickly coming to an end and we are the instruments of our own destruction.
Pray for the safety of Christians around the world and in America.
Pray that the freedom of religion is not further corrupted and that true religious freedom is restored in America.
Pray for the restoration of true family structure and true sexual identity as God made us and not as we remake for ourselves.
If one person in every household were to pray, and refuse to be offended (they became the peacemaker in their homes, offices, schools, etc.) the world would begin, and continue to change for the better. I’ve paraphrased this from the book by Elder Thaddeus of Vetovnica.
These are just a few suggestions of possible prayers during this fast. A fast is not just about the food… it’s about prayer and conversing with God in hopes that we, and the world around us, will begin to change.
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 (see below).
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.
Saturdays and Sundays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: Wine and oil are permitted; otherwise the strict fasting rule is kept.
Holy Week: The Thursday evening meal is ideally the last meal taken until Pascha. At this meal, wine and oil are permitted. The Fast of Great and Holy Friday is the strictest fast day of the year: even those who have not kept a strict Lenten fast are strongly urged not to eat on this day. After St. Basil’s Liturgy on Holy Saturday, a little wine and fruit may be taken for sustenance. The fast is sometimes broken on Saturday night after Resurrection Matins, or, at the latest, after the Divine Liturgy on Pascha.
Wine and oil are permitted on several feast days if they fall on a weekday during Lent. Consult your parish calendar. On Annunciation and Palm Sunday, fish is also permitted.
We are not only to fast during Lent, but also we are called to increase our prayer life. Prayer and fasting are often mentioned together in the bible as powerful tools against The Enemy, as well as tools intended to draw us closer to God. Lent is not intended as a time of suffering. We are to use it as a time of purification and sanctification. There is a divine, and mystical, purpose to Lent. It is a waste of Lent to merely fast and ‘suffer’ because one is not able to enjoy ‘regular’ eating which I’m sure involves some sort of glutton as we in America are prone to do.
In the churches I grew up in and worshiped in as an adult, protestant churches, not much emphasis was placed on overcoming fleshly desires. I want to overcome my passions, and food is one of the things I need to overcome. I hope that this Lenten season will be the transformative tool I have been looking for that sets me free. I love that the Orthodox Church provides us with the tools we need to obtain whatever level of sanctification, or asceticism, the Lord has placed within our hearts as our personal goal. Each person’s spiritual walk is individualized but all are pointed toward the same target, sanctification for Eternity with God.
1 Corinthians 10:31English Standard Version (ESV) 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, called the abbot Hilarion to see him. A portion of fowl was set before them and the bishop invited the abbot to eat. The old man said, “Forgive me, Father, but since the time I took this habit I have never eaten anything that has been killed.”
And Epiphanius said to him, “And from the time I took this habit I have let no man sleep who has anything against me, and neither have I slept holding anything against anyone.”
And the old man said to him, “Forgive me, Father, for your way of life is greater than mine” (The Sayings of the Fathers).
While I am not a baby christian, I AM a baby Orthodox Christian. None of the churches I went to really spoke too much about fasting because they took the, ‘don’t talk about your fast’ phrase a bit too literal. The Orthodox Fathers have quite a bit to say about fasting, among other important things, so let’s listen to their wisdom!
One of the denominations I explored oh-so-briefly during my spiritual travels was the Anglican church. It was here that I first heard about people fasting from meat because it was good for the environment and good Christians don’t eat meat (according to their bishop). What?! God made all of creation for man to enjoy… even if that meant putting some of those created things into a stew pot to be eaten later.
For the holy fathers taught us to be killers of passions and not killers of the body. Partake of everything that is permissible with thanksgiving, to the glory of God and to avoid boastful arrogance; but refrain from every excess (The Monks Callistus and Ignatius, 14th c., Directions to Hesychasts).
As we approach the 40 day Nativity Fast, it’s a good idea to take a look at why we fast. Do we do it to boast of our devotion to creation? The created things, or do we do it with humility before God? Search your heart for your true reasons behind your actions. God knows everything. We can hide nothing from Him. Make sure your motivations are pure.