Lent: Why Does it Really Matter?

The season of Great and Holy Lent is now upon us.  Past lessons from Sunday School, a class or sermon offered by a priest, internet searches or even stories from Yia-Yia (gramdma) all are invaluable experiences that may have shaped our impressions of the Lenten Period and how we experience it.

More Church Services. Compline on Mondays, PreSanctified Liturgies on Wednesdays, and Salutations on Fridays — add in Saturday of Souls liturgies, and some longer Sunday Services during Lent and it can all seem a bit overwhelming.

Fasting.  No meat, No dairy, No animals with backbones, No oil, No alcohol. For those who have been exposed to the teachings on fasting it is common to pick and choose aspects of the fast, often motivated by family practices and impacted by convenience.  Some look forward to the fast, some do not know much about it, and some think it antiquated and unnecessary.

Is there something else that we are supposed to be doing?

Perhaps a reintroduction to why Lent exists is a remedy to the parochialism many seemed encumbered by when approaching or ignoring the beautiful experience of Great and Holy Lent!

Preceded by the Triodion Season that calls Christians to the invitation to approach God well by approaching one another with Love, Great Lent is an opportunity for Christians to simplify our daily lives.  With less distractions and choices on how to spend our time, in answering the Church’s invitation of Great Lent we develop tunnel vision toward Jesus Christ.

More Church Services.  If we spend more time in Church worshipping God, than there are less opportunities to be distracted away from Him.  If you are accustomed to attending the Divine Liturgy once a month – how many more services are you willing to commit to attending during Great Lent?  If you attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday typically, how many Lenten weekday services will you commit to? A step forward in this area is positive in many respects, including: every extra hour that you spend worshipping God focuses your total being on Him rather than something else.

Fasting.  The most basic purpose of fasting is to develop greater discipline in the lives of Christians.  Living a Christian life is difficult, and it takes phenomenal discipline.  Fasting is a way to develop the virtue of discipline by voluntarily submitting to a teaching that forces you to make choices and act in a restricted way.  Eat this, don’t eat that.  The cultivation of disciplie is tremendous, however, another benefit to fasting is that by restricting our food options for several weeks we are not distracted by the multiple options always presented to us in life.  Less options, less distractions, less thought processes and with each choice of discipline we are reminded of the reason – God. The tunnel vision continues to develop with an aim at the Lord.

Great and Holy Lent does matter.  We should be thankful for the memories and emotional attractions that cause us to remember the Lenten Season, and then choose to vest ourselves in the experience itself for its substantive purpose: to draw us toward a more focused life in Christ.  This focus supports us to be the best and most Orthodox Christians that we can be – how else would we want to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection? …how else can we be in a position to receive entrance in to the Kingdom of Heaven?

Join your spiritual family on the Lenten journey this year, with two goals in mind:

  • Do more than you did last year. Come to more services, fast more, read Scripture more, love your neighbor more than you did last year during Great Lent.
  • Focus on the Light of Jesus Christ. Each Church service, each meal, each chapter, each interaction – know that you are doing it to take a step closer to the Lord.

May Great and Holy Lent be fruitful for us as individuals and a community as we continue our pilgrimage to the Love of God!

Kalo Pascha!