Sunday, March 05, 2006

Lent, 2006

It seems appropriate, our separated Latin bretheren having begun their Lent, with Great Lent about to begin for Orthodox Christians worldwide to pause from comment on politics and other matters and consider spiritual matters.

This blog will seldom do this, as writing on spiritual matters is actually a peril to the soul. As St. Gregory Palamas says in his “On Commandments and Doctrines”:

According to St. Maximus the Confessor there are three motives for writing which are above reproach and censure: to assist one’s memory, to help others, or as an act of obedience. It is for the last reason that most spiritual writings are composed, at the humble request of those who have need of them. If you writ about spiritual matters simply for pleasure, fame or self-display, you will get your deserts as Scripture says, and will not profit and will not profit from it in this life or gain any reward in the life to come. On the contrary, you will be condemned for courting popularity and fraudulently trafficking in God’s wisdom.

I suppose bloggers who are trying to be faithful Christians must hope and pray that our words are a help to others, say in clarifying their own thoughts on contentious issues of the day.

The Fathers also exhort us to only teach what we have ourselves put into practice. So in hope of aiding other beginners. (Yes, after 12 years of keeping Great Lent, I am still a beginner. Holy Week still comes and I feel, “No! I need another week, another two weeks, to repent, to say the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian.”)

Lenten advice from a beginner

  • Confess your sins.
  • Keep the basics of the fast. Abstain from all meat, fish, dairy and eggs, from olive oil, from wine and strong drink (except on days when a katalysis is provided), and lighten the amount you eat from your norm. Learn the lenten cuisines of traditionally Orthodox countries, the cuisines of cultures in which many are vegetarians, and if need be, avail yourself of the many soy-based vegan ‘substitutes’ now available.
  • Beyond this, adopt only those additional rigors provided by tradition which you can easily keep, be it curtailing the number of meals, abstaining from all food or all food and drink from the beginning of Pure Monday until after 3:00 PM Wednesday or after a Wednesday Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, or taking a stricter interpetation of the oil rule as is common among the Slavs. If you can’t do these easily, don’t: it is better to adopt a rule you can keep.
  • Avail yourself of such midweek Lenten services as are offered by your parish.
  • Add the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian to your rule of prayer.

A good and holy lent to all, struggle well. May we come through the tempest of fasting to Our Lord’s Glorious Pascha.